By James Murray
THIS is the sensational picture of a suspicious man on the beach which could lead to a breakthrough in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Snapped inadvertently in the background of a holiday photo, the mysterious man strolls along after a rain shower, staring out to sea at Praia da Luz.
The picture was taken at the Portuguese resort days before Madeleine, then three, vanished during the evening of May 3, 2007.
Briton Gail Cooper was having lunch with family and friends in a beachside cafe and taking photos when she saw him wandering along the beach, apparently in a world of his own.
“It was odd to see him walking around the beach alone in showery, cold weather.” she said.
Mrs Cooper, 53, added that a few hours after the snap was taken, the same man visited her at her rented villa 20 minutes’ walk from the beach. The £2million holiday property was in a quiet road near the Mark Warner complex where Madeleine and her family were staying.
During a tense conversation on the doorstep, the man sought cash with what she called “an obviously made-up story” that he was collecting money for an orphanage in a nearby town, where the children of Britons killed in a car crash were being cared for.
Just under a week after the unnerving encounter, when Mrs Cooper had returned home to Britain, Madeleine was taken from her holiday apartment.
Alarmed, Mrs Cooper contacted British detectives because of her concerns about the man on the beach and handed over the photograph, taken by a member of her holiday party.
Months later private investigators working for Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann asked Mrs Cooper to work with an FBI-trained artist to create a drawing of the man she had seen at the beach and villa.
She described him as having protruding teeth, a handlebar moustache and wind-blown dark hair. In the photo the man is turning slightly towards the sea, so it is not possible to tell whether he has a moustache.
However, he does appear to bear a resemblance to a man the McCanns’ friend, Jane Tanner, saw walking with a child in his arms at about the time Madeleine disappeared.
Ms Tanner saw him crossing a road yards from the McCanns’ apartment and it is widely believed that he was the man who abducted Madeleine. She also worked with an artist to create a drawing of the man she saw. It did not include facial features as she did not see his face.
The man Ms Tanner saw, walking in the glare of an orange street light, was wearing light coloured trousers and a dark top and appears to have slightly hunched shoulders.
The man in the photo was also wearing light coloured trousers, a dark top and appears to have slightly rounded shoulders.
Mrs Cooper, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, said last night: “I am 98 per cent certain the man in the photo was the same man who made the strange visit to our holiday villa. His hair looks neater in the photo, but he is quite far in the background.” The picture was given to detectives in Leicestershire who are liaising with detectives in Portugal, but Mrs Cooper said she was never told whether the man had been identified.
“I believe it would be useful for the investigation if he was to come forward,” she added. Kate and Gerry McCann, of Rothley, Leicestershire, are hoping that new Tory Home Secretary Theresa May will call for a review of all the evidence in the case.
If you can identify the man in the photograph please call the Sunday Express on 0208 612 7073 or contact the website Findmadeleine.com.
in Sunday Express, 16.05.2010
*A bit hard to answer that one Murray, was the blur made purposefully on photoshop; is it a still frame cropped from 2 weeks ago Exclusive Cooper's video 'The return of Gail Cooper and the «creepy» suspect (with Video)' or can't the Express pay for professional photojournalists any more, after paying the out of court settlement to the former arguidos McCanns and Tapas friends? Either way, don't you ever get tired of writing fabricated & unreliable stories just to sell more newspapers? What kind of journalist are you? An embarrassment to your peers who also write on the McCann Case, of that I am sure. Say «hi» to Clarence Mitchell from us.
Melissa Dring Little's sketches [the so-called FBI trained artist]
[you can even use the prejudice and racist cards here Murray, it will work,
just ask Tony Parsons at Mirror, he'll tell you all about it]
the McCanns Suspects Gallery [2007-2010]
«EXCLUSIVE: FBI psychics turn up face of Maddy 'killer'»