By Nick Fagge
Madeleine McCann was held captive at a rundown hut in an isolated orange grove just a few miles from where she disappeared, investigators believe.
The new theory followed sightings by British tourists of a blonde girl in an “unnatural looking” black wig which prompted a major surveillance operation by private detectives working for the missing youngster’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.
The child – described as “100 per cent Madeleine” – was seen with two “gypsy” women in the town of Carvoeiro 30 miles from the Algarve holiday resort from where she disappeared aged almost four in 2007.
One of the women was seen by another British tourist acting suspiciously outside the McCanns’ apartment on the day she vanished.
Despite frantic efforts by the UK investigators and Portuguese police, the little girl has never been traced.
And incredibly, no public appeal has ever been made to track down the girl or the second mystery woman she was with.
The sightings only became known after Portuguese prosecutors released a 2,000-page dossier this week containing hundreds of new leads, most of which have never been followed up. One of the tourists was Jean Godwin, 56, from Widnes, Cheshire. She said she spotted Madeleine with the women in September 2008.
“This child was a young girl, she was in the middle of the two women and was holding the hand of each woman on either side,” she added.
“One of the things that drew my attention to her was her eyes. They were wide open and my attention was drawn to the large irises in her eyes.
“The child was wearing what was clearly a black wig. It was a short wig, cut in a bob style and was very thick. The wig was shiny and unnatural looking and out of keeping with her very pale complexion and fair eyebrows.
“As they were virtually level with me the younger woman suddenly put her right arm across her body and used her upper arm to conceal the right hand side of the child’s face.
“I could not sleep that night. I am convinced that the little girl I saw that morning was Madeleine.”
Private investigators working for Kate and Gerry McCann, both 41, from Rothley, Leics, launched a major operation into the sightings and discovered the identity of one of the two women.
The Daily Express knows the name of the woman but cannot reveal it for legal reasons.
in: Daily Express, 04.03.2010
Note: more about the same 'lead', including disguised detectives, a Citroen and a rag doll, in the Daily Star and the Daily Mail.
And, of course, don't miss The Sun, with an article of amazing investigative journalism by Antonella Lazzeri - or choose Anorak for a different perspective.