I saw Maddy before she vanished, says paedophile

CONVICTED paedophile Raymond Hewlett has claimed he saw Madeleine McCann twice before she disappeared, it emerged yesterday.

Hewlett, who is being questioned by police, has reportedly told them how he wandered around the Portuguese holiday resort where the McCanns were staying, saw Madeleine, and even remembered the distinctive mark in her right eye.

The 64-year-old, who is terminally ill with throat cancer in a German hospital, has a life-long history of sexually abusing girls and was living less than an hour away from the McCanns' holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, from which Madeleine disappeared days before her fourth birthday in May 2007.

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He is said to have made the latest claims to police who travelled to Germany to question him about a 1975 attack on an eight-year-old.

Hewlett's comments are at odds with his previous claims that he had never been near the Ocean Club complex where the McCanns were staying.

A source close to the investigation said: "He said he had seen her at least two times and had wandered around the complex several times.

"He said he had been so close to Maddy he was able to see the distinctive mark in her right eye where the pupil smears into the iris.

"He didn't say why he had previously denied ever being in Praia da Luz. It's obviously a disturbing development."

Last night, Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for Madeleine's parents, Gerry and Kate, said it was vital Hewlett now spoke to the private investigators hired by the couple to find their daughter.

He said: "If Mr Hewlett has any credible information about Madeleine, it is absolutely imperative that he should speak to the investigators as a priority.

"Mr Hewlett and his representatives must do the right thing and allow the private investigators to do their work."

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Hewlett, a former Scots Guardsman, originally from Todmorden, West Yorkshire, has been jailed several times for sexual offences against young girls, and it is believed that a number of police forces in Britain and Ireland have been trying to track him down.

He became a suspect in Madeleine's abduction after it emerged he was at a nearby campsite at the time. British holidaymakers said he had been "obsessed" with the case.

A West Yorkshire police spokesman said: "Our understanding is that no questioning of Raymond Hewlett about Madeleine McCann was undertaken by our officers, as that has nothing to do with our case."