Two e-fit images of a man of “vital importance” in the Madeleine McCann investigation have been issued by British police ahead of a renewed appeal on BBC1’s Crimewatch tonight.
The images are based on the recollections of two different witnesses of events in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on the evening of Thursday, 3 May 2007. They describe him as being white, aged between 20 and 40, with short brown hair, clean shaven and of medium height and build.
The e-fits have been produced after the Metropolitan Police said its new investigation had “significantly changed the timeline and the accepted version of events” surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance, giving new importance to some sightings.
Scotland Yard launched Operation Grange in May 2011 at the request of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, despite the case being beyond its jurisdiction.
In footage from Crimewatch issued yesterday, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior investigating officer, said: “The e-fits are clear and I’d ask the public to look very carefully at them and if they know who this person is, please come forward.
“Whilst this man may or may not be the key to unlocking this investigation, tracing and speaking to him is of vital importance to us.
“We have witnesses placing him in the resort area around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.”
He added the man in the e-fit was “far from our only line of inquiry”, saying other e-fits would be released of people who police were “equally keen to trace”.
“These people were seen on the day of Madeleine’s disappearance and the days leading up to it,” Det Chief Insp Redwood said. He said he would be travelling to ask for help from the public in Holland, Germany and Ireland, given the Portuguese resort’s popularity as a holiday destination.
Scotland Yard detectives have interviewed 442 people as part of their review-turned-investigation, identifying 41 people of interest, including 15 UK nationals. Det Chief Insp Redwood said the investigation had made “massive steps forward… by drawing together all the material gathered to date, and reviewing it as a whole”.
“We continue to put Madeleine at the heart of our investigation and I would urge people to watch Crimewatch tonight and if you can help identify this man or have any information about our new appeal points please contact us,” he said.
Speaking on tonight’s Crimewatch, Madeleine’s mother, Kate McCann, said: “We are not the ones that have done something wrong here. It’s the person who’s gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family.”
A number of previous e-fits have been produced in relation to people who may or may not have been involved in Madeleine’s abduction.
Early in the inquiry Portuguese police drew up e-fits of suspicious men seen in Praia da Luz on the night, based on descriptions by two British men. These look different to the images issued by the Metropolitan Police.
Derek Flack, from Ilford, Essex, described seeing a white man, aged 25 to 35, around 5ft 8in and of “strong physical build”. The second e-fit, compiled with the help of Lance Purser, shows a skinny man of around 35, 5ft 8in with short dark hair.
Prime Minister David Cameron gave his support to the investigation today.
"I'm very pleased that Scotland Yard are doing this work," he said. "The Government has helped to fund the work that is being done.
"This was a crime that touched the heart of everyone in the country and everyone would like to see it resolved, so I hope Scotland Yard continue with their work and I wish them success."