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Tuesday August 12,2008 By Nick Fagge in Brussels

MISSING: Madeleine

DETECTIVES in Belgium have been alerted to 30 new 'sightings' of missing Madeleine McCann in the past seven days, the Daily Express can reveal.


They come a week after a blonde, blue-eyed child was spotted outside a Brussels bank, pleading with a north African woman in English to be allowed to go home.


And images of the little girl, walking hand in hand with the veiled Moroccan in the rundown Arab-dominated Molenbeek St Jean quarter, have raised hopes fears that Madeleine is alive and being held in the country.

The fresh leads by members of the public have placed the British youngster in the Belgian capital as well as other towns in the Flemish-speaking north. 

The information is being co-ordinated by Belgian federal prosecutor Lieve Pellens. Yesterday she told the Daily Express: 'We have received 30 new leads in the past week. Some claim to have seen Madeleine in Brussels while others have spotted her in the north of the country.'

The new clues bring the number of 'Madeleine sightings' in Belgium to 135 since she went missing in May last year.

Ms Pellens added: 'Many people in Belgium have followed the Madeleine case and everyone is desperate to help. In some cases the girl who is spotted is speaking Flemish but in other instances the girl seen is speaking English.

'The information in each case is being checked and each lead is being followed up. But we are still waiting for the golden information that will lead us to her.'

Ms Pellens said she was reluctant to give more details about the 'sightings' for fear of tipping off the youngster's possible abductors. Last week a young girl who looked 'much like' Madeleine was spotted at a branch of the KBC Bank, in the west of Brussels, by a security guard. 

The child, who appeared to be about five ' the same age as Madeleine would be today ' walked within three feet of the witness.

Led by the hand by the woman, she was captured on a number of CCTV cameras as the pair walked around the imposing building last Monday morning and then into the Arab quarter.

The security guard was shocked at the likeness to Madeleine and considered following them but decided not to leave his post. 

The new 'sightings' have bolstered claims that Madeleine was snatched to order by a paedophile ring based in Belgium. Last night Kate and Gerry McCann's spokesman Clarence Mitchell told the Daily Express: 'We are extremely grateful to the Belgian authorities for pursuing all these potential leads. This number of sightings does seem particularly high. But if any one is genuine it is vital the information is checked out.

'Private investigators working for Kate and Gerry McCann in Belgium will be liaising with the Belgian authorities as an absolute priority to see if any of these new sightings are the key to finding Madeleine.'

Most of the Portuguese police officers who looked for Madeleine after her disappearance had no proper training in missing people searches, case files revealed yesterday.

Up to 100 personnel scoured the area around the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz after her disappearance but failed to find clues and the Portuguese called in Britain's leading search adviser, Mark Harrison. 

'The search officers ' with the exception of the search-and-rescue team dispatched from Lisbon ' had not benefited from any formal training in search procedures,' said Mr Harrison.

He highlighted an area to the east of Praia da Luz which afforded 'many opportunities to dispose of a body' and recommended fresh searches there.


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