Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Sunderland Couple..sighting

Published Date: 07 August 2008
By Tim Booler
A Sunderland couple told police they saw Madeleine McCann 28 hours after she disappeared.
Richard and Susan McCluskey reported seeing a "lifeless" child of about Maddie's age being carried by a drunk-looking man who was with a distressed woman, who they were "almost certain" was her mum Kate.

The Portuguese case files, released this week more than a year after the youngster disappeared, showed that dad-of-three Mr McCluskey made the claims in a second statement a number of months after the alleged sighting in the Algarve.

Portuguese police investigated the claim, and believed the couple were Ukrainians with a blonde daughter of Maddie's age.

Mrs McCann and her husband Gerry, from Leicestershire, denied having any involvement in the disappearance, and had their "arguido" official suspects status lifted last month.

The potential sighting of Maddie by the McCluskeys, from South Hylton, was one of many reported to Portuguese police.

They were all investigated but came to nothing.

However, Mr and Mrs McCluskey said they have never had any response to the information provided in their statements, and would like to have been told it had been eliminated to give them peace of mind.

Their account of what they saw and said in police statements has never been published.

The Sunderland holidaymakers were in the resort of Alvor, about 20 minutes drive along the coast from Praia la Luz, where the McCann family was stating.

Mr and Mrs McCluskey were on their way back to their apartment from an Irish bar in the early hours of May 5, 2007, when they saw a white Transit-style flatbed truck stop in the middle of the road.

Mr McCluskey, 62, said a man got out and staggered about 200 yards to a gate, carrying a child of about three to four years old over his left shoulder, and that there was "no movement at all" in the youngster.

They were aware a child was missing in the area and thought the situation was strange so took down the van registration, with Mrs McCluskey, 50, writing it on her hand before they found some paper.

As they were doing so a woman ran towards the van, "clearly in distress".

Mr McCluskey told the Echo she looked like actress Faye Dunaway and added: "She was white as a ghost and shaking", and did not reply when asked if she needed help.

In a police statement he said a Portuguese couple came by and said the man and woman acting strangely had earlier been in an argument.

He reported the van's details to police in Portugal, and only made a statement after being contacted by Northumbria Police after getting home to Sunderland.

Mr McCluskey said he was also contacted by Interpol to provide a drawing of the area as described in his statement.

On September 12, he gave a second statement at Farringdon Hall Police Station, which read: "The events of the past week or so, with the McCanns being very much in the news, have triggered my memory in relation to the incident.

"In my original statement I described a distressed female who ran down a road towards a white van I had described.

"Having viewed news footage of Mrs McCann I am now almost certain she is the female I described as being in a distressed state.

"I say this because of her slight build, high cheekbones and her eyes and hairstyle."

He added: "I've agonised for days over whether or not to contact police about this because it is a terrible thing to accuse somebody of.

"It had just not crossed my mind that the child's parents could in some way be involved in her disappearance."
Also in his second statement, made after watching news coverage of Kate and Gerry McCann returning to Britain from Portugal, Mr McCluskey added: "Another thing which has played on my mind is the coverage of Mr McCann walking off the aeroplane holding one of his young children.

"The way he was holding the child over his left shoulder reminded me of the man carrying the child from the white van in Portugal.

"Although I could not describe the male I'd seen in Portugal because he had his back to me, it was the particular way Mr McCann held the child that made me think."