Further possible sightings
Madeleine McCann in Otago have surfaced, with a couple "80%
confident" they saw the missing girl in August last year.
Michael Griffiths and Mary Habib, who reported a sighting in
the Octagon and in Milton of a girl they believed to have
been Madeleine McCann to police last August. Photo by Craig
This is despite the claimed sighting,
widely reported yesterday, of Madeleine at The Warehouse in South
Dunedin in 2007 now confirmed by police as being of another child.
The case resulted in the international
media spotlight focusing on Dunedin after the release of a grainy black
and white image, which showed a child thought to be Madeleine, the
4-year-old British girl who went missing in Portugal in May 2007 while
on holiday with her family.
Michael Griffiths and
Mary Habib said yesterday they believed they twice saw a girl resembling
Madeleine on August 6, in Dunedin at 10.30am and Milton at 2pm.
The girl was with a man aged between
35 and 40.
The couple reported the sightings to
Balclutha police later that night.
Mr Griffiths and the police also
notified the official Madeleine McCann website,
Mr Griffiths said yesterday no reply
had been received from police or the website.
Madeleine, aged 3, and what she may look like as a
A Balclutha police spokesman yesterday
confirmed police had investigated the sightings, with the information
forwarded to Dunedin police.
Acting Southern District Commander
Inspector Dave Campbell said Dunedin police had kept the case open
despite the formal case being closed by Portuguese authorities.
Insp Campbell issued a statement last
night saying the person identified as Madeleine by Taryn Dryfhout, a
former checkout operator at The Warehouse in South Dunedin, was not the
"We ask that media outlets remove the
image portraying the child and family from their coverage, including
websites, to protect the privacy of the family.
"New Zealand Police are mindful of the
stress on the McCann family from possible sightings of their daughter
worldwide," Insp Campbell said.
The family in the photograph contacted
police yesterday afternoon and by 5.30pm it had been confirmed the girl
in the photograph was not Madeleine.
However, police confirmed there had
been several other sightings of Madeleine in the province, but declined
to release that information.
The Otago Daily Times
understands sightings of Madeleine in Alexandra and Queenstown have been
reported to police.
Mr Griffiths and Ms Habib decided to
come forward after yesterday's story in the Otago Daily Times.
The couple, who were in Dunedin on
business on August 6, were having coffee at an outside table in the
lower Octagon between 10.30am and 11am.
They observed a man walking with a
young girl, and "I wondered why the kid wasn't at school", Mr Griffiths
The couple later saw the man and girl,
who was described as being 6 or 7, with long "mousey hair" and wearing a
neutral-coloured jacket and trousers, sitting outside the Mash Cafe and
Restaurant in the Octagon.
Returning home that afternoon, the
couple stopped at Da Vincis in Milton at 2pm for a takeaway pizza when
they saw the same man and girl outside the restaurant.
"The girl looked very clingy... she
didn't look like she wanted to move very far from him."
The man was described as being of
medium height and build, wearing a lighter shirt and expensive casual
Mr Griffiths and Ms Habib ordered a
pizza, but their meal was mistakenly given to the man who was with the
The man, who said it was not his
order, spoke with a strange accent they could not place - possibly
British or European, Mr Griffiths said.
"He was suspiciously different, or
differently suspicious . . . if that makes sense."
While the couple did not speak to the
young girl, two middle-aged women walking by struck up a conversation
On their drive home, Ms Habib said she
thought the girl was strikingly similar to Madeleine.
Mr Griffiths agreed, and the pair
contacted police after looking at photographs of Madeleine on the
"I am 80% confident it was her," Mr
"I am 80% plus," Ms Habib said.
Asked if last night's news regarding
the family in the CCTV footage coming forward to police had changed
their opinion, Mr Griffiths said "not in the slightest".
"Our sighting was completely
In hindsight, the couple said they
wished they had talked to the girl or taken her photograph.
But they contacted police to report
their sightings with concern and a clean conscience, they said.