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
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.