Madeleine McCann suspect Euclides Monteiro was quizzed about a string of sex assaults linked to her disappearance before he died, his widow revealed last night.

Luisa Rodrigues said Portuguese police investigating Madeleine's abduction questioned the convicted burglar about a spate of sex attacks at Algarve holiday villas in 2008, the year after the three-year-old vanished.

She claimed DNA tests had put the recovering heroin addict, a former worker at the Ocean Club holiday complex in Praia da Luz that Madeleine vanished from seven years ago yesterday, in the clear. And she said police never asked Monteiro, who died in a 2009 tractor accident, about Madeleine.

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British police heading a separate investigation into Madeleine's disappearance are trying to identify a serial sex attacker who may have struck at least 18 times in Algarve holiday resorts from 2004.

Miss Rodrigues, who admitted earlier this year that two female Portuguese detectives had questioned her last October, broke her silence on Portuguese state broadcaster RTP.

Insisting that he had gone straight after finishing a five-year prison sentence in 1999, she said: "Euclides was summonsed to the police station in Portimao, the same one heading the Madeleine McCann investigation, in 2008.

"He was told they were looking for a tall black man who had broken into country homes and sexually assaulted children inside.

"He denied any involvement in the indecent assaults. Police did DNA tests at the time and ruled him out as a suspect and apologised for troubling him.

"They never mentioned Madeleine McCann. Until the day he died the police never contacted him again."

- Mail On Sunday