Reported sightings of Madeleine McCann

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Madeleine McCann, aged three

Madeleine McCann, is a British child who went missing on the evening of Thursday, 3 May 2007, shortly before her fourth birthday, from an apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, where she was on holiday with her parents.[1]

The Portuguese police investigation into her disappearance closed in July 2008. Scotland Yard began a review of the investigation, known as Operation Grange, in May 2011, and announced in April 2012 that they believed Madeleine might still be alive.[2] Since the disappearance, there have been many reported sightings of Madeleine in Portugal and elsewhere.


3 May 2007[edit]

Tanner - 21:15[edit]

The first possible sighting was around 21:15 on 3 May, 45 minutes before Madeleine's mother raised the alarm. Jane Tanner, who was travelling with the McCanns, noticed a man walking along the road on which the McCanns' holiday apartment was situated.[3] She said he was carrying a barefoot child who was wearing light-coloured pink pyjamas with a floral pattern.[4] Scotland Yard has since ruled this out, saying in October 2013 that a British holidaymaker who was carrying his child home at that time had been identified, was believed to be the man seen by Tanner, and was not involved in the abduction. [5]

Smith - 22:00[edit]

A second sighting is being taken seriously by Scotland Yard. At around 22:00, an Irish family saw a man carrying a young girl on Rua da Escola Primária. They described her as four years old, wearing light-coloured pyjamas, with blonde hair and pale skin. They said the man was in his mid-30s, 1.75–1.80 m in height, with a slim-to-normal build, short brown hair, wearing cream or beige trousers with a black leather jacket.[6] Scotland Yard issued an efit of the man on 13 October 2013.[5]

4–17 May[edit]

On the evening of 4 May, Antonio Castela, a taxi driver, took three men, a woman, and a girl resembling Madeleine from Monte Gordo to the Hotel Apolo in Vila Real de Santo António, where they drove away in a blue Jeep. He said that he had recorded the sighting with the PJ but that they had not contacted him again.[7]

A Portuguese trucker telephoned the Método 3 helpline in November reporting that he had seen a blonde woman pass a child wrapped in a blanket to a man, who then 'bundled' her into a car. He said this took place two days after the disappearance, in the Algarve town of Silves.[8]

Police in the mountainous town of Nelas, northern central Portugal, received information of a girl matching Madeleine's description who was seen with a man in a supermarket on 8 May.[9] The man, a Belgian citizen, stopped at the supermarket with his daughter and left the place in a car before police were contacted, but police later confirmed that the sighting had been a false alarm.[10][11]

People in the resort came forward to report unusual incidents including a woman who noticed a man trying to take away a pram and a man who caught a stranger taking photographs of young blonde girls on a beach.[12][13] Portuguese police also investigated a report by holidaymaker Andre van Wyk. Van Wyk claimed that, shortly after the disappearance, he had seen a girl resembling Madeleine being taken in a cart to a gypsy camp near Portimão, about ten miles (16 km) from where Madeleine disappeared.[14]

On 9 May, the 24 Horas newspaper reported that police had found a vehicle near Praia da Luz that may have been used by the kidnapper.[15] Further, CCTV video from a petrol station near Lagos showed a child matching Madeleine's description with a woman and two men. The child was having an altercation with the woman.[15] The following day it was reported that the car from the petrol station had British number plates and it was claimed that the person caught taking photographs was one of the men on the CCTV footage.[13][16]

An anonymous witness contacted police claiming to have spotted a Fiat Marea with a forged license plate in Pinhal Novo, Palmela, Setúbal, on May 17, which allegedly transported the missing child.[17]


A blonde girl, identical to Madeleine, was reported to be seen with a German family, at the Cabopino campsite on the Costa del Sol, just three days after the child went missing. It turned out, though, to be the daughter of Karsten Mayer, a German-speaking Swiss native.[18]

Two women reported seeing a child who looked like Madeleine with a man at a petrol station near Cartagena, Spain, on 21 August 2007. This was discounted after a thorough investigation by the Spanish National Police and Civil Guard.[19]

There was a further reported sighting, in early April 2012, on the Costa del Sol.[20]


Marie Olli, a Norwegian woman living in the Spanish town of Fuengirola, contacted the police on 10 May 2007, claiming she had seen a girl matching Madeleine's description in a petrol station in Marrakech, Morocco. The girl, who was said to have appeared sad, was allegedly accompanied by a man in his late 30s.[21] At about the same time, a British tourist reported seeing Madeleine near the Marrakech Ibis hotel.[22] Although Interpol subsequently discounted these sightings, officers from Leicestershire police remained in Morocco for some days afterwards.[23] A Spanish tourist saw a girl resembling Madeleine as she drove through the town of Zaio in northern Morocco at the end of May.[24] Attention switched back to Morocco on 4 June, after GCHQ in Cheltenham picked up phone intercept messages in Arabic referring to "the little blonde girl", a German man, and a ferry from Tarifa in Spain.[25]

Another Spanish tourist, Isabel Gonzalez, has said that she saw a girl fitting Madeleine's description being dragged across a street, also in Zaio, by a North African woman on 15 June.[8] Naoual Malhi, a Spanish woman of Moroccan origin, claimed to have spotted the girl with a woman in the village of Fnideq, on 21 August, but private investigators were unable to substantiate the lead.[26] A photograph of a blonde girl being carried on the back of a North African woman was taken on 31 August by Clara Torres, another Spanish tourist, in Zinat in northern Morocco, but it turned out to be a Moroccan girl.[24][27] A school inspector claimed to have seen the child in Karia Ba Mohamed around the start of October, but after enquiries, the local police were adamant that she was not there.[28] Additionally, the Moroccan Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa said on 4 November that there was no evidence to suggest that Madeleine was in Morocco.[29]


There were two reported sightings in Belgium. The first was during May 2007 in Liège and the second occurred on 28 July on a café terrace in Tongeren. In the latter case, children's therapist Katleen Sampermans said that Madeleine was in the company of a Dutch man and an English woman.[30][31] However, the girl turned out to be the 4-year-old daughter of a Belgian man.[32]

Security was tightened in Valletta, Malta, on 21 June following five reported sightings on the island. The total sightings had risen to 29 by 27 June.[33][34]

An Irish tourist reported a sighting in Međugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the beginning of November.[35] The child was later revealed to be the 3-year-old daughter of Slavko Dedić, a dentist from the nearby town of Ljubuški.[36]

Dutch student Melissa Fiering claimed that she saw Madeleine with a 'tall, swarthy man', at the L'Arche motorway service station restaurant in the south of France, on 15 February 2008.[37] However, the French police, after examining CCTV evidence, determined that the sighting was not of the missing child.[38]

The first reported sighting in Britain occurred in Dorset in February 2008. Retired civil servant Alan Cameron said that she was with a Portuguese couple who came to the door.[39]

A sighting of Madeline McCann was reported in the Sydney central business district on 17 March. The reported sighting, of a middle-aged man carrying a blonde girl, turned out to be a false alarm.[40]

There have been six reported sightings in Brazil. A witness reported seeing Madeleine on a plane flying to São Paulo, in late March. Five earlier reports had been investigated and discounted.[41]

The release of the Portuguese police case files in August 2008 revealed a possible sighting in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in early May 2007. Anna Stam reported to Dutch police that a girl of three or four years of age, who resembled Madeleine, had come into her shop and had told her that the adult she was with was "a stranger" who "took me from my mummy" while she was on holiday.[42] She added that her name was "Maddy". The McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell said that it was a "disgrace" that they had not been told by police about the reported sighting at the time.[42] The files included a 14-volume annexe of reported sightings, of Madeleine, across the world.[43]

The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published, in October 2009, a photograph of a girl, seen in Sweden, who bore a great similarity to Madeleine. The photographer claimed that the girl only spoke English, and was accompanied by a man who spoke Swedish.[44]

In New Zealand, CCTV video from a department store in southern Dunedin showed a girl who looked like Madeleine being led into the store by a man at around 9:00pm on 5 December 2007, seven months after her disappearance.[45][46]

A sighting in Leh, India, was reported on 28 July 2011. British and American tourists reportedly saw a young girl with a French/Belgian couple, who claimed that the child was theirs.[47] Although reports suggested DNA tests had been conducted,[48] the chief of police in Leh, Vivek Gupta, denied the reports and stated that no DNA test had been undertaken by the police.[47]

New Zealand police were informed of a possible sighting in Queenstown, on 31 December 2012. The informant said that the girl she had seen had the same coloboma of the iris as Madeleine. After investigation, police identified the girl and stated that they were "absolutely satisfied" that the girl was not Madeleine.[49]

Disclosure of official information[edit]

Leicestershire Police agreed, in the High Court on 7 July 2008, to disclose the content of files related to sightings and tip-offs. They handed over 81 pieces of information to Madeleine's parents.[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Holiday girl abducted, police say". BBC News. 5 May 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2007.
  2. ^ "Madeleine McCann 'could be alive' say detectives as new image released". The Daily Telegraph. 25 April 2012.
  3. ^ Caroline Gammell, "Madeleine McCann: Map 'shows where abductor was spotted'", The Daily Telegraph, 5 August 2008.
  4. ^ Michelle Pauli, "Is this Madeleine McCann's abductor?", The Guardian, 26 October 2007.
  5. ^ a b Sandra Laville, "British detectives release efits of Madeleine McCann suspect", The Guardian, 14 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Stranger may hold key to Madeleine McCann's disappearance, says ex-RUC man", Belfast Telegraph, 7 May 2009.
  7. ^ Marsden, Sam (2 May 2012). "Taxi driver's Madeleine McCann 'sighting' ignored". London: The Independent. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  8. ^ a b Fiona Govan (2007-11-22). "'Madeleine Spain sighting' probed". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-11-22.
  9. ^ "Portugal defends Madeleine police". BBC News. 2007-05-08. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
  10. ^ João Moniz (2007-05-09). "Investigações da PJ seguem 350 pistas" (in Portuguese). Destak. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  11. ^ "Police 'step up Madeleine search'". BBC News. 2007-05-08. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
  12. ^ "Staff At Maddy Resort 'Were Warned Of Suspicious Man'". LifStyle Extra. 2007-05-08. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
  13. ^ a b Edwards, Richard; Govan, Fiona; Smit, Martina (2007-05-12). "£1 million reward for missing Madeleine". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
  14. ^ Brown, David (2007-06-21). "Pickpocket snatches father's photos of missing Madeleine". London: The Times. Retrieved 2007-06-23.
  15. ^ a b "Video tape may show missing Maddie". 2007-05-09. Archived from the original on 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2007-06-08. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "iafrica" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  16. ^ "Service Held For Missing Madeleine". Sky News. 2007-05-11. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
  17. ^ "Carro põe polícia em alerta" (in Portuguese). Jornal de Notícias. 2007-05-17, N°351, Ano 119. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  18. ^ Hall, Allan (9 May 2012). "'That wasn't Maddie... it was my daughter': Swiss father says he was mystery man seen driving blonde girl identical to Madeleine days after she vanished". The Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  19. ^ Press Association (23 August 2007). "'Madeleine Spain sighting' probed". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  20. ^ "Madeleine McCann 'could be alive' say detectives as new image released". The Daily Telegraph. London. 25 April 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  21. ^ Allen, Vanessa (2007-05-19). "Can I See Mummy Soon? Tourist says she saw Madeleine in Morocco..pleading with a man". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2007-05-20.
  22. ^ "'Any Credible Sighting Is Of Interest'". Sky News. 2007-09-24. Retrieved 2007-09-24.
  23. ^ "Brits Follow Cell Phone Signals in Hunt for Madeleine". Fox News. 2007-05-29. Retrieved 2007-05-29.
  24. ^ a b David Brown & Patrick Foster (2007-09-26). "New photograph shows child like Madeleine McCann on African woman's back". London: The Times. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  25. ^ Richard Edwards & Fiona Govan (2007-06-05). "Media 'may have scared Madeleine kidnapper". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-09-20.
  26. ^ Duncan Hooper (2007-11-03). "Detectives probe Madeleine McCann sighting". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-11-03.
  27. ^ Adam Fresco (2007-09-26). "Girl in Morocco picture is daughter of local family, not Madeleine McCann". London: The Times. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  28. ^ Daniel Cochlin (2007-11-04). "Revealed: The remote Moroccan town that could hold the key to finding Madeleine". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2007-11-04.
  29. ^ Felix Lowe (2007-11-07). "Moroccan authorities deny Madeleine search". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
  30. ^ ;Martin Evans (2007-08-06). "I'm Sorry I Didn't Rescue Maddy At Belgian Restaurant". The Daily Express. Retrieved 2007-08-09.
  31. ^ Bruno Waterfield (2007-08-04). "Madeleine sighting being taken seriously". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
  32. ^ "Revealed: The girl at Belgian café who witnesses thought was missing Madeleine". London: Daily Mail. 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2007-08-21.
  33. ^ Richard Edwards & Fiona Govan (2007-06-22). "Five Madeleine McCann 'sightings' in Malta". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
  34. ^ "Day 55: Vigil As Reporter Backs Up Claim". Sky News. 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2007-06-27.
  35. ^ Daniel Boffey (2007-11-11). "Now Madeleine hunt turns to Balkans after girl is heard crying for 'Daddy'". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
  36. ^ Neil Sears (2007-11-15). "First picture of three-year-old Bosnian girl mistaken for missing Madeleine". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2007-11-15.
  37. ^ Hyde, Dan (2008-02-20). "Police probe fresh Madeleine McCann sighting in the south of France for 'Daddy'". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  38. ^ "How common is Madeleine's eye defect?". BBC News. 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2008-02-21.
  39. ^ "Latest Madeleine McCann sighting is in Dorset". London: The Daily Telegraph. 2008-02-24. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  40. ^ Howden, Saffron (2008-03-17). "Cops scramble over false Madeleine McCann sighting". Daily Telegraph (Sydney). Retrieved 2008-03-17.
  41. ^ Aislinn Simpson (2008-05-14). "Madeleine McCann 'spotted on plane to Brazil'". London: The Daily Telegraph). Retrieved 2008-05-17.
  42. ^ a b De Beer, Brendan; Copbain, Ian (2008-08-06). "Dutch 'sighting' and efits revealed in McCann police file". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  43. ^ "Madeleine case "lead" played down". BBC News. 7 August 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  44. ^ Karin Östman & Mattias Carlsson (10 October 2009). "Madeleine kan finnas i Sverige". Aftonbladet. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
  45. ^ McNeilly, Hamish (4 March 2010). "Dunedin link to Madeleine case". Otago Daily Times.
  46. ^ McDonald, Greer (3 March 2010). "NZ police keep Madeleine McCann file open".
  47. ^ a b "McCann sighting denied". ITV News. ITV. Retrieved 28 July 2011.
  48. ^ Hartley-parkinson, Richard (28 July 2011). "Indian police take DNA from little girl British and American tourists believe is missing Madeleine". Daily Mail. London.
  49. ^ "NZ police dismiss Madeleine McCann sighting". The New Zealand Herald. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  50. ^ Gordon Rayner (2008-07-07). "Madeleine McCann parents gain access to police files". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-07-07.