Are you delivering my new daughter?

8 August 2009
Daily Telegraph
Charles Miranda

``ARE you here to deliver my new daughter?'' This was the compelling question that sparked a dramatic new twist in the hunt for missing British toddler Madeleine McCann -- one that could bring investigators to Australia. Yesterday detectives revealed the precise words spoken by a woman with an Aussie accent to a British man in Barcelona three days after then four-year-old Maddie disappeared -- apparently having been snatched from a holiday apartment in Portugal in May 2007. Earlier it had emerged the mystery Australian woman -- who detectives are now trying to find -- was approached by a British businessman outside a bar in the marina area of Barcelona in Spain, 72 hours after Madeleine disappeared.

The 41-year-old man, who was in Spain on a stag weekend, had seen her pacing up and down the marina for about 10 minutes before he approached her to see if she was OK. She then asked him: ``Are you here to deliver my new daughter?'' He was bemused but she continued: ``Have you got my daughter? Have you got her? Have you got the child?''

The woman -- described as agitated but well-groomed and a Posh Beckham look-alike, who had an Australian accent but was also fluent in Spanish -- realised her mistake and walked off.

There have been sightings of Madeleine all over Europe in that time but now police have said it was a real possibility that the little girl was smuggled into Australia on a yacht. ``It's entirely possible, it's entirely possible and we will go there if ... I'll assess the information that is now coming in and if there is any significant lines of inquiry we will do that,'' Dave Edgar, who is leading the investigation into her disappearance, said yesterday.

Mr Edgar was commenting after releasing a police sketch of a woman in her mid-30s, about 138cm tall and with short brown hair. Detectives yesterday confirmed the Australian woman was potentially significant to the McCann case but stopped short of branding her a kidnapping suspect.

The new British witness who spoke to the woman only came forward six weeks ago but police have described him as credible and said that his explanation for only now coming forward was acceptable. Mr Edgar said the McCann case files already had a number of Australians who believed they had seen Madeleine during their travels about Europe or Aussies who believed they had seen her on their local Australian streets.

The reports have come in from almost all states and Mr Edgar said those who had called him before should now call again.

What happened to Madeleine?

The theories

1. The family was stalked on holiday while in Portugal and Madeleine was stolen and sold to a childless couple. The latest lead, suggesting an Australian woman may have been expecting such a delivery when a British man by chance approached her, reinforces this theory. Result: Strongest lead, still open

2. Portuguese and UK police are probing reports two people were seen carrying a bundle to Praia da Luz harbour at 6am the day after Maddie vanished. The theory is she was smuggled offshore. Police have not ruled out she could have been taken as far as Australia. Result: Scenario of renewed interest

3. She was snatched by an opportunist paedophile ring trawling the popular resort, who had spotted the McCann children. Theory given weight by revelations convicted sex fiend Raymond Hewlett was in the area at the time. Result: Theory still open

4. Parents Kate and Gerry McCann wanted to have a good night with friends and gave Madeleine a sleeping pill so she would not disturb them. But they accidentally overdosed her and, fearing the worst from authorities, believed it was better to hide the body and stage a kidnapping. It was this theory that led Portuguese authorities to formally make her parents suspects. This line was later dropped. Result: Theory closed

5. She was kidnapped by a professional gang to be sold on the black market. Was spirited out of the country via Spain then Morocco. But after intense international publicity, the gang decided Maddie was a liability and was forced to kill her and hide her body. Result: Theory still open

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