A witness saw Madeleine McCann being carried from her apartment

Sunday May 27, 2007

A woman who saw Madeleine McCann being carried off in the arms of a mystery man is wracked with guilt that she did nothing to stop him, it has emerged.

A close friend of Kate and Gerry McCann, she saw a young blonde girl wearing “distinguishable” pyjamas and wrapped in a blanket.

Described as the “principal witness” in the case by police sources, the woman has now returned to the UK and is brooding over what she saw.

But the McCanns, from Rothley in Leicestershire, are said not to blame her and feel sorry for her torment.

Details of the sighting came as hundreds of calls were made to police about the description of a white man aged between 35 and 40 seen holding what was thought to be a child on the night Madeleine disappeared.

She was snatched from her bed on May 3 as she slept in the family’s holiday apartment while her parents enjoyed a tapas meal yards away in the Algarve resort town of Praia Da Luz.

The witness, who has been advised by police not to discuss events of that night, joined the McCanns at dinner at about 9.30pm. As she walked past the family’s property, she saw a man with a child wearing pink pyjamas in his arms.

“She thought it was odd, but thought it was the man’s own child,” the police source said. “He was walking urgently, neither running or walking.”

After the alarm was raised, the friend “instantly” realised what she had seen and gave a statement and description to the authorities “within hours”.

But sources said the significance was missed: “The officers who took the description did not seem interested, they just seemed to have filed it away. She went back to the UK and Leicestershire police said she was the principal witness to what happened,” the source said. “The view of the family is that this was Madeleine being taken. As a result they do not blame the woman, but she feels dreadful guilt. They feel sorry for her.”

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