On 3 May 2007, a four year old toddler (not girl), Madeleine McCann, was abducted from her hotel room in Praia Da Luz, Portugal while her parents enjoyed a well-deserved pizza and a glass of wine in a nearby restaurant.

Since then the parents have launched a concerted and impressive campaign to keep Madeleine’s name in the media spotlight. The distraught mother is carrying Madeleine’s grubby, pink cuddly cat everywhere she goes.

Yesterday, the father flew home to England to pick up copies of the Sunday papers together with clean underpants and shirts. He announces the list of brands and colours of his top drawer to the assembled UK TV, radio and press who dutifully report every last word.

A two minute video publicising Madeleine’s plight was played prior to the FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday. Many fans reported it was the most entertaining part of the whole afternoon. Posters of Madeleine’s angelic, innocent face are plastered all over Heathrow Airport.

A ‘Bring Madeleine Home’ web site has been launched and is groaning under the strain of large numbers of deluded Daily Mail readers hoping and praying for a prompt and happy outcome.

Celebrities have made media appeals, bands have offered to play benefit concerts and captains of industry have offered sizeable financial rewards for information.

While I am loosely following developments (it’s pretty hard to avoid), I have a growing unease and sense of incredulity about this story. Not just because I immediately feared the worse the moment the story broke. When the pretty, young girl was not found within the first four hours, wandering around disoriented in a hotel corridor or colouring pretty pictures in the Kids Club, my instinctive gut feeling was always that Madeleine McCann is dead.

I am a father and can only imagine what her parents are going through. I completely understand and appreciate all they are trying to do is get their beloved daughter back alive, praying to a God they don’t worship, sobbing inconsolably at night, fighting off the horrendous feelings of guilt, torturing themselves with ‘ifs buts and maybes’ and desperately clinging to a fading but faint glimmer of hope

I can partially empathise because my own daughter was nearly run over when she was five years old. We were walking on a Saturday morning to the newsagent. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, she ran out across the road to get to the sweet shop and a car knocked her over, running over her foot. If the car had been going slightly quicker or if she had set off 5 seconds earlier, she would have been killed. In front of my eyes. In my sole care. My responsibility. My fault. Dead.

I still have occasional nightmares where I am standing over her grave and people are saying ‘Andy - Listen, it was just an accident. There was absolutely nothing you could do.’ when all I had to do was not to relinquish her tiny, precious, little hand.

However, I do not believe that I would go to a restaurant and leave a four year old girl alone in a strange hotel room as I sat down with my wife to enjoy lasagne and glass of wine in a restaurant ten minutes away. There is absolutely no way that I would have left the two year old twins (yes - two babies just two years old) alone in that hotel room.

Well that’s not completely true because I do really love pizza and I strongly feel that parents have every right to enjoy a half-term break as much as the children.

However, while I might have attempted to book the restaurant and change into a collared shirt, my wife certainly wouldn’t. She would have been fussing so much (‘What if she rolls onto the babies and smothers them?’, ‘What if she opens the balcony doors and falls 50 feet ?’, ‘What if she is crying and no-one is there ?’, ‘What if she falls out of bed and cracks her head on the tile floor ?’) and checking the room every ten seconds, we would simply never have made it beyond the end of the corridor.

Another interesting development is the ‘Maddy fund’ to assist with the search ? Is this to pay for the families extended stay in Portugal, the father’s recent flight home or is it to bribe foreign police officials for information ?

What happens to the fund if and when the search for Madeleine is finally resolved ? Do all the contributors and Portsmouth Football Club (£50k) get their money back ?

Or does it go into a fund for middle class professionals who can afford two foreign holidays a year but are too mean to shell out for a baby-sitter ?