Kate and Gerry McCann pose with a computer generated image of how their missing daughter Madeleine might look now, during a news conference in London May 2, 2012. Image Credit: Reuters

London: The parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann said they are still hoping to see their daughter again, in a message ahead of her 18th birthday next week.

Madeleine went missing from her family’s apartment in the Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday, as her parents dined with friends at a nearby tapas bar.

“Every May is tough - a reminder of years passed, of years together lost, or stolen. This year it is particularly poignant as we should be celebrating Madeleine’s 18th birthday,” Kate and Gerry McCann wrote in a statement Monday.

In the message ahead of Madeleine’s birthday on May 12 and posted on the Official Find Madeleine Campaign website, the couple said they “hang on to the hope, however small, that we will see Madeleine again”.

It added they were “truly grateful” for the support they have received over the years from the public, in what has been one of Britain’s most high-profile missing person cases.

Despite a huge international manhunt for Madeleine, no trace of her has been found, nor has anyone been charged over her disappearance.

However, German investigators have identified a convicted sex offender, named in the press as “Christian B.”, as a prime suspect in the case.

The Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday that German detectives had received new information about the time he lived in Portugal in the 2000s.

The Sunday Times said at the weekend that police in Germany also hope to charge him with the 2004 rape of an Irish tour representative within three months.

“Christian B”. is suspected of raping the woman, only a 30-minute drive from where Madeleine was abducted.

He is currently serving a seven year sentence in a prison in Hanover in northern Germany for the rape of a 72-year-old American in Praia da Luz in 2005.

London’s Metropolitan Police continue to treat Madeleine’s disappearance as a missing persons inquiry.

Kate and Gerry McCann wrote in their message they were “grateful to the police for their continued efforts”, explaining “the investigation to find Madeleine and her abductor has continued” despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we have said repeatedly, we need to know what has happened to our lovely daughter, no matter what,” the couple added.