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Fresh lead in Madeleine McCann case
07:22 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Madeleine McCann, 3, vanished from family's holiday apartment in Portugal in May 2007

Her parents were eating at a restaurant nearby with friends when she disappeared

Case sparked worldwide interest; sightings of Madeleine reported across the globe

Portuguese police recently reopened investigation following UK police inquiries

London CNN  — 

Police investigating the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann from a holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007 say they are hunting a man who assaulted five other British girls in resorts on the Algarve between 2004 and 2006.

The announcement is the latest development in a long-running and controversial hunt for the missing girl.

When and where was Madeleine last seen?

Madeleine McCann was a few days shy of her fourth birthday when she vanished from her family’s holiday apartment in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.

Her parents, Kate and Gerry, had left Madeleine and her younger twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, asleep while they went for dinner with friends at a tapas restaurant nearby.

Kate McCann raised the alarm at about 10pm that evening when she returned to check on the children and discovered that Madeleine was missing; the window of the children’s room was open.

What happened next?

The case sparked worldwide interest, boosted by a massive publicity campaign launched by the McCanns, who are doctors from Leicestershire in central England.

A large reward was offered for information on Madeleine’s whereabouts, including contributions from “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, pop mogul Simon Cowell, and businessman Richard Branson.

Appeals for help to trace the missing girl were issued by footballers including David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The McCanns traveled widely to publicize the search for their daughter. The couple, who are Roman Catholics, also met the then-Pope Benedict XVI in Rome to ask him to pray for Madeleine’s safe return.

Who were the early suspects in the case?

Portuguese police named Robert Murat, a British man living in Portugal, as an “arguido”, or official suspect, some 10 days into the investigation; Murat denied the allegations and insisted he was innocent.

The case against him was later dropped, and he received an apology and damages from several UK newspapers after reaching an out-of-court settlement with them over libel claims.

In September 2007, Kate and Gerry McCann were themselves named as suspects by Portuguese investigators, amid reports DNA had been found in a car they rented weeks after Madeleine vanished. They strenuously denied the allegations, and Portuguese police closed the case against them in July 2008.

The couple accepted $1.1m in libel damages, and secured front page apologies from UK newspapers the Daily Star and Daily Express over reports suggesting they were involved in their daughter’s disappearance.

In 2011, Kate McCann told the Leveson Inquiry into theconduct of the British press that she felt “violated” by media coverage of the case, in particular the publication of extracts from her diary in the now-defunct News of the World. Gerry McCann told Leveson that the paper’s editor verbally beat the couple “into submission” to make them take part in an interview.