Madeleine McCann suspect's VW camper van was near where she was 'seen speaking German' three years ago, witness claims

MADELEINE McCann's suspect's camper van was spotted close to where the missing toddler was seen three years ago, a witness claims.

Retired teacher Maria has told Portuguese TV she saw Madeleine speaking German in a supermarket near Albufeira – 37 miles from where she vanished.

The same woman has now claimed she saw prime suspect Christian B's distinctive VW camper van nearby.

She made the astonishing revelation on the weekly news investigative show Sexta as 9 hosted by Sandra Felgueiras.

Maria said: "I perfectly remember seeing it somewhere, in a side street or in the area where they used to park which is now West Gale car park, long before it was handed over as part of a concession and there were a lot of camper vans there.

“I recall that van being parked somewhere near the Apolonia supermarket.

“It was the white and yellow two-toned van. I can’t remember exactly when I saw it but I recall seeing it.”

Pictures of the yellow and white campervan were released by police after Christian B was named as a prime suspect in Madeleine's disappearance.

The German convicted paedophile was living in the VW Westfalia T3 van in Praia da Luz around the time the youngster vanished in 2007.

As well as the campervan, the drug dealer and burglar also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.

On May 4, 2007 – the day after Madeleine vanished – he got the Jaguar re-registered in Germany under someone else's name although it is believed the vehicle remained in Portugal.

German police believe one of the two vehicles were used in the disappearance of Madeleine.

It comes after Portuguese Maria told the show she believes she saw Madeleine speaking in German to another girl at a supermarket in Albufeira – a 45 minute drive from Praia da Luz.

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

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

Maria said: “It was three to four years ago, I can’t be sure exactly when, at Apolonia Supermarket in Gale.

“There was a girl to my right speaking with another in German.

“When I looked at her eyes, I was sure about what I saw.

“They were light-coloured eyes with the same blemish Maddie has. The blemish was in her right eye. I’m sure about what I saw."

She added: “The girl I saw was about 13 to 14. Unfortunately it was only a few seconds after they had left the supermarket that I realised who that face belonged to.

“I made the link but sadly it was too late.

“I spent a few moments looking to see if they were in one of the aisles and I spent some time waiting to see if they were alone or with someone by the tills but I didn’t see them again.

“I don’t know if they were with someone or if they were alone. They weren’t carrying anything in their hands, I remember that well.”

The woman said she did not report the alleged sighting at the time.

But she alerted police last month after Christian B was named as a suspect.

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.

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.

The supermarket at the centre of the new sighting is understood to erase its CCTV footage every so often and no images from the time exist.

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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