Man who could clear McCanns

Man who could clear McCanns
Secret Maddie Witness; Exclusive
Dominic Herbert & Ross Hall
16 September 2007
The News of the World


TODAY we reveal the secret witness whose bombshell testimony could clear the McCanns.

Pictured here for the first time, Jeremy Wilkins' evidence blows holes in the police theory that Gerry and Kate killed four-year-old Madeleine.

Wilkins-seen outside his north west London home-was the man heart surgeon Gerry McCann, 38, spoke with for up to 15 minutes outside the holiday apartments moments after checking on his children for the last time.

What the TV producer witnessed makes the statement he gave to police a key piece of evidence in the event of a trial.

We can reveal Wilkins constantly INSISTED to Portuguese detectives that Gerry was totally calm and unflustered as they chatted-far removed from the behaviour that might be expected of a man covering up the death of his daughter.

But another part of Wilkins' evidence ironically helped shift the police focus AWAY from their original kidnap theory.

For the 36-year-old holidaymaker turned the investigation on its head when he revealed a VITAL FLAW in the statement given by key witness, Jane Tanner, who claims she saw a man carrying a child away from the apartment complex.

Based on what he has said, last night Portuguese sources confirmed that police have doubts about Miss Tanner's evidence.

One said: "Her account has raised more questions than answers. She is high on the list of people we need to speak to again."

Yesterday Wilkins was refusing to expand on what he has told police. His girlfriend Bridget O'Donnell-who was in Praia da Luz with the producer and their eight-month-old son-said: "We have decided it's not appropriate to talk about what happened."

But Wilkins-whose production company Zig Zag has made a string of controversial TV programmes-is likely to be re-interviewed as Portuguese detectives desperately try to build a case against the McCanns.

Some of the seven diners who were at the tapas restaurant with the couple on May 3 have already travelled back to Portugal once before to go over events leading to Madeleine's disappearance. Next time they may be quizzed in the UK by British police assisting their EU counterparts on the inquiry. Wilkins' crucial encounter with Gerry took place at 9.10pm on the main street outside the apartments next to the McCanns'-and at the entrance to a narrow alleyway that runs past the back of them.


The two were both tennis fans and had played each other during the course of the holiday.

On the night Maddie disappeared Wilkins was taking his eight-month-old son for a walk.

When he bumped into Gerry the two men chatted for up to 15 minutes before the surgeon returned to the tapas bar. It was during this period of time that Tanner, 37, another member of the McCanns' party, said she WALKED PAST the two men on her way back to her apartment to check on her youngsters.

She told police that she saw a dark-haired man, aged about 35, carrying a child who could have been Maddie's wrapped in a blanket at 9.15pm-when Gerry and Wilkins would still have been chatting.

But Wilkins, viewed by police as a completely independent witness, told cops he could not recall anyone walking past him. And in all the time he was there he saw NO MAN carrying a child.

The TV executive is convinced he would have seen Jane Tanner pass by.

He said: "It was a very narrow path and I think it would have been almost impossible for anyone to walk by without me noticing." And he also believes he would have seen the mystery man and child who would also have been just yards away.

Cops asked mum-of-two Tanner-on the holiday with with her partner Dr Russell O'Brien, 36-whether it was possible that the man and child she saw was Wilkins with his son.


But a source told us: "She was adamant that it was not Jeremy Wilkins and his child. She is certain she saw someone else and stands by her account."

Gerry and Tanner returned to the restaurant separately shortly afterwards and it was at 10pm that Kate McCann went to check on the children and found Madeleine gone. Wilkins' importance in the inquiry has only been highlighted because police are troubled by possible inconsistencies in the McCann friends' statements, including discrepancies in the times various people recall arriving at the restaurant.

The Portuguese police believe the McCanns may have been involved in Madeleine's disappearance and think one may be covering up for the other.

Officers are probing an unlikely "three-hour window of opportunity" between 6pm and 9pm when they suspect Madeleine was killed in the apartment and her body hidden somewhere nearby. Forensic evidence gathered so far including DNA or body fluid samples is thought to be inconclusive.

Portuguese police say they could name more official suspects in the coming weeks.

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