MADELEINE McCANN WAS IN MY TAXI BUT POLICE IGNORED ME
Madeleine McCann who disappeared in Portugal
Thursday May 3,2012 By John Twomey
A TAXI driver who claims he picked up Madeleine McCann the night after she vanished has accused Portuguese police of dismissing his evidence.
Antonio Castela, 72, says he is certain the little girl in pink pyjamas travelling with four adults was three-year-old Madeleine.
Madeleine was wearing a pink T-shirt with the character Eeyore and white trousers with a small floral pattern when she was snatched.
The cabbie described how the girl in the taxi even had the same distinctive mark in her eye as Madeleine does.
He went to Portugal’s CID, the Policia Judiciaria, soon after discovering Madeleine had gone missing and gave a statement.
But Mr Castela said: “After I went to the police, I never heard anything from them again. They did not seem to take me seriously and never questioned me. They simply took down the details and that was it.
“I am amazed that it has been five years and nobody has ever asked me what I saw that night. I am absolutely certain it was her.”
Mr Castela did absolutely the right thing at the time by reporting his sighting to the PJ
Yesterday, the McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “Mr Castela did absolutely the right thing at the time by reporting his sighting to the PJ.
“It is clearly deeply shocking that he now tells us he has not been interviewed once by a detective in five years. This is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be looked at in the investigative review now being carried out by the Metropolitan Police.” Mr Castela, a cab driver for 23 years, said he picked up the girl on the evening of May 4, 2007, in Monte Gordo in the Algarve. The spot was about an hour’s drive from Praia da Luz where Madeleine vanished the night before.
She was with three men and a woman and they were driven to the Hotel Apolo in Vila Real de Santo Antonio, near Faro. Once there, they got into a blue 4x4 and drove off.
Mr Castela said: “The little girl, who looked like Madeleine was sat on the lap of a man sitting in the back of the cab. I remember thinking it was odd because they did not speak a word during the entire journey apart from at the end when the man sat in the passenger seat said to me, ‘How much?’” He said the girl in his cab did not speak but was “staring ahead” as though she had been doped.
Isabel Duarte, the McCann family lawyer in Portugal, said the driver’s information is one of several leads which police there have not followed up. The McCanns are familiar with the cabbie’s claims but it is not clear if his testimony is among the 195 “investigative opportunities” identified by the Scotland Yard review team.
Operation Grange was launched in May last year after the McCanns appealed directly to David Cameron.
The 37-strong squad is sifting through 40,000 pieces of information.
Madeleine’s father Gerry said: “Probably for the first time in 4d years, information is coming in and it’s going to get through to officers who are actively pursuing the information.”
Last month detectives made inquiries in Nerja, southern Spain, after a tip-off from police in Portugal of a possible sighting of the girl.