Madeleine: New witness confronted man lurking near apartment days before she disappeared


Last updated at 16:11 07 January 2008

A father confronted a man lurking outside the McCanns' holiday apartment just days before Madeleine vanished, it was revealed yesterday.

British holiday-maker Paul Gordon told police he spotted the man outside the two-bedroom flat's patio doors while his own two children were sleeping inside.

Kate and Gerry McCann believe their daughter's abductor crept into the apartment through the same patio doors, which they left unlocked so they and their friends could check on their sleeping children during their now infamous dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant.

Mr Gordon, 34, contacted British police about his suspicions in May, as soon as he heard that Madeleine had gone missing. He and his family stayed in the apartment immediately before the McCanns.

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He told how he confronted the man when he saw him outside the glass patio doors, which are at the back of the apartment, away from the front door and concealed from the main road by a high hedge.

The man claimed to be collecting money for an orphanage in the mountains and Mr Gordon told detectives he left him alone near the doors while he went to find money to give him.

In those few minutes the stranger could have studied the lay-out of the apartment and even checked on locks and security arrangements inside, police fear.

The private detectives hired by the McCanns, Metodo 3, have investigated a series of sightings of people hanging around the apartment, including a report of two people claiming to be Jehovah's Witnesses who tried to get inside, and now Mr Gordon's sighting of the suspicious charity collector.

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Madeleine McCann

Metodo 3 believe some of the people could have been 'spotters' who identified Madeleine as a potential victim for a paedophile network, then monitored her family's movements and struck when the McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire, left their three children alone to go and have dinner.

Mr Gordon was interviewed by Scotland Yard detectives and Metodo 3, and was asked if he believed the charity collector could have been trying to target his own children, aged one and two.

He said his family rented the Ocean Club flat in Praia da Luz for a fortnight last April, and left only hours before the McCanns arrived on April 28.

Mr Gordon, a sales executive for Scottish and Newcastle Breweries, yesterday refused to comment about his statement to the police.

Speaking outside his house in Fareham, Hampshire, he said: "I've given a statement and want it to remain private. I hope the information may help in the search for Madeleine."

McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell denied claims that Mr Gordon had warned Mr and Mrs McCann, both 39, about the sighting.

He said: "Mr Gordon has spoken to the police about his time in the apartment and our investigative team has also spoken with him.

"He said somebody came round to the apartment 5A asking for a charity donation and said it was suspicious. Gerry and Kate have never met Mr Gordon himself."

Mr Gordon is the latest in a series of witnesses who have come forward since Madeleine's disappearance to say they saw suspicious characters lurking around the apartment.

A baby-sitter told how she saw a man hiding in bushes outside the flat in late 2006, and a British nanny said she saw a man 'identical' to suspect Robert Murat trying to lift the shutters on the ground floor window of the apartment in December, while she was looking after a six-year-old boy inside.

Then last March, only six weeks before the McCanns arrived in Praia da Luz, British mother Karen Sixsmith said a woman who looked like Mr Murat's girlfriend Michaela Walczuch, 34, came to the door with a man, saying they were Jehovah's Witnesses.

Mrs Sixsmith, of Bowden, Cheshire, said the man seemed anxious to get inside the flat, where she was staying with her husband and young daughter, who is blonde with blue eyes, like Madeleine, and was so concerned she called police immediately.

Then an Ocean Club worker said he saw a British tourist "hiding" in a stairwell outside the apartment at 6pm on the night Madeleine vanished, just 12 metres from the flat.