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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Madeleine tributes to be cleared
Gerry McCann reading tributes
Gerry McCann visited the memorial in May
Hundreds of tributes and cuddly toys left in the home town of missing Leicestershire child for Madeleine McCann are to be cleared away.

Cross Green war memorial in the village of Rothley became the focus for vigils by those praying for her safe return.

The family said it was not a sign they had given up hope but they wanted to give the area back to villagers who had been "so incredibly kind".

The four-year-old was abducted from a holiday apartment in Portugal on 3 May.

Madeleine's father Gerry McCann read messages of support left at the village war memorial when he returned to the UK in May.

People have been encouraged to tie a ribbon or light a candle at the war memorial since Madeleine disappeared.

We don't want Gerry and Kate to miss out on those messages ... they are very important to them
Valerie Armstrong

Family friend Valerie Armstrong said the decision to clear the memorial had been made out of practicality.

"The toys that have been here for all this time are beginning to deteriorate quite badly and what we want to do is wash them, dry them and then distribute them to local homes for underprivileged children who would gain some pleasure from them.

"Some of the messages are deteriorating and we don't want Gerry and Kate to miss out on those messages ... they are very important to them."

The McCanns have travelled across Europe looking for their daughter who disappeared from their apartment in the Algarve holiday resort of Praia da Luz while they were eating at a nearby restaurant.

It is understood the McCanns will stay in Portugal at least until the end of the summer, but Mr McCann has suggested he might travel to the UK soon to help appoint a campaign manager to keep the hunt for Madeleine going.

A family friend talks about what will happen to the tributes

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