Thirteen years is a long time in the life of a family; so much can change.
And in many respects that simple fact is no different for Kate and Gerry McCann, for whom family life was torn apart when their daughter Madeleine disappeared.
Back then, their youngest children, twins Sean and Amelie, were just two.
Today, the twins are 15, bright, athletic, ever-growing teenagers who attend a Catholic secondary school in Loughborough, not far from the family home in Rothley, in Leicestershire, the same school where for all these years a place has been held for Maddie.
It has been 13 years since Madeleine disappeared from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Algarve, on 3 May 2007. Pictured, Kate and Gerry McCann present their book at a hotel in Hamburg, Germany in September 2011
Kate McCann, once a GP, never returned to her work as a locum, but is now a prominent ambassador for the charity Missing People and has taken her medical training into a different area of medicine, helping dementia sufferers.
The Mail has learned this involves monitoring patients with memory loss, taking them to and from vital appointments with experts to assess their wellbeing and ‘simply being there for them’.
A friend says: ‘It’s a different area to her general practice and it gives her some normality and focus. It takes up more of her time now but as the twins get older they are becoming more independent.
‘She chose not to return to being a doctor because she didn’t want patients judging her, feeling sorry for her or discussing Madeleine.’
Gerry’s career continues to thrive. A renowned consultant cardiologist, he is now Professor Gerry McCann at the University of Leicester.
He has been awarded £1.95 million funding for research into heart disease and is now leading a team of experts in the use of MRI scanners to study early signs of heart failure in patients with type 2 diabetes.
His hours can be long, and he has to travel for work. But the couple, whose marriage has weathered unimaginable strain, enjoy simple pleasures, like watching charity cricket matches in Rothley, or drinking in the garden of a cafe.
And yet, the fifth, missing member of this tight-knit family remains very much a part of their lives.
The fifth, missing member of this tight-knit family remains very much a part of their lives, as Kate still selects presents for her Maddie’s birthdays and Christmas and her bedroom remains untouched. Gerry and Kate McCann are pictured with twins Sean and Amelie in May 2007
Maddie’s pink-hued bedroom remains untouched, her dolls and teddy bears still sit in a line, Kate still faithfully selects presents for her missing daughter each birthday and Christmas, trying to ensure each gift is chosen to reflect the age Maddie would be.
Every day Kate, 52, spends time in her daughter’s room with its glowing stars on the ceiling. Opening and closing the curtains was, she once said, a ritual.
Those precious moments in what is as much a sanctuary as a bedroom doubtless help to maintain her faith that her daughter may yet be found.
Gerry will be 52 tomorrow; he would doubtless have been thinking about Maddie anyway, wondering what she looks like now, what she is doing.
But how much more she will surely be in his thoughts with yesterday’s startling news from Germany?
The heartbreaking chasm between what family life was and what it is now was something the McCanns spoke about three years ago when, to mark the tenth anniversary of Maddie’s disappearance, they were interviewed for the BBC by Fiona Bruce.
‘I think before Madeleine was taken, we felt we had managed to achieve our little perfect nuclear family of five,’ said Gerry.
‘And we had that for a short period and I suppose, almost the same way as if your child becomes ill or seriously ill, or has died, like many other families have suffered… then your vision is altered and you have to adapt.
Kate McCann, once a GP, is now a prominent ambassador for the charity Missing People and has taken her medical training to help dementia sufferers. She is pictured talking outside the civil court in Lisbon in September 2013
‘And, unfortunately for us, a new normality is a family of four. But we have adapted and that’s important. The last five years in particular have allowed us to really properly devote time to looking after the twins and ourselves and, of course, carrying on with our work.
‘At some point, you’ve got to realise that time is not frozen and I think both of us realise that we owed it to the twins to make sure that their life is as fulfilling as they deserve, and we have certainly tried our best to achieve that.’
Sean looks just like his dad, and Amelie, with her long, blonde hair and striking features a little more like her mum.
Unsurprisingly, Kate and Gerry are protective of the twins, conscious that while they still have a role in the public eye, their twins’ privacy and right to enjoy an unfettered childhood is something entirely different.
The McCanns, both keen runners, have instilled their passion for sport in their twins, who have apparently both turned into promising athletes, enjoying cross-country running.
All four McCanns are often seen out and about in the village, where a candle still burns around the clock for Madeleine and shops continue to display posters pleading: ‘Don’t give up on me.’
This year has been particularly strange for the family, with so many key dates unfolding during lockdown.
This year, Kate McCann couldn’t attend a church service to pray for Maddie and other missing children on Mother’s Day as it was cancelled due to coronavirus. She is pictured attending a church service on May 3, 2019, marking the anniversary of Madeleine going missing
First there was Mother’s Day, a poignant 13th without Madeleine. It’s an occasion when, typically, the devout Catholic mother attends Mass at her local church to pray for Maddie and other missing children.
This year the service was cancelled because of the coronavirus.
Then came the anniversary of the youngster’s disappearance.
Posting on their Find Madeleine Facebook site on May 2, they wrote: ‘It is now 13 years since we were last with Madeleine.
‘Her 17th birthday is to follow in the next couple of weeks — the latter tangibly, painfully, bringing it home to us what we have missed and continue to miss as a family.
‘We have been fortunate to spend more time together as a family since lockdown began, an enforced block to a usually frenetic life, a silver lining to this dark cloud. It has made us think about Madeleine even more, as she would have shared this period of special closeness with us, too.’
Both Kate and Gerry have spoken of the mental impact their loss has had.
And Maddie’s birthday, on May 12, is a day Kate finds particularly tough. ‘I do all the present buying,’ she once said: ‘I think about what age she is and buy something that, whenever we find her, will still be appropriate so there’s a lot of thought goes into it.’
There are public messages, too, in the hope Maddie will see them.
This year, alongside a cherished last photo of her as a three-year-old, beaming in her Everton football shirt, they wrote: ‘We love you and we’re waiting for you and we’re never going to give up.’