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  1. ITV Report

Praia da Luz: Five years on

As the warm Iberian rain lashes down outside, Father Haynes Hubbard hurriedly lights candles around his tiny church: an outpost of the Anglican communion in a staunchly Catholic country.

He has less than thirty minutes to prepare for a wedding.

Guests wait outside; soaking wet, but still smiling.

After all, there can be few more beautiful spots in Europe to be married.

Proof that joy and happiness can still exist in a community which has been touched by tragedy.

Father Hubbard, who prayed for Madeleine Credit: ITV Central

Father Hubbard is running late because of a series of television interviews.

By the time he gets to me, he is clearly concerned about the time.

But courteous to the last, he answers all of my questions fully and thoughtfully.

This is the man who played such an important role for the parents of Madeleine McCann in the hours and days after her disappearance.

As Kate and Gerry McCann came to terms with losing their daughter, Father Hubbard and his congregation were there for them.

"We were there to be with: to cry with," he tells me. "We didn't want to ask them questions, we just wanted to help them."

Madeleine McCann disappeared five years ago today Credit: ITV Central

Father Hubbard will lead a service of prayers for her at the church on the beach at Praia da Luz.

He tells me that Madeleine is always in his thoughts, but that the resort itself had moved on.

"There are some naysayers who claim that things have changed for the worse," he says. "But I don't accept that. I have children, and they are growing up here fine. Luz is a lovely place."

"Happiness still happens here. Grief still happens here. I hope that Praia da Luz can be remembered not for what happened to [Kate and Gerry McCann], but what we did for them."

– Father Hubbard
An image of what Madeleine could look like today Credit: PA

As the rain eases, I make the short walk through the narrow streets to the unassuming apartment block which has now been seen on a million news bulletins all over the world.

The last time I was here, every spare inch of Tarmac had been taken by TV crews, satellite trucks, mini TV studios.

I have worked in the industry for ten years, but that sight of hundreds of journalists, camera operators and engineers jostling for position, desperate for any snippet of information, still stands out.

Today the street is empty, save for a handful of local boys playing on bikes.

The atmosphere couldn't be more different.

Later, back on the seafront, I get talking to Barry and Julie Halls, a couple from Essex.

They moved out to Praia da Luz three years before Madeleine disappeared, to run a collection of beach apartments.

They told me how the ex-pat community and holiday makers alike, were devastated by what had happened to the McCanns.

Many of them handed out flyers and put up posters.

People rallied around. But something else happened; people cancelled their holidays.

"We were just coming up to high season, and the place was empty." remembers Barry. "There was a stigma attached to the resort for a long time."

But, he says that is changing. He insists that Praia da Luz is moving on.

Barry and Julie Halls, from Essex, moved to Praia da Luz three years before Madeleine disappeared Credit: ITV Central

In the early days, many Portuguese locals joined the hunt for Madeleine.

They too put up posters, and handed out flyers.

But as the story moved on, so attitudes began to shift.

In some cases, locals became actively hostile towards the McCanns and the British media.

Five years on, I still experience some of that hostility; none of the locals who chatted to me wanted to be interviewed on camera.

But in most cases, the attitude is simply one of weariness.

They hope that Madeleine will one day be found, but they also hope that their town, their country, can move on from the whole episode.

Madeleine McCann from Leicestershire has been missing for five years Credit: PA

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