Madeleine: Police fear a ‘spotter’ for a paedophile snatched her
Beyond the Dutroux Affair
The reality of protected child abuse and snuff networks
By Vanessa Allen and Emily Andrews
British police fear Madeleine McCann was snatched by a Belgian paedophile ring. She was stolen to order after a ‘spotter’ saw her on holiday in Portugal and sent her photograph to the gang’s leaders.
The revelation came as a second woman claimed to have seen the missing girl in neighbouring Holland.
The possible link to Belgium – the scene of several notorious child sex cases – was mentioned in a confidential email sent by the Metropolitan Police intelligence unit.
The message, passed to Portuguese police and contained in their newly-released files, said: ‘Intelligence suggests that a paedophile ring in Belgium made an order for a young girl three days before Madeleine McCann was taken.
‘Somebody connected to this group saw Madeleine and took a photograph of her. The purchaser agreed that the girl was suitable and Madeleine was taken.’
The dramatic development, and the horrific picture it draws, will bring fresh agony to Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann.
It would fit with two claimed sightings of their daughter across the border in the Netherlands, where Belgian paedophiles could hide their victims.
Earlier this week it was revealed that Amsterdam shop worker Anna Stam told police within days of Madeleine’s diappearance in May last year that she thought she had seen her.
The report was passed to Portgual, but never followed up. Yesterday Hannie Wiechmann, 71, said she saw a girl resembling Madeleine in the Dutch capital at around the same time.
She said the child’s hair had been badly cut and partially dyed red. She was with a woman who was pacing up and down beside a canal.
Mrs Wiechmann said: ‘Those eyes, her badly-cut fringe with this red painted lock of hair. I just knew it was her.’
She told the Dutch newspaper Metro that she spotted the child twice near the city’s famous Rijksmuseum.
Mrs Wiechmann said the woman, who was aged 30 to 35, was speaking English to her.
She added: ‘You could see by the way she handled the kid she wasn’t used to children.’
She was so convinced the girl was Madeleine that she called police from her mobile phone, then followed the pair as they walked towards the Rijksmuseum.
But when police arrived and spoke briefly to the brown haired woman, they accepted her account that she was a tourist who was baby-sitting the child.
Mrs Wiechmann said they dismissed her suspicions without even taking her details or talking to the girl. But she was so convinced the girl was Madeleine that she called British police, who took details but did not contact her again.
Mrs Wiechmann said that a week later she saw the pair again in a park, and the little girl came over to pat her dog.
She said: ‘She came right to me to pat the dog. Then I let her go. Stupid, but…. I let her walk away.
‘It would have been better if I had taken her home and reported it to all the international criminal investigators. Such a beautiful girl.’
The McCanns’ private detectives have considered the theory that Madeleine was given to a ‘carer’ who would have disguised her appearance and kept her in a safe house.
Mrs Wiechmann’s account came just a day after the Portuguese police files revealed Miss Stam’s description of a young girl with an adult couple and two other children.
Miss Stam, 41, said the girl called herself Maddie and said of the woman with her: ‘She took me from my Mummy….They took me from my holiday.’
A Dutch police report was sent to Portuguese police but it is not clear what action, if any, they took.
Miss Stam said: ‘I think it’s stupid because maybe they could have done something more at that time and maybe now it’s too late to find any clue. So I think it’s very neglectful by the police.’
Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said the McCann’s private detectives would interview both women ‘as a priority’.
Dutch and Portuguese police refused to comment.
The huge case files also revealed that Portuguese police asked the FBI to compare a DNA sample from Madeleine with the body of a child washed ashore in Galveston, Texas, last November. But it was not a match.
In the UK, a former detective accused the Portuguese of ‘giving up’.
Child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas said: ‘The file should have been made available to another law enforcement agency from another country before it was made public.
‘There is information there which should not have been put in the public domain and should have been followed up. It is a huge blunder to make it public.
‘They have given up. The police are absolving themselves of responsibility.’
Police suspected Robert Murat because of his ‘constant questions’ about MadeleineMcCann’s disappearance, according to the case files.
On May 11 – three days before the British expat was named as the first formal suspect – an officer said he had noticed his questions and suggestions and added: ‘He aroused my suspicions.’
Mr Murat, now 34, was formally cleared as an arguido, official suspect, last month, when Portugal’s attorney-general said there was no evidence he had committed any crime.
He had volunteered his services as a translator as police were trying to interview British tourists in Praia da Luz, but officer Pedro Varanda said he had showed an ‘unusual curiosity’ in the case.
His comments, recorded in the police files, came just five days after a British journalist told Leicestershire Police she had also noticed Mr Murat showing an intense interest in developments.
Mr Varanda said: ‘We noticed that he questioned me persistently, over and over, as to the ID of the potential suspects and the strategy of the investigation in the next few days.
‘Because he was so insistent and because of his attitude, he aroused my suspicions. I always told him to pay attention to the job he was supposed to be doing – because at that time the investigation was under the secrecy of justice rule.
‘He also had an enormous knowledge of the dynamics of the Ocean Club, and the routines the McCann family and their friends had taken up.’
Mr Murat, a property consultant, was taken for questioning on May 13 and named an arguido the next day.
Police searched the villa he shares with his mother, some 200 yards from the McCann’s holiday apartment, but found nothing.