Authorities in Paraguay are discounting a media report that a private investigator found a young English girl who famously disappeared from her family’s apartment while they vacationed in Portugal.
When Madeleine McCann, 3, disappeared in May 2007, it caused headlines around the world, with her distraught parents coming under suspicion right after she vanished.
As the weeks passed and no evidence about the case emerged, finding Madeleine became a national obsession in England and Portugal, and a number of theories began to circulate. One had it that she was abducted and trafficked to a childless couple on another continent.
Last weekend, a man named Miraz Ullah Ali Isa, who identified himself as an English private eye, told the Ascunción newspaper ABC Color, “My team and I received information that Madeleine arrived in Paraguay a month or two ago.”
He added that Madeleine was “in the custody of a woman” in the town of Areguá, about 17 miles from the capital city of Asunción.
But the reports were discounted by inspector Luis Ignacio Arias of Interpol in Paraguay, who told EFE on Tuesday that his office had no information on Isa's identity or any clues about the girl's supposed whereabouts in the South American country.
"There's nothing concrete about that person," Arias said, referring to Isa, adding that he never contacted the National Police or the Foreign Ministry.
The country’s vice minister of interior security, Jalil Rachid, told Radio Monumental, “The information we have is that no,” the missing girl was not to be found in Areguá. He added that the would-be investigator “obviously left with empty hands.”
Isa declined to tell ABC Color the name of his investigative firm, nor was he able to provide any documentation showing that he was an investigator, the newspaper reported.
In its original article, the paper further discredited Isa’s story by pointing out that “he only stayed [in the country] a couple of days and didn’t speak with anyone.”
Interpol’s Arias told EFE that Paraguay’s National Police said it will launch an investigation into the supposed detective's story and into his identity.
When she disappeared, Madeleine was sleeping with her twin brothers in an apartment in the town of Praia da Luz, in the Algarve section of Portugal, while her parents were dining with friends at a nearby restaurant. Madeleine’s brothers were undisturbed.
The parents then initiated a massive search to try to find their daughter, which has never officially ended.
Last month, her mother held a press conference saying that she did not believe her daughter was ever taken out of Algarve.
“That’s where she last was and I don’t think she’s been taken a million miles from there. I’ve always said Praia da Luz is the place where I feel closest to her.”
EFE contributed to this report.