NETHERLANDS:A GIRL who spoke English, called herself Maddy and claimed to have been snatched from her mother while on holiday was seen in Amsterdam around the time that Madeleine McCann disappeared, according to the case file compiled by Portuguese police.
The child, who is said to have closely resembled the missing girl, apparently spoke to an Amsterdam shop assistant, who alerted local police. Those officers contacted the Portuguese authorities.
The file, made public on Monday, does not explain what action, if any, was taken by Portuguese officers. Nor does it explain why police decided not to make public two strikingly similar e-fit images, compiled with the help of two people who were at the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, from which Madeleine disappeared in May last year.
Among the many reported eyewitness sightings from around the world at that time was that of Anna Stam, who gave a statement to Dutch police in which she said that she had spoken to a girl aged three or four who had entered her party shop. She said that the girl came into the shop in early May last year with a man and a woman and two other children.
The man - who "did not look like a nice person" - may have been speaking Portuguese but the woman spoke in English and told Stam they had a small circus in France.
Stam (41) said she was at the back of the shop when the girl asked in English: "Do you know where my mummy is?" Stam replied that her mother was a little further back in the store but the child said: "She is not my mummy. She is a stranger, she took me from my mummy." Stam said that when she asked the girl where she last saw her mother, she said: "They took me from my holiday." Her statement added: "I asked where that holiday was but the little girl was incapable of telling me. I even asked if she was on a camping site or in a hotel but she was unable to say." Stam said she thought the child looked "very much like" Madeleine apart from the colour of her hair, which was dark brown.
The report was sent to the Portuguese authorities on June 18th last year but it is not clear from the Portuguese file whether any further action was taken. Stam could not immediately be contacted last night to elaborate on her statement.
Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' spokesman, said the couple had not been made aware of the details of the reported Dutch sighting, nor been told what action, if any, the Portuguese police took.
"It is a disgrace that we have been kept in the dark about the details of this sighting, and perhaps many other sightings, for the last 15 months," he said.
He added that the private detectives working for the McCanns will now make more inquiries in Amsterdam.
With publication of the police files came disclosure of the existence of two e-fits, one compiled with the help of a British tourist, the second with the assistance of a British resident.
Both men said that they had seen an individual acting suspiciously in the area shortly before Madeleine disappeared. Lawyers for Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, are expected to ask why they were never published. The file does not make it clear whether police identified the individual and ruled him out of their inquiry.
- (Guardian service)