Assault on girl, 10, may be key to Madeleine McCann case


Crime Correspondent

A 10-year-old British girl was sexually assaulted in Praia da Luz in 2005 – possibly by a man who is now a key suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, the Metropolitan Police revealed yesterday.

The attack – two years before Madeleine went missing – is thought to have been the work of a suspected serial child abuser targeting young Britons on holiday in the Algarve. It is one of 18 linked incidents over six years across the region but the first attack identified in Praia da Luz, where the three-year-old vanished.

Scotland Yard said fresh appeals last month led to information about five attacks and one “near miss” that they did not previously know about. All of them – bar the attack on the 10-year-old – had been reported to the Portuguese police, but not passed to the Scotland Yard team investigating the case.

The cases have been linked by officers as the attacker usually walks into the home and sits on the child’s bed or tries to get under the sheets before escaping. In a number of cases, the attacker has been disturbed by the child’s parents.

The serial abuser – described as having a deep tan and a “stale” smell – has emerged as a key suspect for the abduction and possible murder of Madeleine. Detectives are investigating the possibility that he was a dustman after some of the nine sexual assaults on children aged six to 12 took place early in the morning at the time of refuse rounds.

The new cases highlighted failures by Portuguese police to pass on all the relevant information. Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said his major concern was a breakdown in communication between local police and senior colleagues in Portugal which meant that “sitting in police exhibit stores somewhere in the Algarve could be forensic material that we and the Policia Judiciaria are not aware of”.

Officers are believed to have forensic material – thought to be DNA – retrieved from one of the attacks but have no match on the Portuguese database, or in Britain. “Our sense is… we’re looking at one offender but that does not preclude the fact there may be others involved,” Det Ch Insp Redwood said.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam