Scotland Yard and other sources passed on tips about a
Belgian pervert gang to Algarve police but they believed
they were not credible and ruled them out.
Police intelligence suggesting Madeleine McCann may
have been snatched to order for a Belgian paedophile
ring is being urgently investigated by private
detectives for the little girl's parents today.
Scotland Yard passed on a report from an informant who
said a photograph of the child on holiday in Portugal
was taken and passed to a "purchaser'' in Belgium days
before she vanished, official case files have revealed.
The information was contained in an email from the
Metropolitan Police's CO14 clubs and vice intelligence
unit included in a massive dossier of evidence made
public this week.
Portuguese police pursued the lead with Interpol, which
gathered further reports from Belgium, the UK, Finland
But detective Paulo Rebelo, head of the Madeleine
inquiry, ruled that all but the German intelligence
showed "lack of credibility'' and ordered that the
Scotland Yard tip-off should be filed.
The Metropolitan Police email read: "Intelligence
suggests that a paedophile ring in Belgium made an order
for a young girl three days before Madeleine McCann was
"Somebody connected to this group saw Maddie, took a
photograph of her and sent it to Belgium, the purchaser
agreed that the girl was suitable and Maddie was
The source of the information was anonymous and it is
unclear how reliable it is.
The files show the email was sent to Leicestershire
Police on March 4 this year -- but it was apparently not
forwarded to Portuguese detectives until April 21.
Belgium has something of a reputation for paedophilia
after unemployed electrician Marc Dutroux (47) was
jailed for life in 2004 after being convicted of
kidnapping, raping and murdering young girls.
A friend of Kate and Gerry McCann, both 40, from
Rothley, Leicestershire, said the couple's private
detectives were taking the possible involvement of
Belgian paedophiles very seriously.
"Trafficking into Belgium forms a very strong part of
their investigations, as does trafficking into North
Africa,'' the friend said.
"There is definitive hard evidence that this is very
much alive and happening, and they have looked into the
fact that someone was targeting children and they may
well have been stealing to order.''
McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell refused to
comment on "sensitive'' information found in the
Portuguese police case files.
He said: "Clearly any information of that nature Kate
and Gerry would hope that the Portuguese police in
conjunction with Interpol have acted to the absolute
best of their ability in following this up."
"The private investigators, as with all the other
sightings and all the other information, will be
pursuing this line as an absolute priority to establish
if it has been fully investigated and properly ruled
"They have got some of the information already from
their lawyers and investigators and they are waiting to
hear from them what is legitimate, what is promising and
what is not."
"They are frustrated by the delays and the mistakes that
"They have learned an awful lot about this kind of
thing, and God forbid she has fallen foul of any of
This is not the first time Belgium has cropped up in the
search for Madeleine -- police investigated a sighting
of a girl who looked like the missing child on the
border with Holland last August.
A child therapist spotted a young blonde girl at a
service station near the town of Tongeren.
Detectives carried out DNA tests on a bottle of
milkshake that the child had been drinking from but the
tests were inconclusive and the sighting was later
The McCanns' private detectives are also intensifying
their focus on Amsterdam after it emerged that a second
witness had reported seeing Madeleine in the Dutch city.
Hannie Wiechmann (71) called police after seeing a young
child she believed to be the missing girl in the second
week of May last year.
She told the Dutch newspaper Metro she "just knew'' it
was Madeleine because of her eyes and her "unequally-cut
fringe'' and dyed hair.
But officers dismissed her concerns -- and when she
called British police to report the sighting they failed
to take her details, she claimed.
This followed the revelation that in early May last year
a shop assistant in Amsterdam spoke to a little girl
called "Maddie'' who said she had been taken from her
mother while on holiday.
The McCanns' team of private investigators were looking
"very seriously'' at the possible Dutch connection to
Madeleine's disappearance, Mr Mitchell said.
Dutch police refused to comment on the matter, referring
inquiries to the Portuguese authorities.
The police files also revealed yesterday that Mrs McCann
begged Portuguese detectives to end her "torture'' by
keeping her informed about developments in the
investigation into her daughter's disappearance.
Madeleine was nearly four when she vanished from her
family's holiday flat in the Algarve resort of Praia da
Luz on May 3 last year.
On July 21 Portuguese prosecutors announced they were
shelving the case, although it can be reopened if
credible new evidence comes to light.
At the same time the McCanns and Algarve resident Robert
Murat were told they were no longer "arguidos'', or
formal suspects, in the investigation.
- Sam Marsden