He is convinced the lurker was involved
in the kidnap and spoke out after the
Daily Mirror visited his home in the
talk: Laundryman Mario
Fernando happy to speak to
Stenning / Daily Mirror
A vital witness has revealed he saw a
man wearing sunglasses lurking in a
stairwell near Madeleine McCann’s
apartment 24 hours before she vanished.
Mario Fernando, 47, told Portuguese cops
about the “weird” stranger lurking at
the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz
but has never been quizzed by British
police or spoken publicly.
Now, six years after Madeleine
disappeared, the laundryman has urged
British detectives to speak to him.
Mario believes the man he saw the night
before three-year-old Madeleine
disappeared in May 2007 should be on
Scotland Yard’s list too.
The divorced dad, who said he has always
felt “uncomfortable” about the
Portuguese police inquiry, spoke out
after the Daily Mirror tracked him down
at his home in the Algarve this week.
He also believes he may be one of 12
manual workers and cleaners Scotland
Yard detectives have identified as
“people of interest”.
Stairwell where Mario saw
Stenning / Daily Mirror
Mario recalls a “nervous” man wearing
big sunglasses hiding in a stairwell
seconds away from the holiday apartment
where parents Gerry and Kate were
staying with their three children.
The laundryman is convinced the lurker
was involved in the kidnap.
Part of Mario’s role at the Ocean Club
was to collect dirty sheets from
apartment blocks and drive them to the
laundry room beneath the Tapas bar where
the McCanns were when Maddy disappeared.
He said: “I was at my last collection
point near the girl’s flat. I was always
rushing. I’d park the van any-where.
"It was 7.30pm to 8pm. When cleaners
cleared sheets they dropped them down
the hole in the stairs to be collected
by me at the bottom.
“When I walked down and turned into the
hole to get the laundry, I saw the weird
guy and we nearly bumped into each
other. He was embarrassed. He looked
“He was walking out from the hole under
the stairs and must have been much
further inside but had taken several
steps after hearing me coming. We were,
like, dodging each other.
“He had a really fat face and had
two-tone sunglasses on, they got lighter
at the bottom and were big. I will never
forget those glasses.
“There was no reason for him to be there
and no reason to wear the glasses as it
was dark under the stairs.
Madeleine McCann went
missing in 2007
“He did not walk away but watched what I
did. I collected the sheets and took
them to the van outside. He stayed there
“I had never seen him before. I knew
everyone who was living at the complex
and he was not one of them.
“It is still recorded in my head like it
was at the time. It was not usual for
people to be there, in the shadows.
“My theory is that guy must have been
involved, either in the kidnapping or
studying what to do — their movements.
"He was there for something, for sure!”
Mario, who only started working at the
Ocean Club a month before Madeleine
vanished, said he identified a potential
suspect to Portuguese police a few
months after Madeleine went missing.
He spent hours with an officer looking
at pictures and videos.
Investigators could then find no other
evidence linking the identified man to
the girl’s disappearance.
However, according to Portuguese files,
officers asked British police to put
more questions to this man – a full year
after Madeleine vanished.
Mario was 80% convinced he was the man
he saw but admits he could not be sure
and now six years have passed
Kidnap: Drawn from McCann
Referring to Portugal’s “secrecy of
justice” law, he said: “I couldn’t speak
then. I’d been warned by police I would
be in trouble if I spoke to anyone.”
But Mario now says: “I am available. I
am happy to speak.
"I have not spoken to the British police
about what I saw but I want the truth to
Twice-divorced Mario, who has a
21-year-old son and lives in a village
on the outskirts of Praia da Luz, worked
at the Ocean Club for nine months.
Describing the man who haunts him he
explained: “He was quite tall and looked
"He had lots of hair, close to his head
— like it was glued. It was straight
hair. He was about my age now — 45, 46.”
Det Chief Supt Hamish Campbell, head of
Scotland Yard’s Homicide and Serious
Crime Command, said earlier this month
that there are many people who could be
spoken to and eliminated from the
Mario added: “I agree with what the
British police have said and lots of
people should be interviewed again.”
The McCanns, of Rothley, Leics, who have
never given up looking for their
daughter, have been kept closely
informed of Scotland Yard’s review,
codenamed Operation Grange, over the
past two years.
Officials in Lisbon are still insisting
they can reopen the case only if there
is new evidence.