Madeleine McCann: police now know of nine assaults on British girls in Algarve

Madeleine McCann, who went missing from the Praia da Luz holiday complex in May 2007. Photograph: Uncredited/AP Police investigatin...

Madeleine McCann, who went missing from the Praia da Luz holiday complex in May 2007. Photograph: Uncredited/AP
Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugalnearly seven years ago say they now know of nine sexual assaults and three "near misses" on British girls between the ages of six and 12 who were on holiday in the Algarve between 2004 and 2006.
One of the assaults, on a 10-year-old, took place in Praia da Luz in 2005, two years before Madeleine disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in the resort in May 2007.
Five new cases in which young girls were assaulted and one near miss have come to light as a result of an appeal last month for information about a lone predator entering rooms of British families on holiday.
Scotland Yard said more than 500 people came forward, and its officers were "cautiously optimistic" they would be soon be working on the ground with Portuguese authorities, who will remain in charge of the investigation despite hopes of a joint operation.
Last month the team revealed that they were looking at a series of incidents including two burglaries in Praia da Luz shortly before three-year-old Madeleine vanished.
They appealed for information leading to the identification of a suspect who may have been responsible for a potentially linked series of 12 offences on the western Algarve between 2004 and 2010.
These included four assaults on British girls aged between seven and 10 before Madeleine's disappearance. In one of these, there were there was another girl in the room. There were also two near misses.
Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood said: "As a result of those 500 calls, we have now identified a further five sexual assaults and one near miss. None of those six matters we were aware of prior to our appeal.
"In this new tranche of information we have got one crime which is very clearly in the heart of Praia da Luz in 2005, on a young, white 10-year-old girl. Clearly the fact that we've now got an assault that is in the heart of Praia da Luz, very close to where a previous matter had been reported, means that we are even more interested in this as part of the inquiry."
British investigators are looking at 18 potentially linked incidents in the Algarve where an intruder entered rooms in holiday apartments occupied by British families. Little, if anything, was stolen. There were nine sexual assaults in all, three near misses and six incidents where the intruder was disturbed before anything happened.
Three incidents took place in Praia de Luz between 2005 and 2010, five in Carvoeiro between 2004 and 2006 and nine in Praia de Gale, Vale de Parra, and Sao Rafeal (Albuferia district) between 2004 and 2008.
An incident in Vilamoura in 2005 has come to light since the March appeal. Police have clarified previous information that might have suggested two sexual assaults happened in one incident, making clear that there was another girl in the room at the time of one assault. There have been no reports of attempted abduction in any of the cases.
Detectives say "sufficient characteristics between the cases " lead them to believe that a total of 18 matters concerning children may potentially be linked.
Redwood said: "I'm encouraged by the new information that has come to light as a direct result of the appeal in March. There has been a huge public desire to assist us with our investigation and I would like to thank those who have provided us with new information."
In the previous appeal, the suspect was described as a tanned, dark-haired man who spoke English slowly. He had a foreign accent and possibly slurred speech, had unkempt hair and was unshaven. Witnesses also said he smelled strange, and some said he had a pot belly.
All the new information has come from Britain. Despite appeals in Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland, no new information has been obtained from these countries.
There is a £20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for Madeleine's disappearance. Anyone with information can call police on 0207 321 9251 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


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