By Sarah Sturdey
BBC News at East Midlands airport
They left East Midlands airport at the end of April as a family of five looking forward to a holiday with their friends in the sunny Algarve in Portugal.
The McCanns are hoping their life can return to some sort of normality
More than four months later the McCanns returned to the UK as an incomplete family, with their eldest daughter missing.
The couple were under huge public scrutiny, which intensified after Portuguese police named them as suspects in the investigation into the disappearance of four-year-old Madeleine.
Kate and Gerry McCann waited for the rest of the passengers to disembark before making their way down the stairs from the plane, which arrived at lunchtime in the autumn sun.
Kate carried one of their two-year-old twins, Amelie, while Gerry held onto Sean, who was fast asleep on his father's shoulder, the little boy blissfully unaware of the media attention focused on his parents as they stepped on to British soil.
Appeal for privacy
Kate McCann looked tired and drawn as they stood before a gathering of journalists at the foot of the steps.
Gerry was prompted by an airport representative to read the words he had prepared for the waiting press.
With a sigh he began one of the many statements he's prepared since that day on 3 May when they reported Madeleine missing from their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.
He explained that they wanted normality for their twins and privacy for the family.
But he emphasised that, although the decision to return to their home in Rothley in Leicestershire was tough, it didn't mean they were giving up their search for Madeleine.
Having thanked those people who'd supported them, with his voice faltering, he emphasised he and his wife played no part in Madeleine's disappearance, but Portuguese law prevented them from saying so much more they want to add.
The couple then had to buckle the twins into seats in a car waiting next to the plane on the runway.
There were an uncomfortable few moments as Mrs McCann, her hands shaking, tried to complete the regular task, as clicking cameras peered down on the mundane activity.
The family were left in no doubt that the media attention that pursued them to the airport at Faro in Portugal was to continue now back home in Leicestershire.
As Mr McCann looked out of his open passenger window he could see two helicopters who followed them, with camera crews on board, on their journey back to Rothley.
No bail conditions
Gerry McCann had previously returned for a brief visit to meet Leicestershire police and the 'FindMadeleine' campaign but this is the first time they've returned as a family, to try to provide some kind of stability and routine for their twins.
Despite being formal suspects in the Portuguese investigation and after many hours of police questioning in recent days, there are no bail conditions.
They have been allowed to keep their passports and the McCanns' spokeswoman, Justine McGuinness, said their departure had been agreed by the Portuguese authorities.
Gerry McCann works as a cardiologist at a Leicester hospital and Kate McCann is a part time GP in the county.
How far they are able to resume their work and regular domestic activities remains to be seen.
But, given the twists and turns of this extraordinary story which have already unfolded across the summer, any semblance of normality for the McCanns and their remaining children will undoubtedly be some time away.