MADDIE: Has kidnapper struck again'
MARI LUZ CORTEZ
FEARS were growing last night that the kidnapper
of Madeleine McCann has struck again.
Detectives hunting for the missing British girl were heading for
Huelva, in Spain, where five-year-old Mari Luz Cortes vanished
after popping out to the shops alone on Sunday.
The port's slum suburb of El Torrejon is just over an hour by
motorway from the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, where
Madeleine, four, went missing.
Spanish police immediately alerted colleagues in neighbouring
Portugal to the striking similarities in the two cases, while
the McCann family's own private investigators, Metodo 3, raced
to the scene.
Both are attractive children of a similar age, left alone by
parents when they disappeared into thin air, unseen by any
witnesses. The parents of both believe their daughters have been
And both have prompted an enormous public response, with the
Cortes family, like the McCanns, mobilising hundreds of
relatives and supporters to distribute pictures of their
'It is a possibility that the disappearance of my daughter is
linked to the Madeleine case
Juan Jose Cortes Ramirez
Yesterday Mari Luz's distraught parents, Juan Jose Cortes
Ramirez and his wife Irena Suarez Fernandez, appealed for her
Moments before the TV plea Mari Luz's mother collapsed at the
family's apartment and needed treatment by paramedics.
Her 34-year-old husband broke down after admitting he feared his
daughter had been abducted ' and that the Madeleine case was in
the back of everyone's minds.
He said: 'It is a possibility that the disappearance of my
daughter is linked to the Madeleine case but it is not something
we want to contemplate.'
Weeping openly, he said: 'Whoever has her, bring her back and
everything will be OK.'
The former professional football coach, who now runs a small
construction company, added: 'We have no quarrels with anyone.
We suspect nobody and everybody, because the family doesn't know
how to deal with the situation.
'If anyone has taken Mari Luz by mistake, or if they thought she
was lost, please bring her back. She's very shy and she never
gets lost. She is a very bright girl with chestnut-coloured hair
and enormous bright eyes.'
A friend said: 'The family can't believe they are going through
the same pain as the McCanns did.'
Mari Luz was last seen when she went to buy a 76p packet of
crisps from a kiosk on the main road 100 yards away.
Kiosk owner Jose Salazar Maria, said: 'My son served Mari Luz.
Like other times, she bought crisps. And then she went.' Police
have been inundated with reports of sightings.
"One witness claimed to have seen Mari Luz crying on a bus with
a gypsy woman, who was shouting at her to keep quiet.
Last night, at home in Rothley, Leics, Gerry McCann said he and
wife Kate shared the Cortes family's worries. He added: 'We hope
Mari is found quickly, safe, and is returned to her family.'
In Huelva, more than 100 officers and 500 locals ' the
neighbourhood has a long-established gypsy community ' have been
searching for missing Mari Luz.