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Madeleine McCann: Police reveal 'pre-planned abduction' theory

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Media captionDet Ch Insp Andy Redwood said Madeleine could have been abducted later than first thought

Police say one reading of Madeleine McCann's disappearance in Portugal in 2007 is that it has "all the hallmarks of a pre-planned abduction".

Scotland Yard detectives also said they were looking at burglaries and charity collectors in the area.

Earlier, detectives released two e-fits of a man seen carrying a child towards the beach in Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine went missing.

But they have ruled out a previous sighting of another man by a friend.

Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was three years old when she disappeared from her parents' holiday apartment on 3 May 2007.

Police have been revealing their latest findings in the search for her on BBC One's Crimewatch programme.

Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood, the senior Metropolitan Police investigating officer, said a number of men had been seen by witnesses in the area on the day Madeleine vanished and one theory was they could have been carrying out reconnaissance.

Image caption Madeleine's mother Kate made an emotional appeal on Crimewatch

He said they wanted to track down men seen "lurking suspiciously" near the McCanns' apartment block.

DCI Redwood said it was a "revelation moment" when police discovered that the man seen by McCanns' friend Jane Tanner at 9.15pm was almost certainly an innocent British holiday-maker collecting his two-year-old daughter from a nearby creche.

He said: "Our focus in terms of understanding what happened on the night of 3 May has now given us a shift of emphasis. We are almost certain that the man seen by Jane Tanner is not Madeleine's abductor.

"It takes us through to a position at 10pm when we see another man who is walking towards the ocean, close by to the apartment, with a young child in his arms."

'Overwhelming response'

Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry told Crimewatch they were "hopeful and optimistic" after police made a fresh appeal for information.

Mrs McCann said: "We're not the ones that have done something wrong here. It's the person who's gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family."

In a Crimewatch update, DCI Redwood said there had been an "overwhelming response" to the programme with hundreds of calls.

He said: "We have had a number of calls from people who were in the resort at the time, which confirms to me the value of what we're doing."

Earlier, detectives releasing two e-fit images of a man said a family had seen him with a blond-haired child of three or four, possibly wearing pyjamas, heading away from the McCanns' holiday apartment.

The witnesses said the man was white, 20 to 40 years old and of medium build. He had short brown hair, was clean-shaven and of medium height, they added.

DCI Redwood said he could be the man who took Madeleine - but there could be an innocent explanation.

He said there had been a four-fold increase in the number of burglaries in the area between January and May 2007 and one possible scenario was that Madeleine had disturbed a burglar.

"Windows were a feature, as well as burglaries taking place in the evening," he said.

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Media captionThe appeal has generated interest across Europe, as Richard Bilton reports

Two incidents had occurred in the McCanns' block - one attempted burglary and one actual burglary - in the 17 days before Madeleine went missing, he said.

There had also been an intruder in a property within the holiday complex where a British family with two children were staying the year before, he added.

Detailed reconstruction

Police are also looking at possible bogus charity collectors operating in the area at the time and have released two e-fit images of Portuguese men they would like to identify.

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Media captionFootage from the Crimewatch reconstruction has been released

One is of a man aged 40 to 45, who knocked on the door of the apartment where the McCanns were due to stay on 25 April or 26 April between 2.30pm and 3pm, saying he was a charity collector.

The other, aged 25 to 30, approached a property on the Rua do Ramalhete, near the Ocean Club, at around 4pm on 3 May.

Police have also released e-fit images of two men seen in the area around the time that Madeleine disappeared. Two are of fair-haired men who fit similar descriptions.

One is of a man who was seen twice by the same witness near the flat where the McCanns were staying. He was 30 to 35, thin, with short hair, shaving spots on his face and was wearing a black leather jacket.

The Crimewatch appeal also featured a detailed reconstruction lasting close to 25 minutes and covering events leading up to and surrounding Madeleine's disappearance.

In the programme, Mrs McCann described the moment that "panic kicked in" after returning to the apartment to find her daughter missing.

The Portuguese police who were originally investigating Madeleine's disappearance shelved their inquiry in 2008.

Scotland Yard began a review of the case in May 2011 and opened a formal investigation in July this year.

As a result, according to the Met police, the timeline and "accepted version of events" surrounding Madeleine's disappearance have significantly changed.

Madeleine and her brother and sister were left in the apartment at 8.30pm while her parents dined with friends at a nearby restaurant. Mr McCann checked on them at 9.05pm and Mrs McCann raised the alarm at 10pm.

Image caption An image (right) showing how Madeleine might have looked aged nine

DCI Redwood said he would travel to the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland to seek public support there and would repeat the appeals in Portugal - "a key country for us to trace any outstanding witnesses".

In Germany, a special edition of the crime programme Aktenzeichen XY - Ungeloest, which is translated as "File XY - Unsolved", will be aired on Wednesday night and will feature an appeal for information from Mr and Mrs McCann.

Thursday 3 May 2007: Timeline

  • 20:30 Kate and Gerry McCann leave their apartment to have dinner at a Tapas bar
  • 21:05 Gerry McCann checks on Madeleine and her siblings
  • 22:00 A man is seen carrying a child wearing pyjamas heading towards the ocean
  • 22:00 Kate McCann raises the alarm that Madeleine has gone missing

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