Pedophile investigated in McCann case

May 22, 2009 1:44:02 PM PDT
Detectives working for the parents of missing Madeleine McCann are investigating a convicted pedophile in connection with the her disappearance, family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said Friday. Mitchell confirmed that private investigators are looking into former British soldier Raymond Hewlett, a repeat sex offender whose picture was splashed on the front page of The Daily Mirror tabloid on Friday. The paper said Hewlett, whom it identified as a 64-year-old father of six, was being treated at an unnamed German hospital for throat cancer.

Mitchell emphasized that Hewlett was only one of several leads being investigated and that the McCanns had played no role in publicizing their interest in the man.

Police in both Portugal and in the northern English city of Leicestershire, where the McCanns live, declined to comment on Friday's reports.

Hewlett's name does not appear in the Portuguese police file on the case, which was made available to reporters after Portugal's attorney general closed the investigation in July 2008.

The Mirror quoted Alan and Cindy Thompson, who said they met Hewlett while on an extended vacation in Portugal three years ago. The newspaper said they became alarmed when they found out about Hewlett's past and realized he had been living an hour away from Praia da Luz, where the 3-year-old vanished from a hotel room two years ago.

Mitchell told The Associated Press the family would rather have kept the matter out of the public eye.

"It's a matter for the private investigators. Ideally it would have remained a private investigation," he said in a telephone interview. "I would stress that he's only one part of the inquiry among several others."

Contact information for Hewlett could not immediately be located, although the Mirror said that, in a phone call with the Thompsons, he denied having anything to do with Madeleine's disappearance.

Hewlett has a long history of sex attacks on young girls, the newspaper said. Police in Yorkshire, northern England, on Friday confirmed they were also seeking him in connection to an indecent assault in 1975.

Ireland's national police force said it also at one point wanted to arrest Hewlett as a suspect in several attempts to abduct children. Hewlett was spotted in the northeast Irish county of Louth in mid-2000. His photos appeared in Irish newspapers and locals identified him as living in an isolated cottage in Carlingford, near the Northern Ireland border - but he had disappeared before police arrived and hasn't been seen in Ireland since.

A spokeswoman for Germany's federal criminal office said she was aware of the media reports, but that the Bundeskriminalamt did not know Hewlett's whereabouts and had not yet made any effort to locate him because they have not received a request for legal assistance or arrest warrant from British authorities. She spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with the department's policy.

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Associated Press Writers Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, Patrick McGroarty in Berlin, and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.

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