LONDON: Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (pictured) from a Portuguese holiday resort nearly seven years ago say a lone intruder sexually assaulted five girls aged between seven and 10 in the Algarve between 2004 and 2006.
The four incidents – one involving two girls – were among 12 over six years up to 2010 being examined by officers in which a man entered holiday accommodation, mainly villas, and mostly occupied by British families.
In six of those incidents, the man, said to be dark-haired and tanned, sat on the victims’ beds. In nine of the 12 incidents there was no evidence of forced entry or property taken. In three others there was “low-level” theft involving cash or phones. Police said he appeared to “have a very, very, unhealthy interest” in young white girls.
The man, said to be unshaven with unkempt hair, spoke English slowly, with a foreign accent, possibly with slurred speech. Some witnesses suggested he had a pot belly while three victims suggested he had a distinctive smell, one involving aftershave, another tobacco while a third just described “a funny smell”.
However, no children were abducted. Detectives said too there had been an increase in “criminality” and burglary in Praia da Luz that peaked in April 2007, shortly before Madeleine’s disappearance.
Scotland Yard also revealed it was looking at 38 “people of interest” in relation to Madeleine’s disappearance, having dismissed 22 others from that category. They were also trying to find out more about 530 known sex offenders – 59 regarded as of high interest – across Europe.
Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, have been informed of the latest developments. Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, in charge of the hunt for Madeleine, accepted there were differences between these cases and that of Madeleine’s disappearance but added that there was a possibility that Madeleine had not left her family’s holiday apartment alive when she disappeared in May 2007. In most cases now being examined, the incidents happened between 2am and 5am — later than in the disappearance of Madeleine, then aged three, from a ground floor apartment at the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz while her parents had dinner with friends at a nearby restaurant.
Detectives have previously suggested Madeleine may have been abducted in a planned operation that had included individuals exploring the resort before hand. Fresh appeals are also made in Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. Scotland Yard says officers involved in the case have made 26 “strategic and tactical” visits to Portugal as well as travelling to Spain, Belgium, Jersey, Switzerland, Holland and Germany as well as working with colleagues across the UK.”