1,000 days of hunt for Maddie

24 January 2010
Daily Star
Jonathan Corke

Missing Madeleine McCann could be still alive and just a few miles from the Portuguese resort where she vanished in 2007, investigators believe. Former detective inspector Dave Edgar, who is leading the hunt, made a secret visit to Praia da Luz at the beginning of last week. On his return, he said it was a "very distinct possibility" that Maddie could be living in a poor country district inland from the holiday area. A source told the Daily Star Sunday: "The areas that Dave's team have focused on are very rural. There are no tourists around there at all. He believes Madeleine could be held in such an area." Wednesday will mark 1,000 days since the youngster's disappearance during a holiday with her doctor parents, Kate and Gerry McCann. Mr Edgar is convinced she was kidnapped and his team are still receiving a "substantial number" of calls and e-mails containing new information.

While previous inquiries have led officers as far afield as Argentina and Australia, the focus is now firmly back in Portugal. The source went on: "They believe the answer lies in Praia da Luz. New information continues to come in." Links between the case and at least five sex attacks on British children near Praia da Luz have been ruled out. Many known paedophiles in the area have also been discounted.

But investigators would still like to speak to convicted Brit sex offender Raymond Hewlett, 64, who was staying near Praia da Luz at the time of the disappearance. And we can reveal that some British holidaymakers who were also staying at the Mark Warner Ocean Club have not co-operated with the investigation.

Our source said: "There are a small number of individuals who, for their own reasons, have refused to speak."

Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for Kate and Gerry, said the probe would continue until Madeleine is found. The family hope that a star-studded fund-raising dinner on Wednesday will help boost diminishing funds. Sir Richard Branson, JK Rowling and presenter Nicky Campbell are backing the event, at London's Kensington Roof Gardens. And 1,000 lanterns will be released into the sky from 20 venues across Britain and Portugal. Mr Mitchell said: "It's a painful date for Kate and Gerry. But they remain as determined as ever."

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