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The Complete Mystery of Madeleine McCann™   

50 ridiculous stories the British media "ARE" telling you.

sharonl | Published on the 20.08.17 22:21 | 2304 Views


This is our fourth leaflet in this series. The three previous ones featured facts about the reported disappearance of Madeleine McCann that the British media have not been telling you about. This leaflet is different.

While the British mainstream media have for years denied the British public the facts that might help us to better understand what happened to Madeleine, they have, at the same time, shamelessly produced many ridiculous, unbelievable stories about what might have happened to Madeleine, mainly to sell more newspapers and make more money. Some of these stories were even generated by the McCanns’ chief publicist, Clarence Mitchell, former Head of Tony Blair’s  Media Monitoring Unit. He once boasted that his job was ‘to control what comes out in the media’. Many stories featured in this leaflet could have harmed Madeleine, if she really had been abducted, was still alive and being held by an abductor. Suppose even one of these ‘sightings’ and ‘claims’ was true? What would be the effect on any abductor? What would he be likely to do? Many of the stories could have put Madeleine, if still alive, at great risk, by causing an abductor to take steps to evade the police.   

Our first leaflet examined the main facts of the case. You can watch a video of this leaflet on YouTube, in 4 parts, at this link:   Our second looked at the main members of the ‘McCann Team’, examining their activities, focusing on the controversial individuals (some of them criminals) and detective agencies they used - for what they said was their search for Madeleine. Our third leaflet discussed Operation Grange, the 6-year-long Metropolitan Police review and investigation into Madeleine’s reported disappearance. We have numbered our points from No. 151 onwards, this being a continuation of our first three leaflets.

British media stories about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

We present below a selection of some of the most bizarre claimed ‘sightings’ and stories about Madeleine’s disappearance printed in the British media, some more ridiculous and unbelievable than others. A very useful website on the internet which gives further details about many of these stories is:  …and many of them are discussed in detail on this popular Madeleine McCann discussion forum:

In 2017, the Sun published a list of 8,685 different ‘sightings’ of Madeleine.  The initial claim by the McCanns was that Madeleine had been abducted by a paedophile or a group of paedophiles. A bewildering variety of ‘sightings’, theories and claims about what really happened to Madeleine followed. We add comments on some of the stories, which we list in the approximate chronological order on which they were first published:

151. Madeleine seen in a taxi by Mr Cardosa on the day she was reported missing (3 May 2007) COMMENT: The taxi-driver claimed he had had a young blond-haired girl in his taxi, with two adults. But his story unravelled when he got muddled about which day this happened. He was dismissed as an attention-seeker.

152. Robert Murat’s girlfriend Michaela Walczuk handed Madeleine over to someone near the Spanish border (May 2007) COMMENT: This curious story emerged months after Madeleine had been reported missing. Moreover, when it did emerge, it was via the controversial, corrupt Spanish detective agency used by the McCanns, Metodo 3. On 13 November 2007, the man who ran the McCanns’ investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, businessman Brian Kennedy, met with the Portuguese Police, bringing with him two Metodo 3 detectives (one of them, Antonio Giminez Raso, was arrested three months later and spent four years in prison on serious drugs and corruption charges). At the November 2007 meetings, the Metodo 3 detectives said they had been contacted by a truck driver who saw a blonde woman handing over ‘a package wrapped in a blanket’ to a man on a camp site near the border with Spain. The Portuguese Police followed this up, but it was another false lead.    

153. Maddie in a Dutch shop owned by Anna Stam (6 May 2007):  COMMENT:  This sighting was not made public for a full 15 months. It finally surfaced in the British media on 7 & 8 August 2008, after Anna Stam had flown to London to meet the McCann Team and help to draw up an artist’s sketch of the couple she said she’d seen with a young girl in her party shop in Amsterdam on Sunday 6 May 2007, three days after Madeleine had been reported missing. Ms Stam claimed the girl had spoken to her and said: “My name is Maddie. She is not my Mummy. They took me from my holiday”. Ms Stam did not report her sighting for a month. Dutch police interviewed her, drew up computer e-fits, and sent them to the Portuguese police on 18 June. The Portuguese police declined to follow up the information, besieged as they were by the intense work of their initial investigation and the presence of hundreds of international media journalists in Praia da Luz.  Ms Stam said: “I didn't like the man, he didn't look like a nice person…most people smile when they come in to buy things…he didn't smile back at me when I smiled at him. He had no sparkle in his eyes. He seemed angry”. She added: “The woman seemed stressed and uncomfortable. The man spoke in Portuguese. I know because I have Brazilian friends. The woman spoke in French while the little girl spoke English. It didn't seem like a real family”. The story was revived in August 2008 when the McCanns became aware that the Portuguese police had not travelled to Holland to follow up Ms Stam’s claims.  The McCanns’ PR spokesman Clarence Mitchell told the Mirror: “Anna did the right thing in contacting the Dutch police. But I find it shocking that the Portuguese police weren't even in touch, either with her or with us. I'm grateful to the Mirror for bringing her to us. Her evidence could be very significant. Our investigators will interview her in the next few days”.

154. Madeleine seen near a petrol station in Marrakesh, Morocco, asking to see ‘My Mummy’(9 May 2007) COMMENT:  A witness was sure she saw Madeleine with a man near a Marrekesh petrol station, next to the Hotel Ibis, on May 9, 2007. She said the girl ‘looked very distressed’ and said: “Can we go see Mummy now?’  The Daily Star revived this story as recently as 17 April 2017, as the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance neared:

155. Madeleine seen asleep on a Belgian train (May 14, 2007)   COMMENT: A British man claimed he saw a child asleep on a train from Brussels to Antwerp and thought she looked drugged. The girl was with a balding, 6ft white man in his forties, who got off the train at Mechelen carrying her.

156.  Sightings in Geneva, Switzerland (16 May 2007)  COMMENT: A man reported seeing Madeleine in   Geneva on 16 May. In June, there were two separate sightings of a girl seen at Geneva Airport with a blonde woman in her 50s. Fifty police officers were called to search the entire terminal building, while all the pilots were asked to search their planes for the child:

157. Police looking for a red van with false number plates near Lisbon (17 May 2007) COMMENT: This story was reported by SKY News.

158. GCHQ hunt for Madeleine after they intercept messages in Arabic referring to "the little blonde girl" (29 May 2007) COMMENT:  Yes, even GCHQ in Cheltenham were involved in the search for Madeleine, in a story covered by Fox News on 29 May: “Brits Follow Cell Phone Signals in Hunt for Madeleine".

159. Three sightings in Belgium, two in Tongeren (May and June 2007): COMMENT: There were three more reported sightings in Belgium. The first was in May 2007 in Liège. Then, on 27 June, Jessica Beem said she had seen Madeleine in her flower-shop in Tongeren. A third claimed sighting, also in Tongeren, occurred on 28 July on a café terrace, where children’s therapist Katleen Sampermans said Madeleine was with a ‘strange-looking’ Dutch man and an Englishwoman. An artist’s sketch of the Dutchman was compiled. However, the girl turned out to be the 4-year-old daughter of a Belgian man. The Portuguese newspaper Correia da Manha in August 2008 reported that Interpol had received reports from 107 people that they had seen Madeleine. See here: 

160. Two sightings in Zaio, Morocco (late May/early June 2007) COMMENT: A Spanish tourist said she saw a girl resembling Madeleine as she drove through the town of Zaio in northern Morocco at the end of May. Later, another Spanish tourist, Isabel Gonzalez, said she saw a girl fitting Madeleine’s description being ‘dragged across a street’, also in Zaio, by a North African woman on 15 June.

161. Madeleine seen in Hong Kong (14 June 14  2007)  COMMENT: A woman claimed that she had spotted  Madeleine in a Hong Kong shopping centre. The ‘sighting’ was ruled out after police studied CCTV footage

162. 28 sightings in Malta (17 to 29 June 2007)  COMMENT: There was a spate of alleged sightings of Madeleine in Malta, see e.g. here  She was seen several times with a man, once with a woman. Another claimed to have seen her boarding a bus in the capital, Valetta. Elsewhere a Maltese man used his mobile ’phone to take a photo of a child he believed to be Madeleine at a parish festival in Zejtun on 17 June. A man from north Wales  said he saw a girl in the north-eastern town of Sliema wearing a jet black wig who was being told: "Get up, little girl”, by an Arab-looking man. Nothing came of any of these sightings: yet more police time wasted. 

163. Madeleine seen in Dubrovnik, Croatia (19 June 2007) COMMENT: She was allegedly seen in Dubrovnik, Croatia, laying on the floor ‘kicking and screaming’ and yelling: “I’m never going to see them again”.

164. Antonia Toscano, a Spanish journalist and professed ‘expert in Satanic cults’, said he knew Madeleine had been abducted by a French paedophile - on orders from wealthy organisers of a European child sex ring (27 June 2007)  COMMENT: A false claim by a man with a vivid imagination (see also No. 200).

165. Madeleine seen twice in Bosnia (8 July and 10 November 2007)  COMMENT: A British tourist believed he had seen Madeleine at the Roman Catholic shrine of Medjugorje. He said the little blonde girl he saw with a couple was ‘agitated and sobbing’. Police traced the girl, who was a local. In November, an Irishman visiting the same shrine contacted McCann detectives Metodo 3 to tell them he heard a little girl cry ‘I want my Daddy’ as she was driven away (10 November 2007).  This story was apparently backed up by a shop assistant. The Irishman had seen the car’s number plate, details of which were reported by the media before the police had chance to find the owner.    

166. Two women reported seeing a child who looked like Madeleine with a man at a petrol station near Cartagena, Spain (21 August 2007) COMMENT: This alleged sighting was thoroughly investigated by both the Spanish National Police and Civil Guard, using up hundreds of valuable police man-hours: Press Association, 23 August 2007, ‘Madeleine Spain sighting' probed’; also in the Guardian, 26 August 2007.

167. Madeleine was being carried on a peasant’s back in Morocco at Zinat near Tangier. The girl was actually Bushra Binhisa, the daughter of the woman who was carrying her (seen on 31 August, reported 20 September 2007)  COMMENT: This case received huge publicity in the British press, including the broadsheets, in September 2007. A European-looking girl of about Madeleine’s age was photographed as a Moroccan peasant woman carried her on her back. The girl’s face didn’t look like Madeleine at all, yet the British press ran banner headlines: ‘IS THIS MADELEINE?’ It turned out that this photo had first been seen by the McCanns, who passed it to the press. They must have known that it was not their daughter. Yet they let millions of British newspaper readers think that this might be Madeleine. Police and even journalists were sent out to Morocco and soon found the peasant family. The parents were shocked and distressed to have been accused of abducting Madeleine.         

168. Naoula Mahli claimed to have seen Madeleine in Fnideq, Morocco. Later, Lord Leveson was told at the Leveson enquiry into press standards that the Daily Express paid her £500 for her story (November 2007) COMMENT: This alleged sighting by Naoual Malhi occurred (she says) on 21 August 2007, but was not reported to the Spanish police until 6 days afterwards. Mrs Malhi claimed she was told by police that over 100 people had reported seeing Madeleine McCann in the same mountain area. She then reported her claims to Metodo 3 at the end of October. Naoual Malhi is a Moroccan doctor who lives in a British expatriate community near Malaga, Spain. She is divorced and at the time had a 4-year-old child. The blonde girl identified in the city of Fnideq as Madeleine McCann turned out to be a Moroccan child living with her parents, according to the director of the Moroccan Judicial Police. Naoula Mahli wove a superficially believable story about having discovered where Madeleine was being held. But her story didn’t stand up. Did she make it all up just to get £500 from the Daily Express?


169. Dunedin, New Zealand: Madeleine was seen in a supermarket in New Zealand with a man (5 December 2007) COMMENT: CCTV footage from New Zealand showed a girl like Madeleine being led into a supermarket by a portly man in shorts. The man’s behaviour aroused the suspicions of a female security guard in the Dunedin shop on South Island. She approached the girl who said her name was ‘Hailey’. But the security guard remained  convinced the girl was Madeleine and reported the matter to police. The CCTV footage of the man and girl was repeatedly shown on New Zealand TV, and in Britain. Interpol in Wellington was also called in to investigate. Of course, it was not Madeleine McCann but a young girl out shopping with her father. 

170. A man who looked like Beatle George Harrison may have abducted Madeleine (January 2008) COMMENT: This was a major front-page story on Sunday 30 January 2008 in the now-defunct News of the World. It was heavily prepared in advance by the McCann Team with the active help of Leicestershire Police. The entire story was woven by the McCann Team around a real individual who was often seen around Praia da Luz. One strange feature of the case concerned McCann friend Jane Tanner’s involvement in the story. She was the friend of the McCanns who claimed she had seen a man carrying a young blond child near the McCanns’ apartment at 9.15pm on the night she was reported missing. In all her descriptions of this man, she admitted that she never saw any part of his face. Brian Kennedy, head of the McCanns’ private investigation, had used a lady by the name of Melissa Little (said to be an F.B.I.-trained forensic artist) to draw a sketch of the man Jane Tanner said she had seen in May. In the sketch, released in October 2007, the man’s face was not seen. Later, in January 2008, Jane Tanner was shown the sketch of the man drawn to look like Beatle George Harrison. It was of his face, and he had a moustache. Despite never having seen the face of the man she said she had seen on 3 May, she now said she was ‘60 to 80% sure’ that ‘George Harrison man’ was the same man she’d seen in May! It emerged later that Jane Tanner had done an identification parade on 13 May 2007, when she said she was ‘adamant’ that Robert Murat was the man she had seen on 3 May. But the subsequent sketch she approved in October 2007 looked nothing like him. Hardly surprisingly, the Portuguese Police dismissed everything Jane Tanner said as wholly unreliable.        

171. Madeleine seen at a service station on the A9 motorway near Montpellier, France (21 February 2008) COMMENT: The claim that Madeleine had been seen in a service station on the A9 motorway in France was taken so seriously by the British press that even broadsheets devoted long articles to the alleged ‘sighting’. Even the Daily Telegraph’s respected Chief Reporter, Gordon Rayner, wrote an extensive piece on the subject, solemnly reported as follows: “Madeleine’s parents were facing further heartache today when it emerged that CCTV footage of a little girl playing in the south of France is ‘almost certainly not her’. Hopes of finding the missing four-year-old were raised when a Dutch student said she spotted the child at a service station close to the city of Montpellier last Friday. Melissa Firing, 18, said the child was with a ‘tall, swarthy’ man who bundled her away in a car. French detectives spent ‘hours’ examining the footage at the nation’s Criminal Research Institute in Rosny-sur-Bois, near  Paris. Police even tracked down the owner of the car in which the little girl was driven away, after the number plate appeared on the video footage. A ‘source close to the McCanns’ said: “The owner has provided a plausible explanation of what he was doing with a young child in a motorway service station”. French police at the time said they were also investigating allegations that young children, including babies, were being ‘sold’ at impromptu auctions in car parks along the Mediterranean coast. 

172. A Portuguese couple with Madeleine in tow knocked at the door of a retired civil servant in Dorset (25 February 2008)  COMMENT: Reported in the Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2008.  This is believed to be the first reported sighting of Madeleine in Britain. It occurred in Dorset, where civil servant Alan Cameron had retired. He told police that Madeleine was with a Portuguese couple who came to the door. Yet another false claim.

173. Madeleine seen on a plane to Brazil, one of six ‘sightings’ in that country (14 May 2008)  COMMENT: A traveller claimed to have seen Madeleine travelling on a plane to Brazil. Interpol’s chief Jorge Pontes said: “This sighting is still under investigation so we cannot reveal details. We have a witness insisting they saw the child on a flight to Sao Paulo”. Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ PR spokesman, said: “The couple’s privately hired detective agency, Metodo 3, are looking into the latest claim”. There had been five other ‘sightings’ in Brazil, one in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian police chief Marilia Moreira Marques said that a man called Mark claimed to have seen Madeleine at a book fair in Cinelandia Square, Rio de Janeiro, on 11 May 2007. The sighting had been reported to a foreign embassy in the capital, and was referred to Interpol, who were said to hold a ‘40-page dossier’ on Madeleine.  On 7 June, a man said he spotted Madeleine in an Ipanema cafe sitting with a man. He said she looked ‘sad’ and was not speaking to her male companion. See:

174. Madeleine spotted on a Venezuelan island (18 May 2008)  COMMENT: A British businessman and yacht skipper, Trevor Francis, said he saw Madeleine in the company of two or three women on the island of Margarita in Venezuela. He claimed this happened several weeks previously, but says he didn’t approach her because he was ‘too fearful of causing a spectacle’: “I wanted to grab her and shout out her name and see what reaction I would get," he told the News of the World. Mr Francis claimed he noticed an identical eye blemish to that of Madeleine.   

See also:

175. Croatian national footballer’s two-year-old son mistaken for Madeleine (18 August 2008) COMMENT:  Two British tourists spotted a woman leading what they thought was a young girl with long blonde hair along a beach on the Croatian holiday island of Krk. They both immediately thought it was Madeleine McCann. They secretly took photographs of the child. The British woman seized a chance to grab the child’s arm, intending to take her to the police. Only then did she realise that the child was not Madeleine as it was a boy. The boy’s mother turned out to be well-known Croatian model Nives Drpic, while the father was a footballer for the Croatian national team and for Dinamo Zagreb. They were described as the ‘Posh & Becks’ of Croatia. See:  and

176. Madeleine seen in Algeria with a suspicious-looking family (September 2008) COMMENT: A man said he had seen a Madeleine look-alike blonde girl, with a British accent, with an Algerian family who were ‘acting suspiciously’.

177. Maddie seen in the company of a big, fat gypsy woman (September 2008)  COMMENT:  A British woman, Mrs Jean Godwin, aged 56, from Widnes, Cheshire, was sure she had spotted Madeleine McCann in the company of two fat women at Carvoeiro, about 30 miles from Praia da Luz, and rang the McCanns’ ‘investigation hotline’. Mrs Godwin described a ‘gaunt, very thin, malnourished’ young blonde girl wearing a black, shiny wig being dragged by ‘gipsy women’. One of the women, she said, was an ‘obese’ size 30, in her mid-to-late 40s, with ‘dirty and unkempt’ red hair. She added: “The girl’s eyes were wide open and my attention was drawn to the large irises. I am 100% sure it was Madeleine”.  This sighting, said the McCann Team’s investigators, matched an earlier account of a fat, red-haired woman, now known to be Yvone Albino, a cleaner, who had been seen by another British tourist, Jeni Weinberger, from Salisbury, Wilshire, acting suspiciously outside the McCanns’ apartment on 3 May 2007, the day Madeleine McCann was reported missing.  The McCanns’ investigators traced her -  she has two grown up sons but no young children - and followed her to a small, run-down farmhouse on an orange grove, near Silves, not far from Praia da Luz. They then began a surveillance operation at the farmhouse, fearing that Madeleine was being held prisoner there. In the following months, Yvone Albino paid several visits to the property, a holiday home owned by a teacher and his partner, whom the investigators deemed to be ‘suspicious’. Their concerns were raised when they discovered a white Citroen Berlingo with a child’s doll on the back seat and a child’s drawing among rubbish bags - even though the couple did not have young children. Mrs Albino, who has two grown-up sons but no young children, used to visit teacher Jorge Martins and his partner Maria Silveira (traced through their car), at their run-down farmhouse in an orange grove. Portuguese police confronted Mrs Albino, who said she knew nothing about either sighting and denied any contact with young children. Officers found the house deserted. The woman with Mrs Albino in Carvoeiro was never identified. Mr Martins and Miss Silveira have never been accused of any crime by police. He told police the doll was given to him by his students several years earlier. Nothing came of all this effort, but it made it look as though the McCann Team were doing a real investigation.                         See:

178.  Madeleine spotted in Majorca by British tourist (28 September 2008): COMMENT:  Two British  holidaymakers were convinced that they saw Madeleine on a beach at Cala d'Or, Majorca. She was reportedly ‘in the company of two women’, but they also added: “We saw the girl was on her own under a parasol on the beach with a colouring book, which struck us as odd…later in the week we saw the girl again and the woman was trying to drag them down to the beach, although it was dark, which she again found odd”. Spanish police combed dozens of hotels and holiday apartments to try to locate the girl. One police spokesman said: “We are aware of the numerous previous sightings all over the world that have turned out to be false and it could well be that the couple have made an honest mistake”.  See here:  …and in the Daily Mail

179. Madeleine seen with a Portuguese child trafficker in the United States (9 October 2008) COMMENT:     On October 9, 2008 it was reported that Madeleine was living with a Portuguese man in the U.S. He allegedly was a child trafficker, smuggling children from his homeland, Mexico and Greece.

180. Madeleine asked for a chocolate ice-cream from an ice-cream seller whilst with a French family in Brussels (October 2008)  COMMENT: A North African-looking woman with a young girl in tow was picked up on CCTV footage by a security guard at a branch of the Belgian bank KBC. Later, an ice cream vendor, Antonio Migliardi, came forward, describing the woman as being ‘very severe’ with the child, adding: “She held her hand firmly and kept pulling her closer. When I gave the ice cream to the child she stood frozen. The lady took it in her place. Normally a happy child always takes the ice. This was not a normal situation”.  The security guard said: “I will bet everything I own that the child I saw was Madeleine McCann”. Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ spokesman, commented: “We take this information seriously”.  See:

181. Maddie seen in a Spanish restaurant in Maryland, U.S.A. (May 2009) COMMENT: An unnamed woman spoke to the Sun newspaper in June 2013, saying she thought she saw Madeleine in a Spanish restaurant in Montgomery County, Maryland, accompanied by a blonde woman and two men, one of whom was ‘scruffy-looking with a foreign accent’. She added: “I’ve never felt so strongly about something”. She said that Operation Grange was now following up the alleged ‘sighting’.

182. Madeleine was abducted by British paedophile Raymond Hewlett (2009 and 2010)  COMMENT: This was a long-running story in 2009 and 2010. Raymond Hewlett was a convicted British paedophile who had been travelling around Europe in 2007, when Madeleine was reported missing. Another traveller, Peter Verran, had met with Raymond Hewlett in June 2007 in Morocco. The two men discussed Madeleine McCann, and Hewlett admitted that he had been staying about 30 miles away from Praia da Luz at the time Madeleine went missing. He also said he knew of the apartment block where the McCann family had been staying in May 2007. Hewlett denied he had been in Praia da Luz that week and there was no evidence that he was. Yet the McCann Team kept the story of Hewlett being a suspect going for months. They made repeated attempts to interview him, having located him at a hospital in Aachen, Germany, where he was being treated in hospital (see also below).     

183. Madeleine was taken on a yacht to Australia by an Australian woman who looked like Victoria Beckham and wanted ‘a new daughter’ (6 August 2009) This was another major news story promoted by the McCanns. Their PR spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, held a news conference where he paraded a sketch of what the woman looked like. He said she looked like Victoria Beckham (‘Posh Spice’). The whole story was said to have come from a British man, said variously to have been a ‘businessman’ or ‘banker’. The McCanns didn’t give the man’s name, so his story couldn’t be checked. It was claimed that the man told the McCann Team that on Sunday 6 May 2007, he had been drinking all evening in some of the numerous bars around Barcelona docks. He said that at 2am that night, a young woman with an Australian accent came up to him and asked: ‘Have you got my new daughter?’ He said ‘No’, and the young woman went away. Despite Madeleine’s disappearance being front-page news around the world at the time, he had delayed reporting this incident for over two years, claiming he had ‘agonised’ all that time over whether or not to report it. It was claimed that Madeleine may have been taken by boat from Praia da Luz to Barcelona (a journey of hundreds of miles), and that the woman with an Australian accent had arranged to ‘buy’ her at Barcelona docks three days later and board a large yacht bound for Australia which was leaving the next day. Amazingly, the British press once again fell for this most unlikely story. It made the top story  on TV and mainstream British newspaper bulletins. It caused an extensive police search for the woman in Australia. A month after this story, the Mail on Sunday exposed the fact that the McCanns’ detectives who had researched this story had neglected to contact any of relevant Barcelona agencies, such as the police and the port authority, and had failed to do the most basic of checks with owners of pubs around the port.  On 9 August, a  Sydney Morning Herald article: ‘Madness in the search for Maddie’, reported that, following the McCanns’dramatic press conference, the search for Madeleine ‘swept across at least four Australian states’, with ‘a string of sightings’ by people who said they had seen a woman looking like ‘Posh Spice’ A 53-year-old Australian woman, Judith Aron, was ‘forced to deny’ that she had abducted Madeleine. She had a fair-haired five-year-old daughter. It was thought that a neighbour had reported her because she ‘spoke Spanish’. Also, an elderly Sydney woman went into Burwood police station claiming that a friend she had met in Spain, and travelled with in Portugal, was the woman in the identikit picture. She was later identified as Nelida Martinez and was soon ruled out. The McCanns said they had received over 600 e-mails after issuing the ‘Posh Spice lookalike’ appeal, mostly from Australia. See: ...and

184. Madeleine seen with man at petrol station in Devon - arrested (4 September 2009)   COMMENT: A fire protection officer, Jon Hazlehurst  was questioned over Madeleine McCann after being spotted in a petrol station with his step-daughter, Lauren, aged eight (Madeleine would have been six at that time). The man was traced by police, visited by police, driven to Kingsbridge police station and taken into custody. The witness had noted down Mr Hazelhurst's car registration plate and contacted the police. Mr Hazlehurst said: “I was surprised more than anything. I thought it was…a prank, before I realised that they were quite serious. The police were very polite and I understood that they had to follow up the lead, even if it didn't come to anything”. See:

185. Madeleine is alive but being kept in an underground lair within a few miles of Praia da Luz (September 2009)  COMMENT: In 2009, the world heard the extraordinary story of Natasha Kampusch, from Austria - the young girl kept captive for years by a paedophile, until she escaped from his clutches at the age of 18. A similar story of a paedophile keeping his victims locked up involved Fritzl from Germany. Later, Jaycee Lee Dugard, who had been abducted by a paedophile from a bus stop in the U.S. at the age of 11, was found alive and rescued at the age of 29. When these stories began to receive publicity, the McCann Team quickly capitalised on them. Their lead detective at the time, Dave Edgar, exploited these news stories in the Belfast Telegraph and the Independent, stating that his new theory was that Madeleine was likewise being held in an ‘underground lair’ within a few miles of Praia da Luz. This was purely for the press - in order to maintain public perception that Madeleine had really been abducted. Whilst professing that they believed that Madeleine could be hidden near Praia da Luz, the McCann Team made no effort whatsoever to initiate any official or unofficial search for such a lair.

186. Madeleine seen in a Swedish photograph (10 October 2009) COMMENT: This story was first brought to the British public by Antonella Lazzeri of the Sun, which has produced many of the most absurd stories about  alleged Madeleine ‘sightings’. A girl was photographed in Sweden, with claims that ‘after computer-matching’, she could be Madeleine. She was seen at a car show, and was said to have an ‘identical jawline’ and ‘eyes the same colour as Madeleine’. The photo appeared on a website, after which Swedish police were ‘inundated’ with calls from the public, some of them saying they had seen Madeleine at the car show, where she was heard to speak in English. ‘Face-mapping technology’ used by British police was said to have identified the girl as a possible match. Madeleine’s parents Kate asked for ‘an urgent investigation’. The McCanns’ official spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "Kate and Gerry are liaising with the relevant authorities”. This excellent website carries this Swedish story: 

187. Madeleine was seen on TV at a school concert in Canada (5 March 2010) COMMENT: The continued appearance of Madeleine McCann’s appealing photograph in newspapers around the world led to an extraordinary incident in Canada. Distressed viewers inundated a Canadian TV station with calls after a blonde girl looking identical to Madeleine was shown singing with a school choir on a news show. The Canadian police had to contact the school and carry out checks to make sure the girl was not Madeleine.  See:

188. Madeleine was seen in Dubai (20 January 2011)  COMMENT: Madeleine was reported to have been in a Dubai shopping centre. By this time, she would have been nearly eight years old. The sighting was by ‘an unnamed 35-year-old businessman’. The man with Madeleine was said to be ‘very skinny’ with a moustache and a ‘scary appearance’ – and some commented that he looked very similar to a previous artist’s sketch of a possible suspect [see sighting No. 170, above]. He was accompanied by two women, one of whom was black and wore a veil and the other who was ‘also very thin’, according to the Sun.  See also:

189. Madeleine was abducted by vicious paedophiles who took her to the United States, according to  a basketball-playing Angolan amateur sleuth whose front teeth were knocked out by the paedophiles (18 February 2011)  COMMENT: The Sun headed this story: ‘Madeleine McCann is in America - and I know who took her’. This story, once again strongly promoted by the McCann Team, was based on the outrageous and completely unbelievable claims of Marcelinho Italiano, a 6’ 4”, an Angolan-born ‘amateur detective’. He claimed that in the course of his sleuthing in Portugal, he had contacted a group of vicious paedophiles. This brutal group - who, he said, had knocked out two of his teeth in the course of his sleuthing - had supposedly spirited Madeleine away to the U.S., where they were holding her. Italiano claimed he had to flee Portugal and had gone to ground in  Spain in fear for his life. However, when the story broke, a search on the internet soon located him. His name came up as a regular member of a team playing in a Spanish basketball league. Once again, nothing came of this story, which appeared to have been manufactured by the Sun with the help of ex-pat Olive Press editor, Jon Clarke.


190. Madeleine was seen in India (29 June 2011):  COMMENT: The alleged sighting of Madeleine was made by a British woman on holiday in Jammu & Kashmir, in the northern Indian Himalayas. She raised concerns with other tourists, one of whom, an American, was so sure the girl was Madeleine that he tried to snatch her from the couple she was with. The parents, a French woman and her Belgian husband, were spoken to by the police who insisted they produced their passports. A spokesman for Leh police told the Chandigarh Tribune: “It all depends now on the evidence like DNA for which we need help from Madeleine's parents and the British police”. The McCanns’ PR spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said: “We remain grateful for people's vigilance around the world. Madeleine is still out there and the search for her very much continues”. This was another Sun story, also reported in the Daily Mail:

191. A drunk gypsy told British paedophile Raymond Hewlett that he organised Madeleine’s abduction; Hewlett then wrote a letter on his death-bed to his long-estranged son Wayne, who promptly burnt the letter and then told the Sun all about it (1 September 2011)  COMMENT: Many rate this as the most preposterous story of them all. Raymond Hewlett (see sighting No. 182 above) died in December 2010. He had been estranged from his son Wayne for more than 20 years, because his son had turned against him after learning of his sexual abuse of young children. The story Wayne told to the McCann Team and to the Sun was a strange one. He claimed that a ‘mystery man’ had travelled from Germany with a letter his father had written to him on his death-bed. In this letter, Wayne said, his father explained how he had got to know the leader of a criminal gypsy gang. One evening, they had both had a lot to drink, and the gypsy gang leader had confessed that he and his gang had abducted Madeleine and handed her to a wealthy North African family for money. In the letter, he identified the gypsy gang leader by name. Wayne said he had been upset by the letter and burnt it. However, having burnt it, he apparently then approached either the McCann Team, or the Sun directly, with his story. He could not now remember the name of the gang leader. Despite the obvious unsoundness of the story and the fact that Wayne could not remember even the name of the alleged gypsy gang leader, the Sun put this ridiculous story on their front page - and reported that the British police were taking his information seriously.  Nothing ever came of it.     

192. Madeleine was abducted to Brazil (31 August 2012) COMMENT: Pictures appeared in several newspapers of a young white girl who looked vaguely like Madeleine, in a crowd of people leaving a plane in Brazil. Who developed this story is not clear. But an alert Madeleine McCann researcher, known on the internet as ‘Reggie Dunlop,’ matched the photo of the crowd leaving the plane with a photograph of people seen leaving a plane in Ibiza, several years previously. The photo had been ‘reversed’ (left-to-right) in the newspaper pictures. Whoever developed this story for the press was engaged in a very deliberate deception of the press and the public. 

193. Madeleine was seen in a car leaving a campsite with a Swiss family (9 May 2012) COMMENT: See:

194. Rose Johnson saw Madeleine playing on Penoncillo beach, Spain (3 May 2012)  COMMENT: This was yet one more absurd story reported by the ever-dutiful Jon Clarke, Olive Press Editor. He reported in May 2012 that an ex-pat pensioner, Rose Johnson, believed she had seen ‘eight-year-old Maddie’ playing outside Merendero restaurant on Penoncillo beach, between Nerja and Torrox, the previous summer (2011). She had said: “We were quite taken aback…this Maddie look-a-like walked off the beach and joined a table of what we would describe as a party of Spanish people or similar. They were completely different to her. The whole family was dark skinned, whereas she had fair hair and pale skin and obviously was northern European. It was very, very strange. She was about eight and seemed really airy-fairy, in a world of her own”. Clarke also claimed that Portuguese police, just a fortnight previously, had asked their Spanish counterparts to investigate other sightings in Nerja, and that Rose Johnson had only spoken after reading an Olive Press article. A lady called Karen commented in the Olive Press article, claiming she had seen Madeleine on 6 May 2007 (three days after she was reported missing) “with a family in Cabopino Campsite, near Marbellam who had a dark blue people carrier. Clarke responded: “Hi Karen, we would love to talk to you about this…we have now had at least half a dozen very good ‘sightings’ of Maddie on the Costa del Sol…I really hope somebody can produce the killer fact! Give our newsdesk a call”.  See:

195. Madeleine spotted in Queenstown, New Zealand on New Year’s Eve, 2012   COMMENT:  A girl was spotted in Queenstown on New Year’s Eve by a retailer. A police investigation began, which discovered that the girl had once previously been identified as Madeleine McCann. See:


196. New Zealand school pupil ‘frequently mistaken for Madeleine’ given DNA test (7 February 2013) COMMENT: A New Zealand schoolgirl repeatedly mistaken for missing Madeleine McCann had to give police a DNA sample so that Scotland Yard could confirm that she is not the youngster. Several New Zealanders had thought she was missing Madeleine McCann, who was said to have a mark on her right eye similar to the distinctive one on the British girl's iris.                                See:

197. Madeleine may have been snatched by six people seen in a white van (2014) COMMENT: This was a story possibly leaked by Scotland Yard’s investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann - Operation Grange. It was claimed that Scotland Yard detectives were trying to trace six people, thought to be British, who had used a white van in Praia da Luz at the time the McCanns were in Praia da Luz. There was nothing about it in the Portuguese Police files, and no more has been heard about this since. But, again, it made for a good headline.  

198. Skeltal remains of a fair-haired young girl, found in a suitcase in Australia, ‘could be Madeleine’ (26 July, 2015)  COMMENT: A suitcase containing the skeletal remains of a fair-haired young girl was discovered near a motorway in Wynarka, near Adelaide. Pathologists said she would have died in 2007. There was speculation that the body was Madeleine’s after a police spokesman said that the remains did not match descriptions of any missing children in Australia. But after forensic examination, the DNA did not match Madeleine’s,

199. Former Scotland Yard detective Colin Sutton says that ‘Madeleine was stolen to order for a wealthy North African family who wanted a white child’ (April 2017)  COMMENT: This story appeared just two weeks before the 10th anniversary of Madeleine being reported missing, as the British media geared up for another frenzy of anniversary articles. According to the Press Association, former Met Police Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, who had been to Praia da Luz several times for various newspapers, the most likely hypothesis for what happened to Madeleine McCann was that she had been “stolen to order by slave traders or people traffickers and smuggled into Africa for a rich family who wanted a white child”. A Daily Mirror article claimed that “Gangs are thought to sell children to rich Middle Eastern families while operating out of Mauritania, West Africa”.

200. False claims made by ‘psychics’ and mediums   It is estimated that thousands of assorted mediums, psychics, dream interpreters and others, who claimed knowledge of what happened to Madeleine, contacted the police or the McCanns with their ideas, impressions and theories. Mostly these were vague, e.g. “I see a white cottage on a hillside” or “I see a boat on the sea”. Tens of thousands of valuable police hours were wasted investigating this nonsense. These  mediums and mystics just relied  on their vague impressions and ideas, because no two of them were ever the same.  .        

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Published by ‘The Madeleine McCann Research Group’, 14 July 2017.   Further reading/watching:

Recommended discussion forum   >>>      

Recommended internet library       >>>

Watch the Portuguese detective’s documentary:

Watch Richard Hall’s five Madeleine McCann films  >>  

1. True Story of Madeleine McCann ----

2. The Phantoms -------------------------------

3. When Madeleine Died? -------------------

4. McCanns’ Embedded Confessions

5. Madeleine: Why The Cover-Up?

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