Saturday, February 25, 2012

Maddie: Irishman Provides Dramatic New Clues

 Daily Mail (appeared in paper edition only)
EXCLUSIVE: Tourist met rude man carrying child in blanket on night Madeleine vanished
January 3, 2008
AN IRISH holidaymaker has spoken publicly for the first time of his disturbing encounter with a man carrying a child wrapped in a blanket on the night Madeleine McCann disappeared.
Now investigators hired by Madeleine's parents hope Martin Smith and his family can provide a crucial breakthrough.
Speaking from his home in Drogheda, Co. Louth, Mr Smith recalled the sighting, which is strikingly similar to one by a friend of the McCanns, Jane Tanner. In hindsight, the retired Mr Smith said, the mans rude behaviour should have aroused his suspicions.
He explained: "The one thing we noted afterwards was that he gave us no greeting.
"My wife Mary remembered afterwards that she asked him, 'Oh, is she asleep?' But he never acknowledged her one way or another.
"He just put his head down and averted his eyes. This is very unusual in a tourist town at such a quiet time of the year."
Their description of the barefoot child and the man, who wore beige trousers, echoes that of Miss Tanner, who said she saw a man carrying a sleeping child away from the McCanns apartment about 9.15pm.
Though the Smith family believe they met an almost identical man closer to 10pm, the coincidence prompted them to contact police after they returned to Ireland. Mr Smith said: "Luz is such a small place and so quiet, we felt a duty to tell police and let them decide if it was important."
Last night, McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said detectives from the Spanish agency Metodo 3 now hoped to speak to the family. "Metodo 3 is being very methodical, working through a number of people they think might be able to help them, and this family will be on their list."
On the night of the disappearance, Mr Smith was dining with his wife in the Dolphin restaurant in Praia Da Luz, where they are frequent visitors.
The couple were with their daughter Aoife, their son Peter and his wife Sile,as well as four grandchildren Tadhg, Cole, Aisling and Eimear.
All nine met the man holding a child but their recollection differs slightly from Miss Tanner's.
"In the image she gave, the man was holding the child forward in his arms. The man we saw had put the child over his shoulders. But Luz was very, very quiet at that time of the year and the likelihood of two young children being carried around like this is very small.

"Also, our timings are a bit different. She saw the man at 9.15pm. We say 9.45or 9.50pm and the sighting was only a five-minute walk from where the child was staying.

"I dont know if this information will help the McCanns. We kept interested in whats going on but we tried to avoid the limelight."
The father of six yesterday said the Irish family would do anything they could to help the McCanns find their missing daughter.
"We have not been contacted by the private detective hired by the McCanns, and have had no contact with the investigating police since May 26 last year.
"But anything we can do to help try to solve it, we will." Recalling the event she witnessed, Mr Smith said it was some time before the family realised they could be star witnesses
"We were out the night it happened. My son and his family were leaving on the Friday and we were going for a family meal. We went home about 9.50pm and we heard nothing at all about Madeleine McCann until the next day.
"I was taking my son Peter to the airport and on my way back, I heard that a kidnapping had happened in the village of Luz.
"We were looking at all the commotion on Sky News and we really felt quite helpless.
"We had two grandchildren with us at the time, aged four and five, and it had a terrible effect on them.
"They all wanted to sleep in the same room as us until we went home on the Wednesday.
"We were home two weeks when my son rang up and asked was he dreaming or did we meet a man carrying a child the night Madeleine was taken. We all remembered that we had the same recollection. I felt we should report it to the police.
"I rang the Portuguese police and they took a statement from me on the phone.Then they asked me to make a statement to gardai, which I did in Drogheda two weeks after the disappearance.
"Two days later, Leicestershire police got on to us and said they wanted to speak to all nine of us.
But we felt there was no point dragging grand children and the whole lot out to Portugal so just my eldest son, Peter, and youngest daughter, Aoife, and I flew to Luz to make a statement.
"The police were fairly busy and the station was pretty typical. They didnt seem to be the most efficient police you ever came across but they are probably no different to police anywhere else.
We were interviewed separately and told them what we saw, and showed them on the map where we met the man and child.
"We spent the whole day there from 10.30am to 7pm with an interpreter.
That day, May 26 last year, was the last time we had any contact with the investigation.I remember clearly because it was my wedding anniversary.
"I told them we went for dinner at the Dolphin Restaurant and then went on to have just one drink in Kelly's bar, just 50 yards away.
"We would normally have stayed out longer but my son and his family were going home the next day.
"As we made our way back to our apartment in Estrella da Luz, we met a guy with a child that appeared to be asleep.
"It looked like a blonde child, and I thought she might be four years old, as she was the same size as my grandchild who was with us.
"It was around 9.55pm and it was getting dark and he was looking downward so I couldnt tell you exactly what he looked like.
"None of us was 100 per cent sure what he was wearing but we all told police he was wearing beige trousers and a darker top.
We all put him in his early 40s. I didnt think he was Portuguese." Insisting he knew chief suspect Robert Murat visually for years, Mr Smith told police the person he saw carrying a child could not be him.
"I told police it was definitely not him because the man wasn't as big as Murat. I think I would have definitely recognised him."