The net's closing in

The net's closing in
Search for missing Maddy
The Sunday Mirror
6 May 2007
Lori Campbell Kate Mansey and Jon Clarke in the Algarve Portugal

Police in hunt for a man acting strangely at complex Dad: I'm sure she'll be at 4th birthday next week

Detectives were last night closing in on a man they suspect of snatching little Maddy McCann from her holiday apartment.  They said they believed she was being held within three miles of the complex where she had been staying at Praia da Luz on Portugal's Algarve.

Guilhermino Encarnacao, chief of police in the region, said he had an artist's impression of the abductor but he feared that releasing it may put the three-year-old's life in danger.  He said he believed that Maddy had been taken by a sex offender, but there was also a possibility she had been kidnapped for a ransom - Maddy's parents are both doctors, her father a highly-paid heart specialist.

Mr Encarnacao said: "We have a prime suspect. A man has been seen acting strangely and we have a sketch, but we are not releasing it yet. We do not want to put the girl at risk.  "We believe the girl is still in Portugal, and probably nearby. I cannot rule out it was a paedophile who took her." 

Police raised the hope that Maddy could be found as her anguished parents spent a second night waiting for news of their daughter.

Gerry and Kate McCann, both 38, of Rothley, Leics, are staying two doors down from the apartment that Maddy was taken from between 9pm and 10pm on Thursday.  Yesterday Gerry went into the apartment and emerged carrying a suitcase and a bucket and spade for younger twins Amelie and Sean, two.  The couple were later seen walking between apartment blocks in the resort with the twins, accompanied by friends.

They are being comforted by family and specially-trained officers from Leicestershire who have flown to Portugal.

One senior Portuguese detective told the Sunday Mirror yesterday: "We know of two or three local paedophiles living between Lagos and Praia da Luz. We have their names and addresses. We also have a list of English and German sex offenders living in the area from Interpol. We are following up every lead." Yesterday Maddy's heartbroken grandmother told how the family were clinging to the hope she will be able to attend her fourth birthday party on Saturday.

Susan Healy told the Sunday Mirror: "We were looking forward to seeing her next weekend and giving her her presents, but this is just so awful.  "Her father is adamant that she will be found."

Relatives have made her a special Dr Who cake in honour of her favourite programme. Maddy had been asleep on a bed next to her brother Sean when she was snatched.
Her parents had been eating dinner at a restaurant in the Ocean Club resort 100 yards from the apartment.  They had been taking turns to check on the children every half hour as they slept.  But a frantic search was launched when Kate went back to the apartment at 9.45pm and found Maddy gone.

More than 100 locals and holiday makers took part in the hunt. Hotel workers from the Mark Warner Holiday complex held hands in a line and combed the beach while others scoured the resort and nearby roads.  A police source said they had been studying CCTV footage in petrol stations and on motorways near the resort.  There were also reports from expats that a young girl was seen walking down a road with a couple.

Last night 150 extra officers were drafted in to help with the search, as well as people from the Red Cross, Maritime Police and firemen.  It is thought someone had been spying on the apartment and broken in by forcing the shutters on the patio doors and entering the apartment when he knew the adults had gone.  The ground-floor apartment was on the edge of a public road so Maddy's abductor would have been able to make a quick getaway.

Yesterday family and friends flew in to the popular holiday resort from Liverpool, Glasgow and Canada to comfort Maddy's parents.  Looking tired and distraught, her mum Kate clasped her husband's hand as they walked out of the apartment with their twins between them to collect their belongings.

Last night the little girl's great uncle, Brian Kennedy, said: "We fear the worst, but we are hoping for the best."  Mr Kennedy insisted that the couple had acted responsibly when they left the children in the room while they had dinner at the restaurant.  He said: "The children were left only in the sense that when you put your children to bed, you don't stay in the room all night.  "Madeleine is a lovely little girl, an intelligent, bright child. As parents, they are absolutely devoted to their children. You won't find more caring parents anywhere."

The seven other adults, who had been on holiday with the McCann family, left yesterday as planned, leaving the parents free to spend time with worried relatives.

Meanwhile, questions were being raised on how secure the apartments were. There was also criticism of how quickly the police reacted to Maddy's disappearance.

Paula Jones, 34, who manages the apartments where the McCann family were staying said the properties were a hot spot for burglaries.  She said: "We have a real problem with break-ins at the apartments because lots of holiday makers don't double lock the patio doors.  "Burglars wait and watch the apartments so they know who is coming and going and they strike when tourists are out at the beach or in the restaurants."

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