UK’s McCann probe issues images of man ‘seen carrying child’
British detectives investigating the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal published two electronic images Monday of a man they said was seen carrying a child on the night she vanished.
Police said the man was of “vital importance” in their quest to discover what happened to the British youngster, who disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment just a few days before her fourth birthday.
The two e-fits, plus others of different people, will be shown in a major primetime British television appeal which will also be broadcast in Germany and The Netherlands.
The BBC programme will set out a reworked timeline of events surrounding blonde-haired Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3, 2007, in the south coast resort of Praia da Luz.
“The sighting was during the evening of the 3rd of May around 10:00 pm, and it was of a man walking down the street with a child in his arms,” said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior investigating officer in the case.
“The child was described as about three to four years old, with blonde hair, possibly wearing pyjamas. That’s why we’re so interested in this particular incident,” he told BBC television.
The images were drawn up based on descriptions from a group of witnesses. They said the child did not seem in distress.
The witnesses described the man in the e-fit as being white, aged between 20 and 40 years old, with short brown hair, of medium build, medium height and clean-shaven. One image shows him with a fuller jaw than the other.
Portuguese authorities closed their investigation in 2008, but Britain’s Scotland Yard police headquarters spent two years reviewing the evidence at the British government’s request and opened their own probe in July this year.
Redwood stressed that the man in the e-fits may be completely innocent.
“Whilst this man may or may not be the key to unlocking this investigation, tracing and speaking to him is of vital importance to us,” he said.
Prime Minister David Cameron gave the new appeal his support.
“This was a crime that touched the heart of everyone in the country and everyone would like to see it resolved, so I hope Scotland Yard continue with their work and I wish them success,” he said.
The BBC’s hour-long “Crimewatch” show, broadcast Monday at 2000 GMT, will include a new 25-minute reconstruction as well as live interviews with Madeleine’s parents Gerry and Kate McCann, who launched a global media campaign to find their daughter and still hold out hope she is alive.
Police said they would present a new timeline around the incident.
Detectives have focused on the time between 8:30 pm, when the McCanns left the apartment to dine with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant, to when Kate McCann found Madeleine was missing at 10:00 pm.
Last week, British police also said analysis of mobile phone data from thousands of people who were in Praia da Luz when Madeleine disappeared could provide a new lead.
‘It really hits home on special occasions’
Ahead of the broadcast, the McCanns told the BBC of the pain they still feel.
“When it’s a special occasion, when you should be at your happiest, and Madeleine’s not there, that’s when it really hits home,” Gerry McCann said.
“Obviously, Madeleine’s birthday goes without saying.”
Kate McCann added: “We’re not the ones that have done something wrong here. It’s the person who’s gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family.”
The Scotland Yard operation has interviewed 442 people and identified 41 potential suspects.
Praia da Luz is an Algarve holiday destination popular with sun-seeking tourists from northern Europe.
Redwood said he would be travelling to The Netherlands, Germany and Ireland to “seek the support of the public there”.
The German television programme “Aktenzeichen XY” on the public broadcaster ZDF will show the e-fits on Wednesday.
Two of the suspects are German-speaking, according to the German tabloid Bild and the British newspaper The Times.
Last week the McCanns said they were “greatly encouraged by new information coming to light” and said they hoped the appeal would take them closer to finding Madeleine.