At last, a vital breakthrough -
or just more Maddie madness?
He is 36-year-old Marcelino Jorge Italiano, an Angolan national, who worked in the Algarve for 10 years as a nightclub doorman or 'bouncer'. He has also been described as an 'amateur investigator'.
He claims to know key figures in an Algarve-based group of paedophiles who organised Madeleine's abduction from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007. They supposedly include two Algarve businessmen with high-level links to the Portuguese judiciary and a legal practice in London. Individuals in Faro and Albufeira are said to be secretly involved.
Italiano says he thinks Madeleine may now be in the United States. He is positive the group have taken other children from the Algarve. “I think at least a dozen have been kidnapped,” he said.
He has told police that he has seen photographs of group members and obtained information about them from the ex-wife of one of the businessmen involved.
Italiano also said he was “terrified” by the group and that he had been attacked for threatening to expose them. “They are ruthless. I have been attacked twice for trying to investigate, and even lost my front tooth.”
Italiano reportedly fled across the Algarve-Andalusian border and turned up with a lawyer in Huelva last week to hand over a 'dossier' to Spanish police. An Andalusian newspaper, the Olive Press, reported that his lawyer was present during an hour-long interview with police in the city. His lawyer told the Olive Press: “He seems credible and believable. He does not trust the Portuguese police.”
The lawyer continued: “He also seems pretty convinced that Maddie may have been taken from Portugal to the US.”
Spanish and Portuguese police are investigating these new claims. Madeleine's parents, Drs Kate and Gerry McCann have welcomed the news. Their spokesman, Clarence Mitchell said Italiano had done "absolutely the right thing" by going to police with his suspicions.
Many people who have closely followed the on-going Maddie saga have long ago ruled out all abduction theories. Reaction to the latest claims has been highly sceptical, or downright dismissive. Even Clarence Mitchell expressed reservations.
America is a long way from Portugal. Smuggling a child into America through traditional channels would be virtually impossible. That’s not to say it’s not feasible; it possibly could be done; it’s something that investigators have considered. There have been other tip-offs that America may have been a destination, but so far nothing has come of those.”“
Mr Mitchell said that as Italiano had not approached the media first, seeking money for his story, and because he was naming names, he may be a “slightly more serious informant than some”.
However, he added: “That is not to say it is not fantasy, we just don’t know at this stage.”
Hopefully, we soon will.