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Scruffy man clue in Madeleine disappearance

  • Story Highlights
  • The family Madeline McCann released two sketches potential suspect
  • Images show moustachioed white man with olive-colored skin
  • Sketch composed based on the recollection of a 50-year-old woman
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(CNN) -- The family of missing British child Madeleine McCann released two sketches Sunday of a man who may be linked to her disappearance last May from a holiday resort in Portugal.


Spokesman Clarence Mitchell holds up sketches of a man who may linked to Madeleine's disappearance.

The first sketch -- of a moustached white man with olive-colored skin and collar-length dark scraggly hair -- was composed based on the recollection of a 50-year-old woman who was staying in a villa near the McCann family last year.

The second sketch shows the same man walking with his hand tucked into the pockets of his light-colored pants. He is wearing a green shirt and a brown jacket.

"We want to know who he is and we want to know where he is," said family spokesman Clarence Mitchell, speaking to reporters.

He urged the man to come forward so that police can rule him out as a suspect if they determine that he is not involved in Madeleine's disappearance. Photo Watch release of new sketches »

Gail Cooper, on whose description the sketch was drawn, said she first saw the man on April 20 -- a few days before Madeleine's disappearance. He was walking by himself in a heavy downpour on an otherwise deserted beach, she said.

The man drew attention to himself "by looking odd and out of place," Mitchell said.

That afternoon, when Cooper's husband went shopping, the man paid her a visit, Mitchell said. She described him as "sallow-skinned and scruffy," and said that he claimed to be collecting money for an orphanage in a nearby village.

Subsequent investigations have shown the orphanage does not exist, Mitchell told CNN. A few days later, the man was seen with a group of children on an outing to the beach, Mitchell said.

The man spoke in broken, accented English, Mitchell said.

When Cooper returned to Britain and heard about Madeleine's disappearance, she told British police about the man, and her account was given to police in Portugal, Mitchell told CNN.

The McCann family showed the new sketches to Jane Tanner, a family friend who earlier gave police a description of a man she spotted carrying a child from the resort on the night Madeline vanished. Tanner told them the new sketches resemble the man she saw, Mitchell said.

Madeleine went missing on May 3, days before her 4th birthday. Her family, who were vacationing with her in Portugal, has said she disappeared from their room at a Praia da Luz resort while they dined in a nearby restaurant.

Despite a global search and the attention of celebrities like Virgin Chairman Richard Branson, author J.K. Rowling and soccer star David Beckham, there have been no major breaks in the case.

The McCanns were named as official suspects in September by Portuguese investigators. They deny any involvement in the disappearance, saying they believe Madeleine may have been abducted by pedophiles and taken to North Africa.


The McCanns were not aware of the evidence provided by Cooper until recently, Mitchell said. Several British newspapers came across the information and gave it to the family. The McCann's investigators then interviewed Cooper and commissioned a police-trained sketch artist to come up with the drawings.

Portuguese detectives do not do sketches as a matter of course, Mitchell told CNN, but the sketches would be sent to detectives working on the case. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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