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New Maddy witnesses come forward

Original Source: SUNDAY MIRROR: 02 DECEMBER 2007
By Lori Campbell Lori.Campbell@Sundaymirror.Co.Uk 02/12/2007

2 new witnesses come forward

Madeleine McCann suspect Robert Murat is back in the frame after two new witnesses say they saw him the night the four-year-old disappeared.

The British expat has always insisted he spent the entire evening of May 3 inside his mother's villa.

But the new accounts - handed over to detectives hired by the McCanns - threaten to contradict his alibi.

Five people have now reported seeing Murat, 33, outside the McCanns' apartment that night.

The private detectives from Metodo 3 (M3) are also investigating a tip-off that Murat had connections to the criminal underworld and was working as a police informant.

The latest witnesses contacted M3 separately to say they spotted Murat walking along a road outside the McCanns' apartment the night Madeleine was snatched.

The tourists, who were on holiday in Praia da Luz, Portugal, have given detailed statements which contradict Murat's claim that he did not leave his mum Jennifer's home.

The McCanns' friends Fiona Payne and Rachel Oldfield have told police they saw Murat at the Ocean Club resort at 11.45pm, two hours after the alarm was raised. A third pal, Russell O'Brien, says he saw him at 1am.

A source inside M3 said: "There are serious questions around Murat's alibi. He says he was at his mum's house and did not learn of Madeleine's disappearance until the following morning.

"But his claims have now been challenged by five eyewitnesses. Three of the McCanns' friends have always insisted they saw him that night. They say they are sure it was him because of his distinctive right eye.

"Now two new people have contacted us saying they are certain they also saw him. They do not know each other and called our hotline independently."

M3 is also working on a tip that Murat had acted as a police informer.

Our source said: "It explains why police were so quick to allow him to work as a translator and enter the crime scene after she disappeared."

Murat is claimed to have dramatically changed his alibi in a police investigation before he was declared an official suspect.

He had initially told friends he was with his girlfriend Michaela Walczuch, 34, when Madeleine was snatched.

But as detectives grilled him 11 days later, he allegedly claimed he had been at his mum's home nearby. She backed her son's alibi.

M3 are also working on a theory a "spotter" took pictures of dozens of girls at the resort before Madeleine was picked out by a paedophile gang. Our source said: "Detectives are sure Madeleine was stolen to order."

Case 'will close in 4 weeks'

The top cop leading the hunt for Madeleine McCann plans to close the case in one month.

Paulo Rebelo has set his officers a deadline of January 3, by which time the suspects will either be charged or cleared.

A police source told the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha: "The investigation is entering the final straight."

Portuguese detectives are set to requestion Kate and Gerry McCann and their holiday friends - dubbed the Tapas Nine - in the next seven days.

The visit is being hailed as "make or break" after police were told DNA tests are not enough on their own to bring charges against the McCanns.

Rebelo's team hope the second interviews will provide enough circumstantial evidence to allow charges to be made. A judicial source told Portuguese daily 24 horas: and "Without forensic proof the investigators have to go for the many apparent contradictions in the stories of the McCanns and the other witnesses."

Detectives still believe the McCanns accidentally killed Madeleine and are investigating a bizarre theory third suspect Robert Murat was also involved.

The Sunday Mirror revealed last month that the case would close by Christmas.


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