New Maddy suspect 'highly significant'

The new suspect being hunted in connection with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is a "highly significant person of interest" to the investigation, the family's spokesman said today.

Clarence Mitchell refused to confirm or deny that the woman, described as a Victoria Beckham lookalike, had asked a British man: "Have you got her? Have you got the child?"

But he said it was right to identify the woman as a possible accomplice in the abduction of Madeleine.

Private detectives released an e-fit of the woman, described as glamorous and stylishly dressed, yesterday. They said she spoke with an Australian or New Zealand accent.

The conversation with the British man, who has not been named but is a married 41-year-old professional without children, is said to have taken place at a marina in Barcelona, Spain, three days after the youngster disappeared from Portugal.

Speaking on GMTV, Mr Mitchell said: "This is potentially a highly significant person of interest to the investigation. I can't go into any more detail.

"This woman is formally not accused of anything."

But he said reports identifying her as a potential "accomplice" were "right to identify that aspect of the story".

Appeals have been made in Australia in the hope of attracting further clues but Mr Mitchell admitted the whereabouts of the woman were unknown.

"We're not even absolutely sure she is in Australia," he said.

Mr Mitchell said Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine's parents, remained cautious about the new development.

"They have learned through bitter experience to neither let their hopes go up or down," he said.

But he said they had "drawn strength" from the new momentum in the investigation.



Mr Mitchell said the source of the information had been "checked out" and stressed there were "good operational reasons" for not disclosing exact details of the evidence.

"We specifically have not revealed the contents of the conversation this woman had with the new witness for good operational reasons," he said.

"The papers, of course, were going to speculate, we knew that. I'm neither going to confirm or deny that those quotes were in that conversation but it's potentially significant. What she said needs to be highlighted for the investigation."

Mr Mitchell said it was not known exactly why the new witness had waited until now before coming forward.

"That's a question that only he can really answer," he said. "He has told the detectives it was for personal reasons. They respect that. They've checked him out.

"He is a respectable businessman in his early 40s. He felt it was important. We understand he has grappled with his conscience to a certain extent but we are grateful to him for coming forward, even though it is so late."

Investigators said it was possible that Madeleine was smuggled hundreds of miles from the Algarve to Barcelona by yacht.

Former UK detective inspector Dave Edgar, who is leading the McCanns' private investigation, said it was a "strong lead" and appealed for information about the woman.

Madeleine was nearly four when she went missing from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on May 3 2007 while her parents dined with friends nearby.

Just over 72 hours later, in the early hours of May 7, two British men saw the woman while on a night out in Barcelona's popular Port Olimpic Marina.

She was well-dressed but appeared agitated and kept walking up and down outside the El Rey de la Gamba restaurant-bar as if she was waiting to meet somebody.

One of the British men approached and spoke to her before she went into a bar next door where she had a heated conversation with a local in what seemed to be fluent Spanish.

The British man did not disclose his brief conversation with her until he approached the McCanns' investigators about six weeks ago.

The woman was last seen walking away in the direction of a local hospital and ferry and cruise ship terminals.

The main witness described her as "a bit of a Victoria Beckham lookalike" who was aged 30 to 35, slim, about 5ft 2ins and had short brown hair.

She was wearing expensive-looking blue jeans and a jersey top, possibly of a pastel colour.

Anyone who knows the woman is asked to call the McCanns' investigation team on 0845 8384699 or through investigation@findmadeleine.com .

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
All British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game