British police were today hoping to interview a convicted paedophile in Germany who is being investigated over Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.
Raymond Hewlett, 64, is alleged to have been staying near the McCanns’ holiday flat in Praia da Luz, Portugal, when the little girl went missing in May 2007.
UK-born Hewlett, a former soldier who previously lived in Blackpool and Telford, was jailed several times for sexually assaulting young girls.
He is now reportedly being treated for throat cancer in hospital in the German city of Aachen, but is wanted for questioning by British detectives.
West Yorkshire Police confirmed today they were seeking him in connection with an indecent assault in 1975.
“We have made contact with the German authorities. We are just waiting for clearance so we can actually go and speak to him regarding that incident,” a spokeswoman said.
“We cannot go into details on the incident.”
Two retired UK detectives hired by Madeleine’s parents to search for their daughter hope to interview Hewlett with the help of British police.
A source said: “A proper police force such as West Yorkshire may get first crack. It’s then a question of us liaising with the police to see what access we can get.”
But the source added: “He is one of a number of possible leads that we are looking at. We are not going to give it any more weight than that. We are being quite cautious on this.”
Questions were raised about Hewlett’s time in Portugal by a couple who met him on holiday, the Daily Mirror reported.
Alan and Cindy Thompson said the sex offender was living with his wife and six children in a converted Dodge truck travelling from campsite to campsite in the Algarve and southern Spain.
Hewlett allegedly told the Thompsons he was approached by some “Gipsy tourists” offering to buy his daughter just before Madeleine went missing.
They also recalled him mentioning a “business” trip to Morocco, where there were several alleged sightings of the little girl in the months after her disappearance.
Hewlett told the Thompsons he was at a market in the Portuguese town of Fuseta, 30 miles from Praia da Luz, when Madeleine vanished, according to the Mirror.
He reportedly told the couple he had done nothing wrong and they were judging him based on what they knew of his past.
He said: “If you’ve chosen to believe anything I can’t do anything about it anyway, so there you go. Catch 22.
“You’re basing it on someone’s past, rather. That means the person’s past is important. Doesn’t make him guilty. You shouldn’t be talking to me about it. I’ve done nothing wrong, nothing, nothing.”
It is believed the Thompsons attempted to contact British police with their concerns about Hewlett some time ago but were not successful.
Leicestershire Police, which handled the British end of the inquiry into what happened to Madeleine, refused to comment.
A spokeswoman for the force said: “The disappearance of Madeleine McCann remains a Portuguese investigation. We would pass any relevant information we receive to the Portuguese police.”
However, the paper said that Leicestershire Police have arranged to speak to the couple today to discuss their dealings with Hewlett, who is also reportedly under investigation in Germany over the death of his son David.
The boy was killed after he fell from the back of a van that Hewlett was driving from Portugal to Germany, the paper said.
Another son of Hewlett’s said he had severed all ties with his father, whom he branded “a monster”.
Wayne Hewlett, 40, told the Mirror: “The crimes he has committed are despicable. He is a major embarrassment as a father and I’m ashamed of the things he has done.
“I know he has cancer but I don’t care whether he lives or dies. I despise the man.”
The McCanns’ private investigators yesterday flew back to the UK from Portugal, where they have been chasing up information received from the public since a blaze of publicity around the second anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “Our investigators have been following up a number of leads.
“Since the publicity surrounding the second anniversary, the Oprah appearance, the age progression picture, the Channel 4 documentary, there have been hundreds of calls.
“Within those there have been a handful of encouraging calls that the private detectives are very pleased with.
“They contain solid new information that needs to be verified, and that’s what they have been doing.”
It is understood the leads include names of a number of suspects.
Madeleine was nearly four when she went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007 while her parents dined with friends nearby.
Despite a massive police investigation and huge publicity worldwide she has not been found.