But the charity went ahead with its plans after meeting with John McCann, uncle of the missing toddler, who supported the initiative.
The relaunch of the National Missing Persons Helpline on International Missing Children’s Day had been planned for nearly a year, as the charity underwent a strategic restructure.
The charity’s head of communications Ross Miller said: ‘We certainly didn’t want to appear to be jumping on the bandwagon. We had to think long and hard about whether to delay it.’
But, he said, the McCann family was willing to help as Missing People had already offered its services to them and the Portuguese police.
‘I was put in direct contact with John McCann, who was already due to visit London on that date. He gave us two days of his time and came to our offices to see the work we do first hand.’
Miller said the case had achieved such a high profile for two reasons. ‘First, it’s very rare. Second, going missing abroad makes the pain even harder for those left behind. A case like this happens every five years or so.’
Miller added that publicity was crucial to finding all missing people. The charity uses the Daily Mirror and the Metro as media partners with much success. Of the people pictured in the appeal slots, 70 per cent of those in the Metro and 65 per cent in the Daily Mirror are found.
‘The power of visual images in the media is immense’, said Miller.