New manhunt 'another diversion by McCanns'

New manhunt 'another diversion by McCanns'
Daily Express
22 January 2008
By Padraic Flanagan in Praia da Luz and Nick Fagge

THE manhunt by Madeleine investigators prompted by a drawing of a possible abductor is designed to divert suspicion from Kate and Gerry McCann, the Portuguese police believe.

Last night, sources in the Policia Judiciaria revealed reports of a dishevelled man lurking around Praia da Luz were investigated months ago and found to be groundless.

One stormed: "The purpose of this latest exercise by the McCanns is the same as always. It's another diversionary tactic."

On Sunday, private investigators searching for the four-year-old released a sketch based on the evidence of a British tourist who said she had seen a "creepy man".

Grandmother Gail Cooper, who was staying 600 yards from the McCanns' apartment, said she saw him three times, once trying to collect money for a fake orphanage.

Based on her descriptions, an FBI-trained artist drew a likeness.

Detectives in Portugal believe Madeleine is dead and that her parents were involved in disposing of the body.

Former PJ inspector and now criminologist Francisco Moita Flores said the timing of the McCanns releasing the image was curious, coming only days before the McCanns' dining companions are due to face further questioning.

He said: "This is maybe the most critical moment in the investigation. They know there is evidence that the girl died and we are on the eve of interrogating witnesses who may undo all the theories."

It was reported the only other official suspect, Robert Murat, was seen chatting to a man resembling the sketch suspect last May.

Nanny Charlotte Pennington, 20, told the police she saw Murat, 34, talking to "a man 27 to 35, average height, very dark eyes, Portuguese or Spanish appearance".

After Madeleine was snatched on May 3, the McCanns' dining companion Jane Tanner, 36, said she had seen a man walking away from the Ocean Club carrying a child.

Yesterday, despite never seeing his face, Ms Tanner, from Exeter, said she was "80 per cent certain" it was the man in the drawing.

Last night, Amanda Mills, 34, from Basildon, Essex, claimed she saw a man resembling the sketch suspect trying to break into a ground-floor apartment in the Ocean Club, similar to the one the McCanns occupied, a week later.

Last night the McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell said the McCanns' sleuth agency's £50,000-a-week contract is up next month but could be extended if the mystery man was still at large.

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