Blackpool Maddie suspect dies

12 April 2010
Blackpool Gazette

A Blackpool paedophile, who was a prime suspect in the hunt for Madeleine McCann, has died.

Private detectives working for the McCann family wanted to question Raymond Hewlett - who grew up in Marton - about the youngster's disappearance. They believed the 64-year-old, a convicted rapist, bore a striking resemblance to the description of a straggly haired man who was seen near the McCann's apartment on the night of her disappearance.

He was also thought to have been living in Portugal, just an hour away from the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, when she disappeared in May 2007. It is believed he left for Morocco three weeks later.

But the former serviceman - who grew up in a semi-detached house on Hawes Side Lane - was in ill health by the time investigators wanted to question him and living in Germany with a new wife. Hewlett was suffering from throat cancer. And now it has been revealed he has died and will take any knowledge of the McCann case he may have had with him to the grave.

Hewlett had a long record of sex attacks on young girls and was wanted by police in Britain for offences dating back more than 30 years. When Hewlett's name was linked to the case, former neighbours in Blackpool told The Gazette Hewlett was "very strange" and said it was "frightening" to hear he had been linked with Madeleine's disappearance.

The former neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "He was born on Hawes Side Lane just a few doors down and he had two sisters who were quite a bit older than him. "He was a bit younger than me but I remember him well and he was always very strange and a bit weird."

The son of a Blackpool baker, Hewlett was one of seven brothers and sisters in a large family. He spent time in the Scots Guards and worked on fairgrounds before later committing a string of sexual offences.

In 1972 he was jailed after abducting a 12-year-old girl and taking her to the moors near his home in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. He had incapacitated her with a rag soaked in paint thinner. She narrowly escaped being raped.

In 1978 Hewlett attacked another girl, this time putting a gun to her back but she too managed to escape. He was jailed for four years for that offence.

Then in 1988 he was jailed again after attacking a newspaper delivery girl.

He was also questioned over the murder of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed, who was found in a lay-by in Ripponden,West Yorkshire, in October 1975. Hewlett was identified as a suspect after Stefan Kiszko, who was originally convicted of the murder and spent 16 years in jail, had his conviction overturned. Ronald Castree, a taxi driver from Shaw, near Oldham, was later convicted of the killing.

Hewlett always protested his innocence in the McCann case. It was reported he spoke to journalists outside his hospital to declare he had nothing to hide. "I didn't kill that McCann girl," he was reported to have said.

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