Market gipsy is Maddie suspect

No trace ... Madeleine McCann

No trace … Madeleine McCann

A MARKET trader was a key suspect in the Madeleine McCann kidnap, The Sun can reveal.

The Portuguese man was traced by British private detectives and placed under surveillance.

Investigators said he was “of gipsy appearance”, fitting the description of a man seen loitering just before Maddie disappeared from an apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

'Encouraging' ... Clarence

‘Encouraging’ … Clarence

PA

The detectives, hired by the McCann family, flew to Portugal after initial information suggested the man might have Maddie with him.

A marathon surveillance operation began almost a year ago and continued on-and-off until recently.

But it failed to find any trace of Maddie, who was three when she vanished two years ago.

The ’tecs even obtained a sample of the suspect’s DNA and had it analysed in the UK. He was also secretly photographed and the snaps shown to potential witnesses.

Last night a source said: “This man’s existence was pinpointed originally as a result of local intelligence.

Mystery

“The British team identified him and a surveillance operation was mounted.

“One hope was obviously that this would lead to the discovery of Madeleine — but that did not happen.

“A man of his description — of a gipsy-like appearance — had been seen hanging around even before the McCann family arrived.”

The suspect is NOT thought to be a mystery man with

pockmarked face and pointy nose, revealed in a Channel 4 documentary on Thursday.

Three witnesses said they saw him loitering near the McCann’s apartment. One unresolved theory is that a gang of child traffickers may have abducted Maddie.

The Find Madeleine hotline received more than 50 calls after the show.

The McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “Some of them contained good new information which our investigation team are looking at. The response is encouraging.”

s.hughes@the-sun.co.uk

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