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Witness in torment over Madeleine

Original Source: TELEGRAPH: 28 MAY 2010
By Richard Edwards and Fiona Govan in Praia da Luz
Last Updated: 1:23am BST 28/05/2007
A friend on holiday with the parents of Madeleine McCann is tormented by the belief that she saw her being abducted, it emerged last night.

The woman saw a man carrying a child wrapped in a blanket outside the apartment where Madeleine was taken.

She only realised the significance of the sighting about half an hour later, after Kate McCann raised the alarm that her daughter was missing.

The witness believes the child was wearing the same pink and white pyjamas Madeleine was wearing. She is said to be "racked with guilt" that she did nothing to stop the suspect.

Madeleine was taken from her room in Praia da Luz, on the Algarve, 25 days ago.

In the first stage of a campaign to raise awareness of her disappearance across Europe, Mr and Mrs McCann will travel to Rome this week to meet Pope Benedict XVI. They also plan to visit Madrid, Seville, Berlin and Amsterdam.

Meanwhile they continue to await developments from the Portuguese police investigation. Detectives finally issued an appeal on Friday, based on the account of the McCanns' family friend - given to them hours after Madeleine disappeared on May 3.

The woman, who has not been named, joined the McCanns for dinner about 9.30pm.

As she walked past the family's apartment, she saw a man in front of her carrying a child wearing pink pyjamas. He was moving with a "sense of urgency".

A police source said: "She thought it was odd, but thought it was the man's own child. He was walking urgently, neither running nor walking." The McCanns and their friends made regular checks on their children.

At 10pm, Mrs McCann discovered that Madeleine was missing from her bed and raised the alarm. The friend remembered what she had seen and is certain it was Madeleine.

A police source close to the inquiry said: "She has given statements and is back in the UK, feeling dreadfully guilty. She is tormented by it. But the family do not blame her, they feel sorry for her. There is no sense of hostility."

The Portuguese police appeal came only after persistent requests from the McCann family, reinforced by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who has had several conversations with them.

Police revealed yesterday that they have had hundreds of calls from the public about the sighting. However it has also added to confusion over the investigation. It is unclear if police believe the witness report is still relevant.

Local media sources claimed last night that police were continuing to "create a smokescreen" and the appeal was issued only to satisfy the family.

There are questions, also, over whether the release of the appeal clashes with the police investigation into Robert Murat, named as the only "formal suspect".

Mr Murat proclaimed his innocence again yesterday and is said to be on "tenterhooks" following the development.

"It isn't me," he said. "But the description is so vague that it won't put me out of the picture."

Two weeks after he was questioned by police, there is still no evidence to link Mr Murat to the abduction.

Police suspicion is centred on computers seized from his villa, 100 yards away from where Madeleine was taken.

Portuguese police asked their British counterparts to interview Mr Murat's ex-wife Dawn in an attempt to learn more about his private life.

Mrs Murat, 41, said in an interview published yesterday that she had never caught him watching pornography. Mr Murat strenuously denies any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance and says he is waiting to "clear his name".


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