Experts have pointed out flaws in a young woman’s claims she’s missing British child Madeleine McCann – but it has done little to quell public support of her mission to get a DNA test.
Julia Wendell, from Poland, went viral globally after launching an Instagram account named @iammadeleinemcann, which she has used to share “evidence” that she is the missing girl.
The 21-year-old has since shared a string of photographs she claims prove her likeness to Madeleine and her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.
Madeleine, from Leicestershire in the UK, went missing from her bed in a holiday apartment in the Portuguese resort town Praia da Luz on the evening of May 3, 2007, while her parents were having tapas at a restaurant metres away from their villa.
She was 3 years old, meaning if she is alive today, she would be 19.
Julia now claims a member of the McCann family has asked her to take a DNA test, however this has not been confirmed.
Despite some similarities between the pair, neither London’s Metropolitan Police or the Find Madeleine campaign have issued statements about Julia’s claim.
Previous updates on the case have been shared by the Met and the McCanns, potentially suggesting that Julia’s claim is not being treated as a serious possibility.
However, support for Julia online is high, as many plead with authorities to take the young woman’s claims seriously.
“Call me crazy but I do think that that girl could be Maddie ... the police should at least check her claims,” one woman wrote on Twitter.
“Why don’t they just do the DNA test and find out either way. Her story definitely matches in parts,” another added.
It’s the “evidence” that appears to support Julia’s claims that has the general public so invested – including her most recent update stating her family had “shunned” her.
In her latest Instagram post, Julia can be seen breaking down in tears as she explains her family have called her to express their disapproval.
“My grandma called me,” she says in the clip.
“She said that I’m a very bad person, that she doesn’t want to meet me anymore. She started to shout at me.
“I asked her for a DNA test with her or with my parents and she will not take a DNA test with me and I can’t say she has to do it.”
She said her family said she is “not normal” and labelled her “horrible” for giving “hope to the McCanns”.
The revelation came during a live chat with an unidentified social media user, who branded her family’s refusal to take a DNA test or supply her birth certificate “fishy” and “concerning”.
Julia agreed, explaining through tears she “asked” for proof she was their child, but they made her “feel bad” – adding the situation has left her feeling “scared and alone” and revealing her relationship with her partner is suffering too.
“I am alone. My boyfriend wants to leave me too – because of this case,” she said.
In a separate post, she also shared a baby photo her grandma supplied in response to her identity questions, but said she struggled to accept its legitimacy.
“My grandma sent me two pics but well, I don’t see faces clearly,” she concluded.
Other details in Julia’s claims that have caught attention online include her apparent likeness to the youngster.
In one video, Julia showed marks on her body that are similar to Maddie’s, helpfully adding red circles to illustrate her point.
Another side-by-side image she cites as “evidence” shows her similar facial structure.
Perhaps the most powerful image is one showing Julia with what appears to be a similar eye defect to the one missing Maddie also has.
In Maddie’s case, this was caused by an extremely rare condition coloboma in her right eye, which police had hoped for years would help identify her.
Julia told followers she’s not looking for viral fame and “truly believes” she is missing Maddie – but many internet sleuths are rightly sceptical.
One detail interesting followers is the fact Julia has been identified as having different surnames: Faustyna, Wendell and Wandelt.
One Reddit thread titled “Thoughts on Julia Faustyna” asked users for their respective opinions on the legitimacy of Julia’s claims which received mixed views.
“I just can’t see it. I mean don’t get me wrong a lot of things make sense and she’s definitely been through some sh*t but I just can’t see it being true,” one said.
“I feel like there is definitely a possibility. There are too many similarities to be a coincidence,” another added.
As one said: “She cannot possibly be Maddie because she is not of British heritage. Just by looking at her features I can tell you that.”
The last official update on the Madeleine McCann case came in 2020 when German and Portuguese investigators stated they suspected Maddie was killed by convicted sex predator Christian Brueckner.
Brueckner was charged with three counts of aggravated rape and two counts of sexual abuse of children in October last year.
The alleged offences span a 17-year period between 2000 and 2017, The Sun reported at the time. He has not been charged with any offence in relation to Maddie’s disappearance.
Despite extensive searches and numerous police investigations, Maddie’s body has never been found.
Kate and Gerry, now both 54, recently pledged to “never give up” on their quest to find their missing daughter – adding they were entering their 16th year without her with “continued determination and positivity”.
The couple also have 17-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. It’s estimated the probe for Maddie has cost £13 million (approximately $25 million) to date.