Police Focus on New Suspect in Hunt for Madeleine McCann

05/22/2009 at 02:10 PM EDT

Police Focus on New Suspect in Hunt for Madeleine McCann
Raymond Hewlett (left) and Madeleine McCann
AP
A former soldier is the latest person linked to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann two years ago.

Raymond Hewlett, 64, is said to have been staying with his family in a motorhome about an hour's drive from the Praia da Luz resort where the McCanns were vacationing in May 2007. He has now been tracked, by a British newspaper, to a hospital in Germany, where he is being treated for throat cancer.

Hewlett is said by the reports in the U.K. to be a convicted pedophile with a history of sex attacks on young girls over more than 30 years. Now police forces in the U.K. are looking into possibly extraditing him from Germany so he can questioned over some existing cases.

Early Friday, he was pictured in one tabloid, the Daily Mirror under the headline Madeleine: New Probe. Rival paper, The Sun titled its Hewlett story Child Sex Beast in Maddie Probe.

In The Mirror story, Alan and Cindy Thompson, who know Hewlett, recounted a conversation in which he said he had been approached by "gypsy tourists" offering to buy one of his six children. The Thompsons said they had no idea about his past until they returned to the U.K.

Hewlett has denied any involvement in the McCann case and is quoted as saying, "I've done nothing wrong, nothing, nothing, nothing."

Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell tells PEOPLE the McCann family have been aware of Hewlett for some time. "He remains a person of interest to the Madeleine investigators. But this is only one line of inquiry."

Mitchell confirms that investigators, hired by the family, will head out to Germany when they can. He added that they are liaising with British police forces over the case. "The investigators are seeking to establish the truth of some of the claims," he adds. "Certainly, there are questions to answer."

The specially-selected McCann team of former police detectives has been in Portugal all this week, as they switch from there to the U.K. depending on requirements. "This is an ongoing, continuous process," Mitchell adds.

The news comes after a frantic few weeks for the McCann family. Around the second anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, her parents Kate and Gerry stepped up their publicity campaign, including heading to America and appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show and releasing an artist rendering of what she might look like now.

There has also been a new British documentary which published a new new sketch of a possible suspect.


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