Madeleine McCann: Praia da Luz won’t easily emerge from the shadow of her disappearance | World News
The sun-soaked Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz won’t easily emerge from the shadow of the Madeleine McCann mystery – whatever the outcome of the latest police investigation.
That’s the view of British expat John Ballinger, who was there the night Madeleine vanished in 2007 and has followed every twist in the case.
He said: “I’ve seen so many developments, some big and some small, and they have all fizzled out eventually, so let’s see if the new suspect turns out to be Madeleine’s abductor.”
German police and Scotland Yard have appealed for information about the latest suspect, a German drifter who is currently serving drugs and rape sentences in a jail near Hamburg.
Under Germany’s privacy laws, he is known only as Christian B, a bar worker who lived around southern Portugal between 1995 and 2007.
For a long time he rented a house outside Praia da Luz, where Madeleine vanished from her family’s holiday apartment in 2007.
Telephone data suggests the suspect was nearby on the night.
Retired Mr Ballinger, who plays trombone and sings in a jazz band in restaurants and bars along the Algarve, said: “If it’s him, people will say ‘thank God’, but it may be hard to shake off the stigma the village has carried.
“Undoubtedly, tourists, particularly Americans, stopped coming here for a long time. It was the last place in the world they wanted to visit because they thought their children would be snatched away.”
Police have received 1,000 bits of information since they launched public appeals about the suspect 11 days ago.
Christian B, 43, is serving seven years in Germany for the rape of an elderly American woman in Praia da Luz in 2005, after his conviction last year.
This week, an Irish woman Hazel Behan spoke about her own rape in the Algarve a year before, describing striking similarities between the two attacks.
In both incidents, the rapist broke in – masked and armed with a long knife – and subjected his victims to a prolonged attack. Ms Behan said her attacker spoke with a German accent.
In their authoritative book Looking For Madeleine, authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan reveal a series of sex attacks by intruders into holiday apartments in the Algarve in the years before and after Madeleine vanished.
Many were in apartments occupied by British families and the victims were often young children. In one case, the intruder wore a mask.
Robbyn Swan said: “These are possible similarities between the suspect Christian B and the other crimes.
“One would want to be looking closely at them to see if they are just coincidences, or whether we are seeing a pattern.”
Ms Behan said she had given a statement to Scotland Yard and detectives told her they were taking he case seriously and liaising with Portuguese colleagues.
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