Girl seen in town not Madeleine, say police

Last updated 05:00 05/01/2013
Kate and Gerry McCann
NOT GIVING UP: Kate and Gerry McCann with a computer-generated image of how their missing daughter Madeleine might look now.
Madeleine McCann, aged three
MISSING: Photo of Madeleine McCann, aged three, before she disappeared in 2007.

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Queenstown police said yesterday that the reported sighting of Madeleine McCann on New Year's Eve was not the missing British girl.

Detective Sergeant Brian Cameron said police identified the young girl spotted in Queenstown and were "absolutely satisfied" she was not Madeleine.

He declined to give any details of the identified child, saying only that this was not the first time that someone had contacted police remarking on the similarity between the two girls.

Police started investigating on New Year's Eve after a report of a possible sighting of Madeleine by a retailer who became suspicious of a man and a young fair-headed girl who bore a striking resemblance to the missing girl.

Police were alerted to the possible sighting late in the afternoon on New Year's Eve and 70 police officers patrolling the resort were told to keep an eye out for the man and little girl, but they were not found.

The Southland Times was alerted to the sighting and investigation on New Year's Eve but delayed publishing the story until police had the opportunity to follow up on the lead in case publicity scuppered the investigation.

Three-year-old Madeleine went missing from the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007 while on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry, and siblings Sean and Amelie.

The woman who reported the sighting told The Southland Times she immediately thought of Madeleine when the blonde girl came into her store with a man on New Year's Eve.

"She had the same eye defect as Madeleine. Only a very small percentage of the population have that and I was just staring at it the whole time to the point I forgot what they had purchased.

"As soon as they left, I looked up an image online to see which eye it was and it was the same eye," she said.

Madeleine has a blemish on her right eye called a coloboma of the iris. Figures suggest it happens in about 0.007 per cent of the population.

"My only reason for alerting anybody is because if my little girl was missing and if someone on the other side of the world was seen who bore any considerable resemblance, I would want it ruled out."

It is not the first time a possible sighting of Madeleine has been reported in New Zealand.

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In December 2007, a CCTV video taken from The Warehouse in south Dunedin showed a girl who looked like the missing child being led into the store by a man. More than two years later, Dunedin police identified the girl and confirmed she was not Madeleine.

- The Southland Times


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