Madeleine McCann's father Gerry has opened up about life at home with his daughter before she went missing, in a candid and heartbreaking interview about grief and loss. He described his relationship with Maddie as "incredibly special" on Radio 4, and said: "I formed a very strong bond with her from a young age," before adding: "One of the TV shows we watched together was Dr Who, which people might think, 'You can't have a three-year-old watching Dr Who,' but she loved it. I would often do the bedtime story with Madeleine too, she had stars above her bed and that was our time." He also fondly remembered: "I'd take her to the local swimming pool and she would march around the pool and go up to her instructor with her cap and goggles on, smiling - no anxiety about it, she just went in there!"
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Talking about the devastating night Maddie went missing during a family holiday to the Algarve in 2007, Gerry fought back the tears as he recalled: "It was disbelief, then panic and terror. I could only think of one scenario at that time. I remember just being in the bedroom [with wife Kate], distraught - the two of us just completely distraught. The pain, feeling helpless and alone together. It was the most painful realisation and we couldn't get the darkest thoughts out of our minds."
Gerry and Kate McCann
Highlighting the importance of seeking help for mental health during loss or grief, Gerry shared his own experiences of a counsellor, saying: "We went back to the apartment and the counsellor arrived, Alan, and at the time I just didn't think I was the kind of person who would need counselling or respond to it. But he was great and he said, 'I'm here, you can call me any time.' We were getting more and more distraught, until one of us said, 'Lets phone Alan,' and he came round to the apartment and he started talking to us, just asking about our normal life at home. After listening to us, Alan said, 'You sound like model parents,' and I suppose at the time, that's something we probably really needed to hear."
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Gerry and Kate with their two other children
Gerry continued to explain that the help of family, friends and the community are what gave the couple strength, adding: "Getting through the nights was the hardest, the thing that kept us afloat was the twins - having two other children - trying to make sure they had enough love and the attention they deserved was incredibly important." Explaining what life is like eleven years since Maddie's disappearance, he revealed: "Madeleine's room is pretty much as it was, there's a wardrobe full of presents from birthdays and Christmases. I think the stars are even still up there."