A Belgian woman told today how she spotted a child resembling Madeleine McCann in Brussels just days after she went missing.
Line Compere’s sighting was one of a number of potential leads revealed in case files released by Portuguese police this week.
Today, she described the moment she saw a child on a tram who looked like the three-year-old.
She was speaking as private investigators were urgently following up another lead in the case files suggesting she may have been abducted to order for a paedophile ring in Belgium.
Ms Compere, 31, told the Press Association: “I made the sighting on a tram. We were on the Number 18 tram from Porte d’Anderlecht going towards the Gare du Midi. They got off and then got on to the number 51 tram.
“She really looked like Madeleine, but her hair was different. In the photos I saw of Madeleine, she had a fringe, but this girl did not. She was dressed all in pink and was in a pushchair.
“I was standing close to her and saw her eyes – they were blue. But I did not notice any marking on her eye.
“She was with a man and a woman, both between 35 and 40 years old. They were white but had dark hair and looked Eastern European.
“They were both dressed in dark clothes. The girl looked very different to the adults.”
She added: “I was interviewed once by Belgian police who launched an inquiry, and I gave them all the details I knew.”
The report was passed on to the Portuguese police but it is unclear what action was taken to follow it up.
According to the Portuguese police case files, Ms Compere said she saw the girl 12 days after Madeleine disappeared in Praia da Luz in May last year.
She told police her suspicions were aroused because the man and woman with the youngster did not look like her, appeared to be speaking a different language from her and did not seem to know her well.
At that point she had never seen a picture of Madeleine but later that day she was shown a photograph of the missing girl, according to the files.
Ms Compere told police in her interview on June 1 last year: “When I saw the photo in question, it immediately jumped out to me that there was a big resemblance to the little girl on the tram.”
There was another sighting of a girl resembling Madeleine in Belgium on May 27 last year, the case files show.
A Briton contacted police after seeing the child asleep on a train from Brussels to Antwerp and concluding she could have been drugged.
She was accompanied by a balding 6ft white man aged about 40 who was wearing sports clothes.
The man got off the train at Mechelen at about 9.20pm carrying the child.
Leicestershire Police made a formal request through Interpol for the relevant train stations and surrounding areas to be checked for CCTV footage.