Friday July 6, 2007
By Padraic Flanagan in Praia da Luz

DAVID Miliband was under fire yesterday for turning his back on ­the parents of missing Madeleine McCann.

The new Foreign Secretary has failed to make any contact with the family.

His predecessor, Margaret Beckett, made regular calls offering support to the McCanns. Mr Miliband could face a carpeting for the snub from Prime Minister Gordon Brown who, as Chancellor, contacted the McCanns to promise to help “in any way he could”.

It is 64 days since four-year-old Madeleine was snatched from her bed as she slept in a holiday flat  rented by the family in Praia da Luz on Portugal’s Algarve.

But the MP for South Shields – at 41 the youngest Foreign Secretary since David Owen was appointed in 1977 at the age of 38 – has so far failed to signal any interest in the case.

A source close to Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry, said last night: “It’s true, there haven’t been any phone calls at all from David Miliband, which has been a surprise to be honest.

“Margaret Beckett went out of her way to get in touch, even breaking off from important talks in Washington, to telephone Kate and Gerry and let them know she could count on her help.

“Even Gordon Brown has Gerry’s mobile number and has called in the past,” said the source. “It gave the family a great boost to know that Government at the highest level cared about Madeleine.

“In the early days after Madeleine was snatched, the Foreign Office provided a lot of vital help to the family, and even now the consulate on the Algarve keeps in touch.”

But, so far, the new Foreign Secretary has been unable to find time to make contact. The source said: “If I were Kate and Gerry, I would have expected something but there hasn’t been anything.”

The source said GP Kate, 38, and cardiac consultant Gerry, 39, would never complain about a lack of support, preferring to concentrate on their campaign to find their daughter.

“They haven’t got any complaint with the highest level of Government, in fact they are hugely grateful for what they have already received from senior politicians,” said the source.

“They would never complain or say anything about it, they are  just not those kind of people. Their only focus is on doing everything they possibly can to get Madeleine back.”

The parents, who have moved to a secret address on the Algarve to give two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie more privacy, have welcomed the release earlier this week of BBC journalist Alan Johnston after 114 days in captivity.

The family, from Rothley in Leicestershire, said his release  had lifted their spirits while they endure an agonising wait for news of their daughter.

Mr McCann said yesterday: “It was heartening for Kate and I to learn of the release of Alan Johnston after almost four months in captivity.

“Although the circumstances of his kidnapping are very different to Madeleine’s, it still lifted us to see him being freed knowing he will be reunited with his family shortly.

“We also agree with the commentators who have stated his family have acted with tremendous dignity throughout,  and Alan himself appeared incredibly resilient and composed following his release. Our best wishes go to Alan and his family.”

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