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I am NOT Maddy

Original Source: MIRROR: 27 SEPTEMBER 2007
By Ryan Parry And Graham Brough 27/09/2007
I am NOT Maddy

This is the little blonde girl the world desperately hoped was Madeleine McCann.

Sadly, the youngster who looked so like Madeleine when snapped in Morocco by a tourist, was yesterday revealed to be Bouchra Benaissa, three.

Kate and Gerry McCann were devastated as their glimmer of hope was dashed. And Bouchra's mum Hafida said: "I'm sorry a little girl is missing. But this is my daughter Bouchra, not Madeleine." The mystery girl's identity was solved as The Mirror traced Bouchra's family to their ramshackle home in the hills near Tetuan. There, Hafida was found carrying the toddler on her back - just as she had in the now-famous picture.

Her husband Ahmed said: "We have a happy family We did not know of this girl Madeleine. It is sad she is missing, any family would be sad to lose a child.

"I can see why people thought my Bouchra looked like this little girl. I just hope she is found."

The picture taken by Spanish tourist Clara Torres raised hopes because Bouchra's striking blonde hair and pale colouring stood in such stark contrast to the dark skins of those around her.

But her family are ethnic Berbers - who because of an ancient blonde gene often have fair children. Ahmed, 39, and Hafida, 38, were astounded to learn the world's media was looking for them.

The family, which includes three other daughters Mariam, 11, Souhaila, 12 and 16-year-old Aziza, live in a remote farming community and have heard nothing of Madeleine, who vanished from the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz 147 days ago.

Hafida said: "We are amazed by all the attention. We are farmers, we grow olives, raise chickens. We have a simple life." Ahmed added: "We did not know about Madeleine in the first place. We have had no contact from any police or the authorities in Morocco."

The family have six cows in all, several goats, sheep, a small olive grove and a vegetable patch. Their functional threebedroom house has no TV or other electrical goods or water, just a woodburning stove for cooking and heat.

Bouchra was pictured clinging to Hafida as the family lugged several large bags down a road in Zinat on August 31.

They were helping a woman relative who had been staying with them to carry belongings to a nearby bus stop so she could return to Marrakech.

Clara took the picture from some distance as she passed in a a car so Bouchra's features were not entirely clear.

But in the grainy image she looked eerily like Madeleine as she craned her neck over her mum's shoulder.

There are about about 19million Berbers in Morocco - 30 per cent of the population. Unusually for an African people, they have a strong blonde gene - possibly due to intermarriage with Europeans during Roman times.

As a result, there are numerous fairhaired children among the Berbers, especially in northern Morocco.

Some believe this explains why there have been four sightings of Madeleine in Morocco.

They say it is likely the suspicions of Western tourists have been mistakenly aroused because they wrongly think it is unusual to see a blonde child with an otherwise dark-skinned family.


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