Dunedin link to Madeleine case

Madeleine McCann.
Madeleine McCann.
Security camera footage from The Warehouse in South Dunedin filmed seven months after her disappearance may provide a vital clue in the search for missing British girl Madeleine McCann.

Dunedin was in the international spotlight last night as more details of the sighting emerged after files released from the Portuguese courts revealed Portuguese police disregarded several potential sightings of Madeleine.

These included CCTV footage from retail store The Warehouse in South Dunedin in December 2007.

The then 4-year-old went missing from Praia da Luz in Portugal in May 2007, during a family holiday while her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, were at a restaurant less than 75m away.

Police confirmed to the Otago Daily Times the footage was taken at the store on December 5, 2007, about 9pm.

A Warehouse spokeswoman confirmed a staff member had reported a sighting of a girl believed to be Madeleine, but declined to comment further.

Acting Southern District Commander Inspector Dave Campbell said police had spoken to the female security officer, who had become suspicious of a customer accompanying the young girl.

The overweight man was joined by a woman and older boy, he said.

In what appeared to be a separate development, Taryn Dryfhout, a student whose hometown is listed as Auckland on Facebook, approached One News last night saying she was adamant the girl who came in to the store in December 2007 was Madeleine McCann.

She said she was working as a checkout operator at The Warehouse in South Dunedin in December 2007 when she looked up to see a familiar face entering the shop.

"[She had] huge blue eyes, blond hair, a tiny frame just like the pictures on the news.

"I was quite stricken by the wee girl who looked just like Madeleine McCann.

"She was quite apprehensive to talk to me and sort of stammered over her words when she was trying to think of her name."

Miss Dryfhout said she called the police and a woman officer came to see her the next day, but could not determine from the CCTV footage whether it was Madeleine.

Dunedin police called Miss Dryfhout again yesterday to see if she recalled anything else about the family, but she told them the details were fading.

She wished they had asked her more at the time, she said.

Miss Dryfhout described the man and woman with the child as "a little bit suspicious".

Dunedin police had worked with the retailer on the case, and the file "has remained open ever since".

According to the file, released to several British newspapers, the security officer approached the girl and asked if she was British.

The girl replied her name was "Hailey", but, unconvinced, the guard contacted police, who launched an inquiry.

Insp Campbell said that the informant had told them the woman and girl had spoken with a British accent.

Security footage of the child, who had the appearance of Madeleine McCann, and the family accompanying her were provided to police.

He confirmed police had several photos, but declined to release them to the media.

The photos are believed to include a clear picture of the man.

It was unknown what type of vehicle the family left in, and police were unable to obtain any further information on the case.

The file was forwarded to Interpol, with the lead jurisdiction given to Portuguese authorities.

No request for follow-ups have been made to New Zealand Police, Insp Campbell said.

The formal case is now closed with Portuguese authorities.

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz


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