According to this Exclusive report from the Sunday Express: “Scotland Yard detectives have interviewed a British woman whose three-year-old daughter narrowly escaped being taken by a paedophile suspect just weeks before Madeleine McCann disappeared.
The woman got a good, close-up look at the man who she feared was planning to kidnap her young child and it is hoped she can produce a quality e fit of him.
Officers from Operation Grange, informally named the Maddie Squad, have spoken at length to the woman and urged her to remember as much about the man as she possibly can.
Today we can reveal that the worrying incident happened early in spring 2007 at a rented villa which overlooks a large expanse of wasteland in Praia da Luz on the Algarve which was searched this summer by Met search specialists and sniffer dogs.
The woman was surprised by a knock at the door from a lone conman who said he was collecting money for a nearby orphanage, which doesn’t exist.
As she chatted on the doorstep the woman noticed the man was paying close attention to her daughter who was standing by her side.
Later as she walked to a primary school to collect her other child she noticed the same man hanging around at the top of her road.
The school is just a stone’s throw from the Ocean Club, from where Madeleine was taken on May 3 seven years ago.
She thought little of the encounter until the following day when, as she walked down stairs in her villa, she saw that a man had entered her property and was with her daughter.
Because of the angle she was standing on the stairs she was on, she only got a look at the man’s legs, but felt certain that it was the same person who had come to her door previously.
Realising that he was about to be confronted, the intruder fled and the woman, although startled, chose not to go to the police.
The incident happened in the weeks before Madeleine was taken and has only just come to light in a book published last week, Looking For Madeleine, by investigative journalists Anthony Summers and his wife Robbyn Swan.
The authors did not speak directly to the British woman, who has since returned to live in the UK.
However, they spoke to a friend of hers who told them the story.
The book states: “A British citizen long resident in the Algarve has described the chilling episode when a man claiming to represent an orphanage came to the door of her friend, also English.
“There was a knock at the door, “ she recalled, “and the man standing there said he was collecting for some orphanage.
“He looked rather unkempt, scruffy. But what made her very uncomfortable was that, all the time he stood there, he wasn’t looking at her but past her – at her three-year-old daughter.”
Her sense of unease increased when she saw him waiting at the end of the road.
The friend told the authors: “And the following day, she left her three-year-old daughter downstairs for a minute or two while she went upstairs to fetch some laundry.
“Then, when she was coming back down the stairs, she caught a glimpse of the man, really only his legs, in the living room with her child.
“He left rapidly as she came down the stairs, obviously.
“She thought he had got in through the sliding patio doors and believed, even then, that he had meant to take her daughter.”
Mr Summers said: “This is a significant development in the search for Madeleine. What is not clear is how the man gained entry to the woman’s home.
“The worrying episode suggests that the man was targeting the child and looking for opportunities to get inside the home.”
Robbyn added: “This is the single most important new piece of information in our book.”
The week before Madeleine vanished a man had gone to apartment 5a, where she later stayed, and sought a donation for an orphanage.
Paul Gordon, a British man renting the property with his family, gave the man ten euros. He, too, has been interviewed by police.
On April 20, 2007, British tourist Gail Coooper answered the door to a caller at her rented villa who sought money for an orphanage.
Checks by the authors and this newspaper suggests the charity collectors, who showed leaflets and identity cards, were bogus as there are no nearby orphanages.”
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