MADELEINE McCann’s mum is being consoled by close ‘Tapas Seven’ holiday pal Fiona Payne, who is urging her not to give up hope as German police say they believe her daughter is dead.
Former GP Kate has been having tearful daily chats with fellow doctor Fiona, who has proved to be “a tower of strength and comfort” to her as she endures “unimaginable grief”.
Mum-of-two Fiona and husband David, a research fellow in cardiovascular sciences at Leicester University, were among the friends holidaying with the McCanns in the Algarve in May 2007 when Madeleine disappeared.
Pained Kate, 52, turned to Fiona when German police sensationally named sex fiend and convicted rapist Christian B as a prime suspect in their investigation.
The pair have not met up in person yet because of the Coronavirus lockdown, but are said to be hoping to do so as soon as regulations are further relaxed.
Detectives have not revealed any conclusive evidence incriminating Christian B, currently in jail following a rape conviction, and are yet to question him, but now say they “know how [Madeleine] was killed”.
As German prosecutors investigate the 43-year-old serial offender over Madeleine’s disappearance more than 13 years ago, Scotland Yard detectives have launched an appeal for information about him.
They want clues about two cars he owned and mobile calls he made on the night the three-year-old vanished from her bed at an apartment in the Praia de Luz resort.
The Met police’s investigation, codenamed Operation Grange, has so far received nearly 1,000 new tip offs.
A source close to Kate said today: “Fiona has always been there for her since the day Madeleine went missing.
“They are exceptionally close friends and over the years they have shared Kate’s heartache and many tears and hugs together.
“Fiona has been a tower of strength to Kate and a great comfort over the past week and half. They’ve spoken every day by phone and have even done some Zoom calls.
“Fiona has been trying to reassure Kate, who keeps crumbling, and telling her not to give up hope now, saying without proof Madeleine is dead there is a chance she could still be alive.”
After Madeleine vanished, Fiona and David stayed on in Luz for nearly three weeks to join the huge searches and help comfort their devastated friends.
Kate recalled how during that time she and Fiona would often sit on the beach, saying: “We talked and cried and held onto each other. It was like a horror movie that refused to end.
“She was the closest to me and has remained such a wonderful support.”
Fiona has also been at Kate’s side during poignant anniversary prayer gatherings in Rothley, including the milestone 10th occasion.
She read a prayer, ‘Tree of Hope’, at the event, reciting the words: “Each branch that it grows be our hope and prayers, and every bloom bear a colour for the ones that we miss.”
Kate has previously told how friends of her and husband Gerry desperately missed bright and fun-loving Madeleine.
“Our pain might be the most acute but out whole family as well as our closest friends suffer it to some degree, too, every day,” she said.
“Fiona and David and the others have the additional trauma of having been with us when the abduction took place.”