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May 17, 2007 at 01:10am IST

Madeleine touches national nerve in UK

London: The story of three-year-old Madeleine, who has been missing for over a week now, continues to grip Britain.

A massive manhunt has been launched in Portugal for a three-year-old British girl, who was kidnapped from her hotel room more than 10 days back. The hunt for little Madeline has drawn some high-profile appeals, from author JK Rowling to football star David Beckham.

"We would like to say a few words to the person who is with Madeleine, or has been with Madeleine. Madeleine is a beautiful, bright, funny and caring little girl. She is so special. Please, please, do not hurt her," Kate McCann, mother of the missing girl, pleads.

Police say they think the three-year-old girl from rural England was abducted from a holiday resort in Southern Portugal, Casa Liliana, last Thursday while her parents were out having dinner.

On Friday, international football star David Beckham videotaped a statement. "If you have seen this little girl, please could you call the Faro authorities or the police and give any genuine information that your have. Please help us," he appealed.

An email sent by Medeleine's uncle arrived at thousands of email inboxes across the UK on Tuesday. Hundreds of police personnel and volunteers have scoured the countryside, searching for the girl from land, sea and air.

"They're not trying to do a bad job. They're working very hard. They're giving information when it's appropriate. Let's give them our support. To be honest, I'm no expert in policing procedures. I really wouldn't want to comment on it. As far as I'm concerned, these guys are striving very hard to get the result we want," Gerry McCann, father of the girl, said in defence of the search effort.

But as the two nations spar and the tragedy plays out in the public forum, the missing girl has ended up being at the centre of it all.

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