British paedophile was living only an hour away from Madeleine's resort

22 May 2009
The Scotsman
Shan Ross

A British paedophile with links to Scotland is the new focus in the hunt for Madeleine McCann. Raymond Hewlett, 64, a former Scots Guardsman, was believed to be living in Tavira, an hour's drive from the Portuguese resort of Praia de Luz, where Madeleine disappeared on 3 May 2007. Hewlett has a record of sex attacks on young girls and is wanted by police in the UK and Ireland. He has been on the run since Madeleine's disappearance.

Detectives went to Germany last night to interview him in a hospital where he is receiving treatment for cancer, it is reported.

In January 2002, detectives issued two photographs of Hewlett when he was thought to be in hiding in Ireland while wanted over the murder and sexual assault of Lesley Molsteed, 11, in 1975. One picture showed him on holiday in Forres in 1997, when he tried to join the Findhorn Foundation, the new-age community near Forres. He worked in the Royal Hotel in Forres for two weeks before moving to Aberdeen with his then girlfriend, a German. He is known to have lived and worked in Scotland throughout the late 1990s and lived in communes and bed and breakfasts.

Hewlett has been jailed three times for the kidnap and attempted rape of girls and appeared on a Crimestoppers list of Most Wanted paedophiles.

In September 1972, he abducted a 12-year-old girl and took her on to moors near his home in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. He incapacitated her with a rag soaked in paint thinners and she only narrowly escaped being raped.

In 1978 Hewlett attacked another girl, this time putting a gun to her back, but she managed to convince him that visitors were arriving imminently and he let her go.

Hewlett was questioned over the murder in 1975 of Lesley Molseed, following the release of Stefan Kiszko, who was wrongly imprisoned for the crime. Another man, Ronald Castree, was eventually convicted of the girl's murder in 2007.

A source close to the investigation said Hewlett was wanted for questioning by police in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Leicestershire, as well as by the Republic of Ireland's Gardai.

The alarm about Hewlett was raised by Alan and Cindy Thompson, who met him while on holiday in Portugal. He was living with his wife and six children in a converted Dodge truck, moving from campsite to campsite. They described a conversation in which Hewlett said he was approached by some "gypsy tourists" offering to buy his daughter just before Madeleine went missing.

Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine's parent's, said: "The investigators searching for Madeleine are currently looking into the circumstances surrounding these claims. "Mr Hewlett is an individual of interest to the Madeleine investigation," he said. "However, I would stress that it's just one line of inquiry among several."

The McCanns have never given up hope of finding their daughter. Earlier this month they marked the second anniversary of her disappearance by releasing two new pictures to help the hunt. One was a computer-aided image of what she would look like today, aged six. The other was a detailed sketch of a suspect seen acting suspiciously near their Algarve holiday complex.

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