DETECTIVES investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann are asking for the public’s help to identify a man in an appeal they say is of “vital importance”.
Two e-fit images, believed to be of the same man, which will feature in tonight’s episode of the BBC programme Crimewatch, have been drawn up based on statements and descriptions from two witnesses who saw the man in the town centre of Praia da Luz, Portugal.
The sightings are from the evening of Thursday, 3 May, 2007 – the night that three-year-old Madeleine went missing.
Work by detectives has given them a far greater understanding of the times when the abduction could have taken place and this has made the statements from the two witnesses far more significant, Scotland Yard said.
One of the main priorities for the investigation is being able to identify the man who is being described, police added.
The witnesses have described the man in the e-fit as being white, aged between 20 and 40, clean shaven, with short brown hair, and of a medium build and medium height.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior investigating officer, said that while this was far from being the only line of inquiry, it was of “vital importance”.
“While this man may or may not be the key to unlocking this investigation, tracing and speaking to him is of vital importance to us,” he said.
“We have witnesses placing him in the resort area around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.”
DCI Redwood went on: “This is far from our only line of inquiry and there will be e-fits released of other sightings as well, who we are equally keen to trace. These people were seen on the day of Madeleine’s disappearance and the days leading up to it,” he said.
He added that detectives had been able to “make massive steps forward” by drawing together all the material gathered in the case to date and reviewing it as a whole.
“We continue to put Madeleine at the heart of our investigation, and I would urge people to watch Crimewatch tonight and if you can help identify this man or have any information about our new appeal points please contact us.
“Praia da Luz is a popular holiday destination for many nationalities, so our requests for help need to be repeated in many different countries. I will be travelling to Holland, Germany and Ireland to seek the support of the public there.
“If you were in and around the Praia da Luz resort on Thursday, 3 May, 2007, but you have not yet spoken to police, and you think you may have information, please pass it on.
“I would also like to ask for the help of the local community in Praia da Luz. Portugal is a key country for us to trace any outstanding witnesses and our appeals will be repeated there.
“We still have a lot of material to investigate and much work to do,” DCI Redwood said.
“Your information could be the vital piece we need to finally answer what happened to Madeleine.”
In a clip from tonight’s Crimewatch, released by Scotland Yard, Madeleine’s mother Kate McCann says: “We’re not the ones that has done something wrong here. It’s the person who’s gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family.”