Maddie case looks into sacked hotel employee

By Fiona Govan, Sam Marsden

Madeleine McCann.
Madeleine McCann.

Portuguese police are said to be investigating a new lead in the Madeleine McCann case, suspecting a man who died in a tractor accident four years ago of being her kidnapper.

The new line of inquiry focuses on a former employee of the Ocean Club, the Algarve complex where the child's family were staying when she disappeared more than six years ago.

The unnamed man, who died aged 40 in a tractor accident in 2009, may have been motivated by revenge after being sacked by the hotel resort, Portugal's Correio da Manha newspaper said, citing police sources.

Detectives from Portugal's investigative Policia Judiciaria (PJ) reportedly identified him as a main suspect after telephone records showed he had been in the vicinity of the holiday apartment Madeleine went missing on May 3, 2007.

However, he was apparently not on a list of current and former Ocean Club employees handed to police during the initial investigation and therefore was not questioned.

Officers have questioned his widow and are said to be conducting searches for Madeleine's body based on the evidence, according to the paper.

"Police suspicions about the former Ocean Club employee arose during the review of the case carried out by a PJ team from Porto," Correio da Manha said. "This was the strongest new lead presented to state prosecutors which led to the investigation being reopened."

The report continued: "The motives that could have caused the ex-employee to kidnap the youngster are still being investigated. The suspect could have taken the child to commit a sex crime before killing her. But he could also have committed the kidnap as a form of retaliation against the Ocean Club."

Scotland Yard began its own review of the case in May 2011 and opened a formal investigation in July this year. A new BBC Crimewatch appeal, including the issue of E-fits of two possible suspects, was broadcast earlier this month.

The Metropolitan Police team has singled out 41 "persons of interest" and asked officials in 31 different countries to help them identify the owners of every mobile telephone logged in Praia da Luz at the time the child disappeared.

The British detectives have focused part of their efforts on carrying out the first detailed analysis of the mountain of telephone data collected by Portuguese officers during the original inquiry.

Madeleine was nearly four when she vanished from her family's holiday apartment in the Ocean Club complex while her parents, Kate and Gerry, dined with friends in a tapas restaurant nearby.

Clarence Mitchell, the spokesman for the McCann family, said: "We are aware of reports in the Portuguese press. They are pure speculation and the McCanns are not going to give a running commentary on every new report."

Scotland Yard and the PJ declined to comment on the report.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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