A Sunderland couple told police they saw Madeleine McCann 28 hours after
Richard and Susan McCluskey reported seeing a "lifeless" child of about
Maddie's age being carried by a drunk-looking man who was with a
distressed woman, who they were "almost certain" was her mum Kate.
The Portuguese case files, released this week more than a year after the
youngster disappeared, showed that dad-of-three Mr McCluskey made the
claims in a second statement a number of months after the alleged
sighting in the Algarve.
Portuguese police investigated the claim, and believed the couple were
Ukrainians with a blonde daughter of Maddie's age.
Mrs McCann and her husband Gerry, from Leicestershire, denied having any
involvement in the disappearance, and had their "arguido" official
suspects status lifted last month.
The potential sighting of Maddie by the McCluskeys, from South Hylton,
was one of many reported to Portuguese police.
They were all investigated but came to nothing.
However, Mr and Mrs McCluskey said they have never had any response to
the information provided in their statements, and would like to have
been told it had been eliminated to give them peace of mind.
Their account of what they saw and said in police statements has never
The Sunderland holidaymakers were in the resort of Alvor, about 20
minutes drive along the coast from Praia la Luz, where the McCann family
Mr and Mrs McCluskey were on their way back to their apartment from an
Irish bar in the early hours of May 5, 2007, when they saw a white
Transit-style flatbed truck stop in the middle of the road.
Mr McCluskey, 62, said a man got out and staggered about 200 yards to a
gate, carrying a child of about three to four years old over his left
shoulder, and that there was "no movement at all" in the youngster.
They were aware a child was missing in the area and thought the
situation was strange so took down the van registration, with Mrs
McCluskey, 50, writing it on her hand before they found some paper.
As they were doing so a woman ran towards the van, "clearly in
Mr McCluskey told the Echo she looked like actress Faye Dunaway and
added: "She was white as a ghost and shaking", and did not reply when
asked if she needed help.
In a police statement he said a Portuguese couple came by and said the
man and woman acting strangely had earlier been in an argument.
He reported the van's details to police in Portugal, and only made a
statement after being contacted by Northumbria Police after getting home
Mr McCluskey said he was also contacted by Interpol to provide a drawing
of the area as described in his statement.
On September 12, he gave a second statement at Farringdon Hall Police
Station, which read: "The events of the past week or so, with the
McCanns being very much in the news, have triggered my memory in
relation to the incident.
"In my original statement I described a distressed female who ran down a
road towards a white van I had described.
"Having viewed news footage of Mrs McCann I am now almost certain she is
the female I described as being in a distressed state.
"I say this because of her slight build, high cheekbones and her eyes
He added: "I've agonised for days over whether or not to contact police
about this because it is a terrible thing to accuse somebody of.
"It had just not crossed my mind that the child's parents could in some
way be involved in her disappearance."
Also in his second statement, made after watching news coverage of Kate
and Gerry McCann returning to Britain from Portugal, Mr McCluskey added:
"Another thing which has played on my mind is the coverage of Mr McCann
walking off the aeroplane holding one of his young children.
"The way he was holding the child over his left shoulder reminded me of
the man carrying the child from the white van in Portugal.
"Although I could not describe the male I'd seen in Portugal because he
had his back to me, it was the particular way Mr McCann held the child
that made me think."
Sightings flooded in from around the world
Possible sightings of Madeleine McCann flooded into the Algarve police
incident room from around the world.
A little girl calling herself Maddie and claiming to have been taken
from her mum on holiday was seen in Amsterdam. A shop worker claimed she
was told the child was with a French travelling circus.
A report was filed on June 18, 2007, but it is not clear what action was
The morning after Maddie's disappearance, CCTV in a service station near
Praia de Luz captured a young blond girl hand in hand with a woman. Kate
and Gerry McCann were shown the images and said it was not their
On May 4 last year a witness called Malcolm Smith saw a "very upset"
little girl wearing a pink top, with a tall man at the Moonfleet Manor
Hotel in Fleet, near Weymouth, Dorset.
A Portuguese woman called UK free phone police line Crimestoppers to
report seeing a child who looked "just like" Madeleine with two women at
a Lisbon subway station on May 5 or 6.
A woman contacted Leicestershire Police to report seeing Madeleine at
Gatwick Airport on May 8.
Mary Jones said she was "convinced" the child she saw – accompanied by a
woman whose dark bob haircut which "could well have been a wig" – was
the missing girl.
She speculated that Madeleine could have been at Gatwick en route for
Marrakech in Morocco.
Between May 5 and 17 last year British police logged sightings in Spain
from Marbella, Huelva, Salou, Valencia, Pampaneira, Vera, Riviera del
Sol and Guardamar del Segura.
The Finnish embassy in Estonia passed on a report that a woman clutching
a young girl "very much alike" Madeleine had been seen in Riga's old
town on July 3 last year.
The police files also show that Kate McCann begged Portuguese detectives
to end her "torture" by keeping her informed about the search for
However, two strikingly similar e-fit pictures of suspects given to
police in the first week of the hunt for Maddie were never made public.
Last month prosecutors announced they were shelving the case, although
it can be reopened if credible new evidence comes to light.
Probe into paedophile ring lead
Police intelligence, suggesting Madeleine McCann may have been snatched
for a Belgian paedophile ring, is being investigated by private
detectives for the little girl's parents.
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.
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 and Germany, but ruled that all
but the German intelligence showed "lack of credibility".
McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "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 out."