Madeleine McCann case: More than 300 phone calls and 170 emails in response to Crimewatch programme
British police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have said they had an “overwhelming response” to an appeal on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme.
Officers suggested that Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in Portugal in 2007 bore hallmarks of a “pre-planned abduction”.
Scotland Yard said it was also looking into possible links to burglaries and bogus charity collections in the area.
It said officers would be following up the lines of inquiry provided by more than 300 phone calls and 170 emails.
Madeleine McCann, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was 3-year-old when she disappeared from her parents’ holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.
Detectives investigating the case released two e-fits of a man seen carrying a child in Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine McCann went missing.
Detective Chief Inspector 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 McCann vanished and one theory was they could have been carrying out reconnaissance.
He said they wanted to track down men seen “lurking suspiciously” near the McCanns’ apartment block.
The Metropolitan Police say their inquiries have led to the timeline and “accepted version of events” surrounding Madeleine McCann’s disappearance being significantly changed.
Andy Redwood said it had been a “revelation moment” when police discovered a man seen by the McCanns’ friend Jane Tanner at 21:15 was almost certainly an innocent British holiday-maker collecting his two-year-old daughter from a nearby crèche.
He said: “Our focus in terms of understanding what happened on the night of 3 May has now given us a shift of emphasis.
“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.”
Crimewatch featured a detailed reconstruction lasting close to 25 minutes and covering events leading up to and surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance.
The film is also to be shown in the Netherlands, Germany and Irish Republic this week as tourists from those countries were known to be in the resort at the time.
Andy Redwood said he would be travelling to the Netherlands and Germany to continue the appeal.
Madeleine McCann’s parents Kate and Gerry told the programme they were “hopeful and optimistic” after the fresh appeal for information.
Kate 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.”
The two e-fit images released are of a man a family had seen with a blond-haired child of 3 or 4, possibly wearing pyjamas, heading away from the McCanns’ holiday apartment.
Andy Redwood said he could be the man who took Madeleine McCann – but there could be an innocent explanation.
He also 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 McCann had disturbed a burglar.
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.
Police have also released e-fit images of two men seen in the area around the time that Madeleine McCann disappeared. Two are of fair-haired men who fit similar descriptions.
Portuguese police shelved their inquiry in 2008 but Scotland Yard began a review of the case in May 2011 and opened a formal investigation in July this year.
Kate McCann described the moment that “panic kicked in” after returning to the apartment to find her daughter missing.
Madeleine McCann and her brother and sister were left in the apartment at 20:30 while her parents dined with friends at a nearby restaurant.
Gerry McCann checked on them at 21:05 and Kate McCann raised the alarm at 22:00.