UPDATE: British and Spanish reporters claim to have found the girl that some believed might have been Madeleine McCann. London’s Evening Standard says the girl is actually a 5-year-old from the village of Zinat in Morocco, the BBC reports. More to come…
Missing British girl Madeleine McCann is again the center of international attention, after Spanish police have passed on to Interpol a photograph of a girl taken recently in Morocco by two Spanish tourists – who suspect the child in the picture could be McCann.
Informed of the development and of the photograph, parents Kate and Gerry McCann are awaiting further developments in the case but are not holding out much hope, says their spokesman, family friend Clarence Mitchell.
“I have to urge caution,” said Mitchell, Reuters reports. “The correct people – the police – with all of their technical prowess are now looking at this material.”
He added, “There have been lots of different sightings over the last few months, all of which – no matter how well intentioned – have come to nothing. You can imagine the emotional ups and downs that that causes Gerry and Kate, so they’re simply not getting into commenting at every stage.”
He stressed, “They need to hear it from the authorities first before they then decide what to do and what to say.”
Madeleine, 4, disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia Da Luz, Portugal, on May 3. The parents said they had left the girl and her younger siblings asleep in their rented villa while they went to dinner at a nearby tapas bar.
Despite a subsequent global search, no trace of Madeleine has been found.
The case also took a startling twist earlier this month when Portuguese police named Kate and Gerry McCann official suspects in their daughter’s disappearance.
The focus on the parents came after forensic tests allegedly revealed traces of the child’s blood in a car the McCanns rented 25 days after Madeleine’s disappearance.
Despite the suspicions, the McCanns – who are both doctors – have repeatedly maintained their innocence and the belief that Madeleine could still be alive.
The blurry photographic image that is being circulated in this latest development shows a light-skinned, blonde-haired girl, being carried on an elderly woman’s back. It was reportedly taken about three weeks ago in Zinat, in northern Morocco.
The France-based Interpol (as the International Criminal Police Organization is called) has confirmed to PEOPLE that it has received a “number of photographs from members of the public of potential Madeleine sightings, including the picture taken in Morocco by a Spanish couple.”
Its representative added, “All of these photos have been forwarded to the Portuguese police, who are leading the investigation.”
• Reporting by SIMON PERRY
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