BY MARK GREAVES
THE mccANN family is planning to send thousands of toys given in tribute to their missing Madeleine to orphanages in deprived countries.
The gifts began piling up on the village green at Rothley. Leicestershire, where the McCanns live, soon after Madeleine went missing more than two months ago.
But children and parents at a local Catholic school are now taking the toys home in sacks to stop them from rotting in the rain.
Janet Kennedy, Madeleine's great aunt. is preparing to send the dolls, teddy bears and other stuffed animals to orphanages in Eastern Europe or in war-tom countries such as Iraq.
"We want to pass on the love for Madeleine to other children," she said. "There is no point in the toys just sitting there — they should go to children who have been deprived of a childhood and who don't have the chance to play with toys."
Mrs Kennedy said that Gerry McCann had approved of the idea when he came home to Rothley two weeks ago.
She said there had always been the logistical problem of what to do with the gifts to stop them "becoming dirty or smelly and just rotting".
Mrs Kennedy is now looking for ways to transport the toys and is trying to get in touch with orphanages where they would be put to good use.
She said a lorry would be travelling to Romania in October but they wanted to deliver the toys much sooner, in the next few weeks — and appealed for anyone who could help to contact The Catholic Herald.
"We are conscious that our own children do have a great deal and, though we appreciate the generosity of everyone giving these gifts, we think they'd be pleased to know that their toys will make other children happy," she said.
Many of the toys have already been taken home and washed by parents at Bishop Ellis Catholic Primary School, Thurmaston, where Madeleine was due to start in September.
Mrs Kennedy said the school had been "tremendously supportive" and had arranged for Bishop Malcolm McMahon of Nottingham to come and celebrate a special Mass for Madeleine.
Last month hundreds of pupils lined up in the playground to spell out the words "Find Madeleine". The school has set up a Madeleine Fund and raised £1.700 by selling wristbands and organising a "wear yellow" day.
When Madeleine went missing in May villagers at Rothley showed their support by tying yellow ribbons to the railings of the village's war memorial.
People came from all over the country to place cards, flowers and cuddly toys by the railings and on a small patch of grass.
Hundreds gathered by the memorial for a vigil where Christian priests and ministers from a number of denominations gave closing prayers.
Madeleine was kidnapped from her parents' holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, while her parents were having dinner in a restaurant next door.
She was apparently taken from the bedroom while two-year-old twin siblings slept beside her.
Two people were arrested in Spain last week in connection with the kidnapping. According to the Span ish newspaper El Pais, an Italian man was detained by specialist police in the town -of Stoogrande near Gibraltar. The newspaper reported that the man was sought by French police in connection with child abuse and had already tried to blackmail the McCann family.
There have still been no confirmed sightings of Madeleine despite the distribution of posters throughout Europe and north Africa. Gerry and Kate McCann have embarked on a tour of European and north African cities, including Rome. Lisbon, Madrid, Berlin, Amsterdam and Rabat, in an attempt to widen the appeal for information.