New Sightings

Newly Reported Sightings of Madeleine McCann Fuel Interest in the Missing Girl

Abducted in 2007, when she was 4, the missing British girl is still a cause célèbre, with new witnesses swearing they’ve seen her and Scotland Yard still on the case, writes Barbie Latza Nadeau.

08.28.12 8:15 AM ET

If Madeleine McCann, the 4-year-old Briton who went missing from her parents’ holiday villa in Portugal in 2007, was abducted, would the kidnappers actually take her on a commercial flight? Apparently so, if we are to believe a German tourist who swears he saw the youngster on a Lufthansa hop from Ibiza, Spain to Munich earlier this month. 

According to the Olive Press, an English newspaper published in Spain, German tourist John Bode saw the McCann lookalike on a flight. He says she was traveling with a German family, but that she spoke with a British accent. He told the Spanish newspaper that the family caught his attention because of their odd behavior. The two sons–presumably the young girl’s brothers–were holding on to her as if to keep her from running away. He said the girl’s mother, who he speculated was British, didn’t say a word during the entire two-hour flight. “She didn’t seem to fit with her family at all. Her father was clearly German, as were her two brothers, both around 10 to 12 years old, but her mother appeared to be British,” Bode told the Olive Press. “They were all speaking German except for the girl, who I clearly heard speaking British English.”

He then snapped a picture, which does bear a slight resemblance to the missing child. Whether it was McCann or not, Bode’s sighting does jibe with similar stories. In May, Karen Sissal, a resident of Gibraltar, said she had seen a girl that looked just like McCann at a campground on the Portuguese-Spanish border just days after the child went missing. Sissal described the child’s behavior as “groggy” or “drugged” and said she was with a German family with two male children.  She said the girl who looked like Madeleine didn’t speak German.

The latest Madeleine sighting comes at a particularly sensitive moment in the case. In April, Scotland Yard announced that they would be reinvestigating the case after an initial survey of the 100,000-plus page Portuguese criminal dossier. British detectives found nearly 200 lost leads, including numerous sightings of the young girl in the days after her disappearance, that had never been followed up. They believed that Portuguese officials immediately suspected Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate, and turned a blind eye to any evidence contradicting their involvement.

But last weekend, a spokesperson for Scotland Yard told a British newspaper that they would have to close the reinvestigation unless they received additional funding. They were prepared to ask British Prime Minister David Cameron for financial assistance in the name of finding the truth about the young girl’s disappearance. An estimated $2.5 million has already been spent on translators, police detectives, and a team of forensic experts who are combing the tedious documents for irregularities.

“We are still reviewing a lot of material. It is a significant amount of money and we have quite a lot of officers tied up in this,” Metropolitan Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe told the Evening Standard. “The prime minister agreed to fund this. We have not had any pressure to say you must stop spending more than X amount, we have received a lot of support. But by Christmas I would want a very clear view of what work is outstanding and what timeline there is for that.”

Sightings like the one on the Ibiza-to-Munich flight certainly keep hope alive for Madeleine’s parents, but they might also prove to be incentive enough to keep the investigation alive for the British investigators. After all, they may be the only ones with the resources to finally answer the daunting question of what really happened to Madeleine McCann.