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Original Source: EXPRESS: SUNDAY 02 MAY 2010
Sunday May 2 2010



 GAIL COOPER will never forget the day she stared into the 'dead eyes' of the man she believes abducted Madeleine McCann three years ago tomorrow.

'There was just nothing in his eyes, no soul, no life, nothing,' she said, drawing on a cigarette to calm her nerves as she relives the close encounter she had in
Praia da Luz.

Home care coordinator Gail had hired a '2million villa in April 2007 to celebrate her 50th birthday with friends and family.


The party of 14 flew to Portugal on April 18 and Gail had a lovely first four days enjoying time with her two grandchildren in the villa's pool and at the nearby beach.

As the villa slept only nine, two couples and a boy of two stayed in the nearby Mark Warner complex ' directly above apartment 5A where the McCanns stayed the next week.

Missing Madeleine McCann

On April 20 the group went to the Paraiso cafe on the beach for lunch. As they enjoyed their meal it began to rain and they noticed a scruffy man standing on the beach getting drenched in the downpour.

They drove back to the villa, where the children played in the pool and the sun shone again.

Between 4 and 5pm there was a ring on the door at the villa, which is situated in a quiet street some 20 minutes walk from the beach.

To Gail's astonishment it was the man she had seen a few hours earlier getting soaked on the beach. He was aged between 40 and 45 and about six feet tall with an olive complexion.

He appeared Mediterranean but not Portuguese and spoke fairly good English, and was clean shaven apart from his moustache.

He wore a heavy cotton khaki jacket and a green or blue t-shirt and khaki combat trousers. Around his waist was a black leather bum bag.

He told Gail that he was collecting money for an orphanage in the nearby village of Espiche.

Moving from foot to foot and waving what appeared to be ID documents, he said an English couple had been killed in a motorway smash nearby and their three children were being looked after at the orphanage.

'He was very pushy and intimidating,' said Gail. 'He was waving his hands and came out with this story, which I didn't believe, to get me to hand over some cash. He kept staring right at me, virtually imploring me to give money, but I wouldn't.

'He spoke good English but it wasn't really with a Portuguese accent. My grandchildren were in the pool and my husband had gone out and I just wanted him to go away.

'I've been to Portugal many times and I've never had anyone come to the door asking for money before. His clothing and hair still looked wet from the rain. The whole situation was odd and made me uncomfortable. After 10 minutes or so he suddenly stopped talking and just walked off.'

Gail believes the man may have followed the group from the beach and could have been looking over the villa wall at her grandchildren in the pool.

Two days later on April 22, Gail and the group saw the man again, standing near a group of children who were being taken to the beach by Mark Warner childminders.

She said: 'At first it looked like he was with the children and I remember thinking maybe he was raising money for an orphanage. Then my daughter pointed out that the children weren't orphans, they were from the Mark Warner complex.

'Although he was walking near the children it was clear that he wasn't with them and I recall thinking that it all seemed a little bit odd. But I thought nothing much more of it and we carried on enjoying our holiday.'

After returning home and hearing of Madeleine's abduction a week later, Gail contacted the police.

On May 21 she gave a statement to a detective from the Leicestershire force which was liaising with Portuguese officers.

In January 2008 she was contacted by the McCanns' investigators and agreed to sit for 10 hours with an artist to create the first full facial image of the suspect. 'I was happy to do anything I could to help,' she said.

In July she was shown film of the man working at a market and later an investigator working for the McCanns flew over to show her images of five men, none of whom she recognised.

'I have a very clear image in my mind of the man I saw and I think it will stay with me for the rest of my life,' she said. 'At first I just thought he was a conman but

now I believe he could be much more dangerous. I will never forget his dark, dead eyes and the way he threw his arms about in a very jerky way.

'He was very agitated at the front door of the villa and he looked quite disturbed when he was wandering around on the beach in the rain. The sooner he is found the better.'

Gail said her memories of what was a fantastic 50th birthday celebration have been marred by the kidnapping of Madeline.

Seldom a day passes when she doesn't think of the mysterious man.

She said: 'In the early days after hearing about the kidnapping, I just had this horrible empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

'I couldn't get the image of the man out of my head and I was racking my brains trying to remember everything he said and every detail about him.

'Had he followed the members of our group, including a boy of two, who was staying at the ocean club'

'I am left with a strong sense of frustration because this is still unresolved.'


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