Madeleine McCann: Suspect seen 'carrying girl to the beach' as police reveal 'overwhelming response' to Crimewatch appeal

Police hoping new timeline of events could lead to breakthrough

Crime Correspondent

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann say they have had an “overwhelming response” to a televised appeal broadcast on Monday which included e-fits of a man believed to be a key suspect. It comes after a radical shift in what police believe happened on the night she went missing.

Police said they had received over 118 calls after a new appeal that saw e-fits of a white man of medium build, who is thought to have been seen with a child in his arms on the night Madeleine disappeared.

The new images, broadcast on Monday night as part of an appeal on BBC Crimewatch, were drawn up five years ago by a private detective agency but they were never publicly released as Portuguese police were working on a theory that the three-year-old had been snatched 45 minutes earlier.

The man, believed to be in his 30s, was spotted by a holidaying Irish family at about 10pm just minutes from the apartment at the Algarve resort in Praia de Luz where Kate and Gerry McCann had been staying.

Martin Smith and his family left Portugal the day after the disappearance and only later realised the significance of the man walking towards the ocean with the young girl wearing pyjamas in his arms.

The man’s importance only emerged after Scotland Yard pored through tens of thousands of documents compiled by Portuguese and British police and private detectives hired by the family during the six years that she has been missing.

Police are focusing on the man in the e-fit after ruling out another person of interest – a dark-haired man spotted walking away from the apartment with a child at around 9.15pm on May 3, 2007.

That man – who had been a focus of police inquiries for years – has been identified as an innocent British holidaymaker who had been collecting his own daughter from a crèche at the resort. He had been spotted by Jane Tanner, a member of the so-called “Tapas Nine”, friends of the McCann family who had been eating together at a resort in the Portuguese town after putting their children to bed.

“Our focus in terms of understanding what happened on the night of May 3 has now given us a shift of emphasis,” said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading the inquiry. “We are almost certain that the man seen by Jane Tanner is not Madeleine’s abductor.

“It takes us through to a position at 10pm when we see another man who is walking towards the ocean, close by to the apartment, with a young child in his arms.”

In another new line of enquiry broadcast on Monday, police said the disappearance had "all the hallmarks of a pre-planned abduction".

The review – part of an £5m operation after the McCanns made a direct appeal to the Prime Minister in 2011 – has led to what police believe is the most detailed picture so far of what happened on the night of the abduction. The police team has scrutinised the key 90-minute period when the McCanns joined their friends for dinner culminating in Kate McCann’s discovery that her daughter was missing at about 10pm.

After the Crimewatch appeal, Det Chief Insp Redwood said the investigation had an “overwhelming response from the public” with a flurry of calls including many from holidaymakers that were on the resort in 2007. He added: “There are still people out there who can help us with key information"

Scotland Yard is also investigating sightings of unknown blonde men around the resort in the days and hours before the three-year-old was snatched. Police said the sightings, including men believed to be speaking German, suggested preparation and planning.

DCI Redwood said there had been a four-fold increase in burglaries in the area in the months before the attack and could not rule out that Madeleine had disturbed someone who had broken into the apartment where she was sleeping. In the 17 days before she was snatched, there was an attempted burglary and burglary in the same block where the family were staying.

Police said on Monday night they were also trying to trace a number of people going door-to-door collecting money in a potentially bogus charity scam.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home