Madeleine McCanns sister breaks silence on sad occasion 16 years on

Madeleine McCann’s sister lit a candle in her memory as she joined her parents and well wishers on the 16th anniversary of her disappearance and later said: “It’s nice that everyone is here together but it’s a sad occasion.”

Amelie, now 18, and applying to go to university was pictured for the first time since she was a toddler and gives a glimpse of what her older sibling may now look like as an adult.

The young woman, with her long blonde hair and casually dressed in navy leggings, trainers and cream puffa jacket, was warmly welcomed along with Kate and Gerry by locals and supporters during an informal prayer gathering in their home village of Rothley, Leicestershire.

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Her twin brother Sean did not attend.

Kate’s close friend Fiona Payne, one of her "Tapas Seven” pals who was on the fateful holiday in Portugal when three-year-old Maddie vanished in May 2007, was among the crowd.

Amelie took her turn to light a candle for Maddie and other missing children at the war memorial where pictures of her sister adorned the black railing and where a lantern of hope still glows around the clock for her.

Kate, wearing black jeans and a blue jacket, joined in prayers but neither she nor Gerry addressed the crowds.

Amelie, accompanied by her friend Georgina, joined in repeating mantras read out by individuals in the 70-strong crowd including “Never never give up”, “leave no stone unturned”, “don’t forget about me” and “still missing, still missed."

Kate and Gerry cling onto a glimmer of hope that Maddie, who would now be aged 19, nearly 20 , could still be alive

Kate’s uncle, retired head teacher Brian Kennedy, 84, after the event: “Kate and Gerry are very moved by the size of the group of people who turned up.

“After all these years people still assemble – some come every time and some are new and we are very grateful.”

Brian, who lives in the same village with wife Janet, who addressed supporters, added: “Even if it was bad news, in some ways, would give us some closure. But with no closure there is still hope."

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German police are convinced Maddie is dead and have been intent on charging prime suspect Christian Brueckner – sensationally named nearly three years ago – with her kidnap and “no body” murder.

But it recently emerged that the convicted peadophile may never face a trial in the high profile Maddie case, and with unrelated alleged sex offences, because of a legal technicality over foreign courts' jurisdiction.

Brueckner, 45, is currently serving a sentence in a German jail for the rape of an American tourist in the same Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz Maddie vanished from in May 2007.

He has vehemently denied any involvement in her abduction.

No suspects have ever been charged in connection with the world’s most talked about missing child mysteries.

British Police have recently asked the Home Office for more money to keep their investigation, codenamed Operation Grange and which has cost the taxpayer £13 million so far, going.

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Their request is set to be approved by a Special Grants committee.

Polish girl Julie Wendell has recently heaped more misery on Maddie’s parents by claiming in global online posts to be the missing child.

Despite negative DNA tests and denials from her own family, a year difference in age, she bizarrely continues to insist she is Madeleine.

Kate and Gerry had earlier posted a message on the official Find Maddie website, saying their daughter was “still very much missed” and they “await a breakthrough” in the police hunt for her.

They wrote: "Today marks the 16th anniversary of Madeleine’s abduction. Still missing…still very much missed.

"It is hard to find the words to convey how we feel. The couple shared a poem by Clare Pollard called The Contradiction which "resonates strongly with us".

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