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
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,
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
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
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
Local media sources claimed last night that police were continuing to
"create a smokescreen" and the appeal was issued only to satisfy the
There are questions, also, over whether the release of the appeal clashes with
the police investigation into Robert Murat, named as the only "formal
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".