Irishman in new Maddie probe lead

7 August 2007
Evening Herald

Expat Mr Smith was leaving a bar in the resort with his family at about 9.50pm when he saw a man carrying a small child past the church in the centre of the town. It was about 20 minutes after Madeleine is believed to have been snatched from her bedroom 500 metres away. Mr Smith said the man was walking close to the flat of Sergei Malinka, a 22-year-old Russian web designer who had worked for suspect Robert Murat. He described the man as being about 5’ 7” tall, and wearing beige trousers, with the clothes on his upper body obscured by the child he was carrying.

The description matched that given by Jane Tanner, a friend of Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann who claimed to have seen a man carrying a child while she dined with the couple on the night of the abduction.

Mr Smith told Portuguese police that the man he saw was not Robert Murat.


He explained: “If it had been him carrying the child, I guarantee I would have recognised him.”

Furthermore, he said he had seen Murat earlier that night, drinking in a local bar. This contradicts Murat’s claim that he was at home with his mother Jennifer for the evening.

Mr Smith is the second Irishman to come forward with vital information relating to the disappearance of the four-year-old. A family from Drogheda has already given evidence to police after staying in Praia da Luz in the week that Madeleine disappeared.

Members of the family claimed they saw a child being carried by a man, around the time that Madeleine was taken from her parents’ apartment in the Ocean Club complex. The latest revelations came after detectives admitted that they have put a second man under surveillance, in the belief that he may have been an accomplice to the abduction.


Undercover police have been secretly watching the man, who speaks Portuguese and is in his 30s. He first came under suspicion days after Madeleine disappeared. A source close to the investigation said: “Murat is not the only person in the frame. Another man has been under surveillance for a period of time but has no idea he is suspected of being involved. “His movements have been secretly monitored for some time. The attention being paid to Murat shows he remains the prime suspect. But there has always been a suspicion the whoever abducted Madeleine may not have been acting alone.

“It is also possible the second man was not physically involved in Madeleine"s abduction but knows who did it and is concealing the crime”. The new surveillance operation is being described by detectives as a “major development”.

Yesterday, police called off a second search of Robert Murat’s garden, which is just 100 yards from the apartment where Madeleine was abducted. The examination by specialist teams had been expected to last for several days, with officers digging up sections of the garden. They taped off small areas and used probes that can detect traces of human remains. They found nothing to link Murat with the disappearance. Portugal’s chief prosecutor has also told police that is is time Murat is either charged or cleared.

Meanwhile, Madeleine’s distraught parents will this weekend mark 100 days since her disappearance. In her first solo interview since her daughter’s abduction, Kate McCann told of her last conversation with her daughter as she prepared her for bed. She said: “Mummy, I"ve had the best day ever. I"m having lots and lots of fun”


She also said it is unlikely she will ever return to the family home Leicestershire because of the painful memories it would trigger.

Meanwhile Belgian authorities are investigating a possible sighting of the missing girl in the Flemish town of Tongeren, close to the Dutch border. A customer at a restaurant in the town told police she was “100pc sure” she had seen the youngster.

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