Police launched a full-scale search in Malta today after at least five alleged sightings of Madeleine McCann by British holidaymakers.
As Gerry and Kate McCann prepared to mark the 50th day since their daughter disappeared, the focus switched to the Mediterranean island.
Its capital, Valetta, was "locked-down" on Saturday night after a holidaying British couple reported seeing a blonde girl who "looked remarkably similar" to Madeleine.
As reports emerged in Malta today, a further four independent witnesses came forward, claiming to have seen "the same" blonde girl in central and north parts of the island.
According to some reports the blonde girl looked to be "enjoying herself" in the company of adults - casting doubt on whether it could be the missing four-year-old.
However police in Malta are taking the claims "seriously" and have launched checks at airports and harbours. There have been a string of potential sightings of Madeleine across the world in the past seven weeks - including in Morocco, Argentina, Spain, Switzerland, north Portugal and north Wales.
However this is the first time since she went missing that there has been more than one alleged sighting in the same area.
Mr and Mrs McCann have been made aware of the reports but are not treating them as significant until they receive official guidance from Portuguese police.
Olegario Sousa, a spokesman for the Judicial Police, said that he was not aware of the sightings until he was told by a journalist.
The first witnesses - a British couple holidaying in Malta - contacted the local police on Saturday night claiming they had seen a girl matching Madeleine's description with a couple on Republic St in Valetta, the main street in the capital.
According to Maltese law, a magisterial inquest was launched and the witnesses gave formal evidence of what they had seen in a private court hearing in front of magistrate Miriam Hayman.
Police sources said officers have been carrying out checks at airports and harbours. Photographs of the young girl have been distributed to police and officials working at ports.
Police have tightened security arrangements at the Malta International Airport and at other entry and exit points. Plain clothes officers were also making inquiries at holiday resorts.
They were seen at St George's Bay, a popular family resort on the east coast of the island, and at Manoel Island Marina - where Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich often berths his superyacht.
The investigations were being coordinated by the Police Vice Squad. Assistant Commissioner Michael Cassar confirmed today that police had received new reports that Madeleine had been sighted on the island.
The girl was always accompanied by at least one adult - on one occasion by a female and on another by male adult.
Meanwhile Mr and Mrs McCann will tomorrow lead a global event, releasing 50 balloons in at least 50 countries to maintain awareness of Madeleine's disappearance.
In Afghanistan it will be marked by a specially arranged kite racing event and in Ventura, Southern California, 50 white doves will be released.
Rupert MURDOCH has a SMOM Papal Knighthood (Sovereign Military Order of Malta)