UK & World News
Madeleine Police Appeal Over Abuse Suspect
Police searching for Madeleine McCann have launched a search for a man who abused children in holiday homes in Portugal.
Officers from Operation Grange have identified a series of 12 crimes between 2004 and 2010 where a male intruder entered villas occupied by UK families on holiday in the Western Algarve.
In four of these incidents - between 2004 and 2006 - the man sexually assaulted five white girls, aged between seven and 10, while in their beds.
The cases are not identical but there are enough similarities for police to believe finding this suspect could be key.
In most cases it was low season, there were no signs of forced entry, nothing was taken and the intruder appeared between 2am and 5am.
A three-year-old Madeleine vanished in May 2007 from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz while her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, dined at a nearby tapas restaurant with friends
Of the 12 offences at the centre of the new lead, four were in Carvoeiro, six in the Vale da Parra and two in Praia da Luz.
On one occasion, the man assaulted two girls in the same villa.
DCI Andy Redwood, the senior investigating officer, said the suspect had an "unhealthy interest in young white female children".
"We need to establish the identity of this man," he added.
"These offences are very serious and no one has been charged in connection with them. We also need to eliminate this man from our enquiries and ascertain whether these offences are linked to Madeleine's disappearance.
"If you have been a victim of a similar crime please come forward, even if you reported the incident to police in Portugal, or anywhere else. Please do not assume we have been made aware of it.
"While some of these offences have been in the public domain before, following our appeal in October three more were reported to us as a direct result of that appeal. One of those reports we believe is the first in the potential series."
Police believe the suspect may have been in the villas for some time before being disturbed by parents or a child waking up - and he remained calm even when interrupted.
The noise of a bin collection lorry was heard nearby on two occasions.
The suspect is described as having tanned skin with short, dark, unkempt hair.
Witnesses say he spoke English with a foreign accent and his voice has been described as slow, or possibly slurred.
On two occasions, in Vale de Parra and Praia da Gale, he was wearing a distinctive burgundy long-sleeve top with a white circle on the back.
Sometimes he was bare chested, displaying what several witnesses describe as a pot belly.
Three victims talked of a noticeable odour.
Portuguese police closed their inquiry into Madeleine's disappearance in 2008 but Scotland Yard opened a new review of the evidence in 2011.
Police are still hunting a man seen carrying a girl fitting Madeleine's description on the night of her disappearance.
DCI Redwood added: "Our appeal last year was very successful and we had over 5,000 calls which generated new information for us and which we continue to investigate.
"We still need to establish the identity of a man seen by three witnesses, carrying a child fitting Madeleine's description towards the beach or town areas at about 10pm on the night Madeleine disappeared.
"The witnesses have described the man in the e-fits as being white, aged in his 30s, with short brown hair, of medium build, medium height and clean shaven.
"The Metropolitan Police Service continues to offer a reward of up to £20,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the person(s) responsible for the abduction of Madeleine McCann from Praia da Luz, Portugal on 3 May 2007."
Anyone with information should call 0800 0961011 - or +44 207 1580 126 for non-UK residents.
Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.