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The Tongeren 'Sighting' *

A closer look at the reported sighting of Madeleine in the 'De Pauze' bar in Tongeren, Belgium

Artist's impression of the Tongeren man
Artist's impression of the Tongeren man, released by Belgian police Aug. 3, 2007

The 'De Pauze' bar in Tongeren where Madeleine was 'sighted'
De Pauze cafe in Tongeren
De Pauze cafe in Tongeren

De Pauze cafe in Tongeren
De Pauze cafe in Tongeren

Belgian police hunt Madeleine suspect, 03 August 2007
Belgian police hunt Madeleine suspect ITN
Updated 21.04 Fri Aug 03 2007
Belgian police have issued an identikit drawing of a man reportedly seen with a child fitting a description of missing Madeleine McCann.
Madeleine, four, was snatched exactly three months ago from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on the Algarve in Portugal as she slept next to her younger twin siblings Sean and Amelie as her parents dined nearby.
A woman spotted a couple and a young girl bearing a resemblance to the British youngster in a restaurant in the town of Tongeren on the Dutch border on July 28.
The three left before police were called but a bottle and a straw the child had been drinking from were taken away for tests.
A police spokesman in Brussels said: "The woman told us the little girl bore a striking resemblance to Madeleine and was behaving nervously.
"She said she got up to call us as soon as she saw the girl but when she returned to her table all three of them got into a car and left. We are taking the sighting very seriously."
Jolien Houbrech, who works in the De Pauze restaurant in Tongeren, said she served the English woman and Dutch man who were with the blonde-haired girl aged around five or six.
Miss Houbrech, a 21-year-old student, said she had no suspicions at first about the couple, who she assumed were the girl's parents, until another customer approached her.
"A woman who was a child therapist came up to me and asked if I noticed any resemblance between Madeleine and the child.
"She said that because of her work as a child therapist she had noticed that the people's behaviour was not that of normal parents. After she said that, I said maybe she should call it in to the police."
The couple, who were driving a car with a Belgian number plate, left before the customer had raised her concerns, Miss Houbrech said.
"Now I wish I had done more and paid more attention to them and maybe tried to hear the girl talking, but at the time I didn't notice anything suspicious about the couple," she said.
Meanwhile, Madeleine's parents are heading back to Spain to continue with their search. Gerry and Kate McCann are visiting Huelva, the capital of Andalucia, where they will put up posters of the toddler across the city.
The McCanns' trip will take them along the main motorway between southern Portugal and Spain, which some believe could have been the route taken by her abductor.
The couple's quest to find Madeleine has seen them travel to Spain before, as well as Morocco which lies just a short ferry ride to the south.
Speaking on Thursday night, Mrs McCann said: "Gerry and I want to remind people that our lovely little girl, Madeleine, is still missing. Today will mark three months since she was cruelly snatched from her bed.
"We do not know where she is, or where she has been taken, but would urge tourists and residents in Portugal and Spain to keep looking for Madeleine. All we want is to be reunited with Madeleine and to be a happy family once again."

Madeleine sighting puts Belgium on alert, 04 August 2007
Madeleine sighting puts Belgium on alert Telegraph
By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
Last updated: 2:28am BST 04/08/2007
Belgian police have put the country on national alert after a reported sighting of Madeleine McCann in the company of a “suspicious” couple last weekend.
A children’s therapist called the police after seeing a couple behaving suspiciously with a girl who looked like Madeleine on a café terrace in the Flemish town on Tongeren.
Police officers reacted within 30 minutes to an emergency call from the “De Pauze” bar but the man, woman and child had already departed.
Officers have taken a fruit milkshake bottle the child had been seen drinking from away for analysis but there are as yet no results, a police spokeswoman said yesterday.
Jolien Houbrechts, a waitress in “De Pauze” bar, described how she was approached by the witness on Saturday afternoon.
“The woman said to me that the couple looked strange and the girl looked like Maddie. I told her to call the police,” she said.
Belgium’s Federal Police yesterday issued a bulletin and identikit picture of the man accompanying Madeleine.
He is described as approximately 40 years old, six feet tall, with black hair and unshaven.
The man spoke in Dutch with a Dutch accent. Witnesses said the woman is in her mid-twenties, with sun-tanned skin and brown hair.
She spoke English and was always accompanied by the child.
The girl is described as “more or less” five, wearing a pink dress, with shoulder length fair hair and blue-green eyes.
Police have put out an alert for black Volvo car, probably a recent model, registered in Belgium and starting with the letters VUV.
Katia Vandoren, at the Tongeren state prosecutor’s office, said: “We are asking anyone with any information to come forward and the two adults to make themselves known to the police.”
The report came as Gerry and Kate McCann marked the 90th day since their daughter disappeared.
Tongeren is not Belgium’s first alleged sighting of Madeleine, another was reported in Liège in May.
Other sightings were reported in Malta in June.

Belgium cops' do a DNA test, 04 August 2007
Witness ... waitress Joline outside the cafe
Witness ... waitress Joline outside the cafe

Belgium cops' do a DNA test The Sun
From Nick Parker in Praia da Luz
Published 04 August 2007
A DNA test is being carried out on a bottle used by the girl a witness said was missing Madeleine McCann.
It follows the highly credible description of a girl with a couple on a cafe terrace in Belgium.
The witness, a children's therapist, told police she was 100 per cent sure the little blonde girl with a Dutch man and an English-speaking woman was four-year-old Maddie.
The child was drinking a bottle of Fristi milkshake through a straw when she was spotted in the De Pauze cafe in Tongeren last Saturday.

Madeleine McCann sighting treated seriously, 04 August 2007
Article from:
Madeleine McCann sighting treated seriously
By Paul Kent in London
August 04, 2007 12:00am
HOPES for the safe return of abducted British girl Madeleine McCann received a dramatic boost on Thursday night after a girl matching her description was seen in Belgium, moments before the couple she was with snatched her up and fled before they could be challenged. 

The couple, described as "suspicious-looking", were celebrating a birthday party at the De Pauze restaurant in the Belgian border town of Tongeren.

Police are treating the report seriously, releasing a computer image of the man who is believed to be Belgium, aged about 40, and spoke Flemish with a Dutch accent.

His female companion was British.

DNA tests are being carried out on the cup the young girl used at the restaurant.

A nationwide alert was issued for the car the couple fled in, a black Volvo with Belgian number plates beginning with VUV.

The car was reportedly seen later in Holland.

Madeleine's parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, are being kept informed of the latest developments.

The witness is a child therapist who told police she was convinced the young girl was Madeleine.

She described the young girl as nervous-looking and said the couple were behaving oddly on the terrace of the restaurant.

She left to call police but by the time she had returned they had fled.

It was the second time Madeleine was reported to have been seen in Belgium, a country with an appalling record for child abuse.

A Belgian couple claim they saw her outside a cathedral in Liege on June 1.

Police are also treating this sighting as serious.

Significantly, the woman at the cathedral told police the little girl turned around when she called "Madeleine".

The possible sighting came as tributes to the McCanns' daughter were sadly taken down in their home village of Rothley, Leicestershire, with many locals saying they were relieved the yellow ribbons were being removed.

The village had become a site for "grief tourists", with as many as 4000 flocking on one weekend.

I'm sorry I didn't rescue Maddie at Belgian restaurant, 07 August 2007
Katleen Sampermans
I FEEL GUILTY: Ms Sampermans yesterday

I'm sorry I didn't rescue Maddie at Belgian restaurant Daily Express (online article since removed)
By Martin Evans in Tongeren, Belgium
07 August 2007
A CHILD therapist who is certain she spotted missing Madeleine in Belgium has spoken of her intense guilt that she did not do more to rescue the child.

Katleen Sampermans, is "100 per cent sure" she saw the abducted four-year-old at a restaurant on the Dutch/Belgian border last week.

The little girl was accompanied by a swarthy-looking Dutchman in his 40s and an English-speaking woman in her 20s.

But by the time she alerted local police to her suspicions the trio had fled.

Last night Ms Sampermans, 33, apologised to parents Kate and Gerry McCann and said she wished she had just grabbed the little girl.

Speaking from her home in the Belgian town of Tongeren, she said: "I feel very guilty that I did not do more. I wish I had just grabbed her when I had the chance. I was hesitating. The day after I just felt so sick, that I had to go to the doctor.

"I wish I had just grabbed her when I had the chance."

She added: "The only thing that has been in my mind has been the parents of Madeleine. I would say to them that if they want to contact me I would be happy to speak to them.

"I would also say to them I am so sorry that I did not take the girl and I hope they find her."

The possible sighting at the De Pauze restaurant is the most positive development yet in the three-month-long hunt for Madeleine.

Ms Sampermans, who had stopped at the cafe on her way home, told the Daily Express: "I was looking outside and I saw a table with a man, woman and child. The first thing I noticed was the girl. She was staring at me and her eyes were very big and strong."
Ms Sampermans has worked with children since 1993 as a child psychologist. She said: "The little girls behaviour was strange. Sometimes she was playing and laughing and then she was sitting with a very sad face. It is strange for a child to be happy and laughing one minute and then suddenly be very sad and unhappy, that is not normal.

"The parents behaviour was very strange. They both spoke to the child but never to each other. As time went by I became more and more sure it was Madeleine but I did not know what to do."

After 20 minutes the man went to the car with the child, then the woman followed.

She said: "He waited by the car and his eyes were darting around everywhere, scanning everyone on the terrace. I only managed to get the first three letters of the number plate."

Police arrived half an hour after the three made off, but waiter Ronny Timmermans and waitress Jolien Houbrech gave them vital clues.

The child had drunk a strawberry milkshake and the staff gave police the bottle and straw the infant had used for DNA tests. Results of the tests are expected to be released this week.

Madeleine DNA 'Sighting' Test Result, 08 August 2007
Belgian spokeswoman Katja Vandoren
Belgian spokeswoman Katja Vandoren

Madeleine DNA 'Sighting' Test Result Sky News (online article since removed)
Updated 14:33, Wednesday August 08, 2007
A DNA sample taken from a restaurant where a woman reported seeing Madeleine McCann was not that of the missing four-year-old.
Tests revealed the DNA was that of a man, but Belgian prosecutors said they do not prove Madeleine was not there.
Spokeswoman Katja Vandoren said: "This does not mean that Madeleine's presence is ruled out.
"The possibility exists that the bottle was finished by the man who was with the little girl present."
Ms Vandoren said the DNA profile had been checked with Belgian and Dutch central DNA databases and had not found any matches.
Police officers are continuing to try to trace a modern black Volvo used by a couple and the youngster in the east Belgian town of Tongeren.
A child therapist had said she was "100% sure" she saw the missing four-year-old at a restaurant in the town, not far from the Dutch border, on July 28.
The witness said the girl was with a couple, a Dutch man and an English-speaking woman, who were acting strangely and not like "normal parents".
Sky News correspondent Greg Milam, who is in Belgium, said that the inconclusive nature of the result means police are still desperate to find the couple and the girl.
"There has been huge publicity here and yet they have still not come forward and their car hasn't been located," he said. 
Sightings of Madeleine have been reported all over Europe and further afield since she was snatched from her family's holiday apartment in Portugal on May 3.
In a radio interview recorded before the test results were released Madeleine's mother, Kate McCann, said that although there was no positive news she was encouraged that people were still looking for her daughter.
"It says to us that people are still looking and that is really important and we would encourage that," she said.
"I probably have more hope now than I did at the beginning."
She added: "We haven't had any news to the contrary that Madeleine isn't alive, and that's very important."
Portuguese newspapers have claimed detectives suspected the girl was not abducted, but died in her family's holiday flat in the Algarve village of Praia da Luz.
Blood specks found in the apartment are now in the UK for testing to see if they came from Madeleine.
It is thought the police investigation is moving away from Robert Murat, 33, the only official suspect in the case.
On Saturday, it will be 100 days since Madeleine went missing.

We Didn't Kill Our Madeleine, 08 August 2007
We Didn't Kill Our Madeleine Daily Express (online article since removed)
Wednesday August 8, 2007
By David Pilditch in Praia da Luz
The parents of Madeleine McCann have been forced to deny they had killed their daughter.
They told friends of their torment over allegations that the couple or members of their party were responsible for her death.
It came as it emerged today a DNA test on a drink bottle used by a young girl in Belgium did not match that of missing Madeleine McCann.
A child therapist said she was "100% sure" she saw the young British girl at a restaurant in the Flemish town of Tongeren, not far from the Dutch border, on July 28.
But newspaper reports in Belgium and Holland quoted police sources as saying the drink bottle held no DNA traces linked to Madeleine.
Meanwhile Portuguese newspapers have re­ported that detectives now believe Madeleine died in the family's holiday apartment at the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz.
But Kate and Gerry McCann issued an angry denial that they had anything to do with their four-year-old daughter's  disappearance, and insisted that they are convinced she is still alive. It is understood that detectives are pre­paring to re-interview the couple and the seven friends who were with them when Madeleine disappeared on May 3.

No Madeleine match after DNA test, 08 August 2007
No Madeleine match after DNA test BBC News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2007, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
DNA test results from a restaurant in Belgium have not provided a match with missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann.
The DNA - taken from a drink bottle and straw after a girl was seen with a man at a cafe - matched that of a man, prosecutors in Tongeren town said.
It "doesn't mean that the presence of Maddie is excluded", they added.

Meanwhile, suspected traces of blood from the Algarve apartment where Madeleine was last seen are being tested in Birmingham by UK scientists.

It is believed the evidence was found during a search involving at least one sniffer dog from Britain.

Madeleine's parents say they still have faith she will be found alive.

Database search

The Belgian DNA tests were on a strawberry-flavoured milk drink bottle and a straw.

Police were contacted after a girl suspected of being Madeleine was spotted at a roadside cafe with a Dutch-speaking man aged around 40 and an English-speaking woman of around 25.

Prosecutors added that "the man accompanying her may have drunk from the bottle" and that it was strange the couple involved had not come forward to be excluded from the police inquiry.

A prosecution official said although the DNA had not produced any matches in databases, the investigation remained open.

"We are seeing what tip-offs come in, although to date we have not had anything that has led to concrete results.

Some Portuguese newspapers reported on Tuesday that detectives now suspect Madeleine died in the holiday flat in Praia da Luz on 3 May - the night she disappeared.

Detectives in Portugal are refusing to comment officially on those reports.

A police spokesman told BBC News there were "some indications" she had not been alive when she was taken, but the possibility had not been discounted.

He said other people could be interviewed before the end of the week.

If tests in Birmingham confirm the find of traces of blood, police will look for a DNA match with Madeleine.

Breakthrough hope

Kate McCann told BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour on Wednesday she had no reason to think her daughter was dead.

She and her husband, Gerry, from Rothley, Leicestershire, believed their daughter was still alive, she said.

"We haven't had any news to the contrary - that Madeleine isn't alive - and that is very important.

"They have been many cases of children that have been found much later than this and that is reassuring, so the hope is still there."

Mrs McCann said the family had maintained a good relationship with Portuguese police and she accepted detectives needed to be thorough in all aspects of the investigation, including with her own family and friends.

Over the past 48 hours, police have also re-examined up to 10 vehicles, including a hire car rented by the McCanns about five weeks after the disappearance of their daughter.

"We have just got to think to ourselves that we need the investigation to be thorough - we welcome that," Mrs McCann said.

However, she said recent speculation about reported sightings of Madeleine and the circumstances of her disappearance had been "upsetting" and did not help the investigation.

House search

A second search of the home of suspect Robert Murat, 33, in the Portuguese resort in recent days found no new evidence.

Two of the vehicles re-examined on Monday were a car and a van used by Mr Murat, the only declared suspect in the case.

On Monday night, the vehicles were returned to the Murat family villa, which is owned by Mr Murat's mother.

Publicly the police have not commented on the results of the weekend search but the BBC understands it revealed nothing to link Mr Murat to Madeleine.

Mr Murat was declared a suspect 10 days after Madeleine was last seen but has strenuously denied any involvement in her disappearance.

Belgian DNA doesn't match Madeleine McCann, 09 August 2007
Belgian DNA doesn't match Madeleine McCann Telegraph
Richard Edwards in Praia da Luz
Last updated: 1:48am BST 09/08/2007
A possible sighting in Belgium of missing Madeleine McCann was ruled out today after DNA tests proved negative.
A child therapist alerted police after saying she was "100% sure" she had seen the four-year-old at a restaurant in the Flemish town of Tongeren, not far from the Dutch border, on July 28.
The girl was with a "suspicious" couple who disappeared while she was calling police. Belgium was put on alert as a photofit of a man was issued. Detectives took away a drink bottle used by the girl, but the sample returned today did not match the DNA of Madeleine.
It is the latest in a long string of alleged sightings across the world which have been ruled out. The two most complelling to police - and to the McCann family still clinging to the hope of finding their daughter alive - were in Morocco and Malta.
Both were eventually ruled out after investigations by local authorities. Other alleged sightings have occured in Guatemala, Argentina, Switzerland, France and Spain.
Despite constantly having their hopes slightly raised only to be dashed afterwards, Kate and Gerry McCann say that every alleged sighting is a positive sign that people are still aware of Madeleine's plight.
Mrs McCann told BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour today: "It says to us that people are still looking and that is really important and we would encourage that."
She added: "We haven't had any news to the contrary that Madeleine isn't alive, and that's very important.
"And there have been many cases of children that have been found much later than this so again that's reassuring. So the hope's still there."
Meanwhile, suspected traces of blood found in the Algarve apartment where Madeleine was last seen were due to arrive in Britain today for tests. They are expected back in two weeks, although priority cases can sometimes be processed in 48 hours.
Police Name Girl Mistaken For Madeleine, 21 August 2007
Police Name Girl Mistaken For Madeleine Sky News (online article since removed)
Updated 13:25, Tuesday August 21, 2007
This is the Belgian girl who triggered what police had hoped was a positive sighting of missing British youngster Madeleine McCann.
The girl was spotted at a roadside cafe in the eastern Belgian town of Tongeren.
She was with a Dutch-speaking man of about 40 and an English-speaking woman of around 25.
A child therapist who spotted the girl insisted it was missing four-year-old Madeleine.
But Belgian police have now confirmed it was four-year-old Sjanneke Hofstede and she was in the cafe with her father.
Sjanneke and her father are reported to be from the Belgian town of Hoogstraten.
Madeleine went missing on a family holiday to Portugal on May 3, since when there have been a number of possible sightings from Morocco to Argentina.
None has been confirmed and Portuguese police have recently admitted she may be dead.

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files


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