Woman claims she spotted Madeleine McCann in Portuguese resort three years ago 'speaking German'

A RETIRED teacher has come forward to say she believes she saw missing Madeleine McCann in a supermarket on the Algarve coast.

The woman claimed on Portuguese TV Madeleine was speaking in German to another girl in the store near Albufeira, 37 miles from the resort where Madeleine vanished in 2007.

Madeleine disappeared while on holiday with her family in the Praia da Luz on the Algarve.

A 43-year-old German paedophile Christian B has been named as the prime suspect in the abduction.

The woman – named only as Maria and who was described as a retired teacher – made the astonishing revelation on the weekly news investigative show Sexta as 9 hosted by Sandra Felgueiras.

She said she was convinced it was Madeleine – who would now be 17- because of the distinctive blemish in her right eye.

''I realised after a few seconds who it could be but by then it was too late. I'm certain of what I saw

It's a rare condition known as a coloboma that affects one in 10,000 children.

''I clearly saw her and I am sure of what I saw. She was about 13 years old," said the woman, whose identity was disguised.

''She was with another teenage girl. They were speaking German. They were in the bakery section. I don't think anyone was with them.

''I realised after a few seconds who it could be but by then it was too late. I'm certain of what I saw.''

The woman said she saw her three years ago, but did not report the alleged sighting at the time.

She alerted police last month after Christian B was named as a suspect and she recognised a picture of his distinctive yellow and white camper van which was released by police.

The woman said she had reported what she had seen to the McCann family lawyer Rogerio Alves and was waiting for him and police to formally contact her.

By law CCTV is erased in Portugal after a month but Maria said:''I remember seeing the yellow and white van in the parking lot.''

Maria told the show she had decided to speak out after learning Christian B had been involved in a robbery close by with a female accomplice who was also said to be German.

She said she regularly spent her holidays in that part of the Algarve coast and can speak German.

Christian B is currently serving 21 months in a German prison for drugs trafficking but also has convictions for rape and child abuse.

He was convicted of raping a 72 year old American woman in 2005 just a few minutes walk from where Maddie vanished but is appealing the conviction at the European Court of Justice on a technicality.

Mr Alves has said he fears the authorities have just 22 months to nail the suspect due to a 15-year time limit on prosecutions in Portugal.

Since Madeleine vanished, there have been nearly 9,000 reported "sightings" in 101 countries across the world, from Canada to New Zealand.

Madeleine's parents are aware of the alleged sighting and their spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "Anyone who has any credible information regarding Madeleine must give it to the police, whether they are in Portugal, the UK or Germany.

"In this case, the information has been given to the Policia Judiciaria and it's now down to the authorities to establish if there's any truth in it.

"In the absence of incontrovertible evidence that the worst may have happened to Madeleine, Kate and Gerry will never give up hoping that their daughter may still be alive.

“They continue to have every faith in the British police and the work of Operation Grange."

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