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Tycoon flew £1.5million ($2.8m NZD) private jet to Africa to find Maddie McCann after tip-off

Mirror logo Mirror 7/05/2017 Richard Wheatstone
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A multi-millionaire tycoon flew his private jet to Africa in a bid to find Madeleine McCann.

Brian Kennedy, who has pledged to help the McCanns find their daughter, said he raced to Morocco in his £1.5million jet after receiving a tip-off about a fair-haired child in Tangier.

Joined by his son Patrick, the 50-year-old managed to track down the girl in the Atlas Mountains - but soon discovered it wasn't Maddie.

Patrick told The Sun Kate and Gerry were "devastated" when he rang them to deliver the bad news.

He said: “They were shattered. You can’t even imagine how they must have felt.”

The pair have spoken out about the £30,000 trip on tenth anniversary of Maddie's disappearance.

Brian, worth £350million, offered to help the McCanns in the weeks after their girl, then three, vanished.

He said: “To see Kate and Gerry suffering so much really touched me.” 

And him and Patrick hoped they had managed to find Maddie after they heard a tourist had photographed a blonde girl being carried on the back of a woman in Morocco in September 2007.

But after arriving in Tangier and hiring a guide they found the little girl in the mountain village of Zinat - and soon realised it wasn't her.

Almost ten years later the hunt is still on for the youngster, who vanished from the Portugese resort area of Praia da Luz in 2007.

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The global hunt to find her has triggered more than 8,500 reported sightings across more than 100 countries in the last decade.

A Freedom of Information request to Metropolitan Police published in October last year found Operation Grange had collated 8,685 sightings in 101 countries and territories.

Sightings have spanned across the globe from Australia and Singapore to Mexico and the USA but the majority have been made in mainland Europe.

None have been confirmed but several have raised hopes - even if only temporarily - that Maddie may one day be found alive.

But as parents Kate and Gerry McCann vowed to never give up on their search, we look at some of the most high-profile reported sightings.

1.Spain

A holidaymaker claims he saw Madeleine McCann on board a flight from Ibiza to Munich in August 2012.

Tourist Frank Bode contacted British cops after he saw a little girl resembling the missing youngster with a German family on the holiday jet.

The 42-year-old managed to take a blurry photograph of the child, who he said was British and did not seem to fit with her family.

“My intuition told me that the girl, who was around seven to 10 years old, could be Madeleine,” Mr Bode told the Olive Press, an English newspaper published in Spain.

“She didn’t seem to fit with her family at all. Her father was clearly German, as were her two brothers, both around 10 to 12 years old, but her mother appeared to be British.”

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He claims said the family all spoke German except for the little girl, who he claims he heard speaking English. The mother, he said, did not speak for the entire flight.

Spanish cops also swooped on a Costa del Sol holiday town in June 2012 after a “credible” tip-off.

Detectives were in Nerja after Portuguese officers were told by an informant that a girl with a “strong physical resemblance” to Madeleine had been spotted in the Spanish resort, near Malaga.

Another possible sighting of little girl who looked like Maddy was at a campsite on the Costa del Sol in May 2012.

Brit holidaymaker Karen Sisson told The Sun that the blonde girl, wearing a pink T-shirt, shorts and a beige hat, appeared "out of it" and out of place with the German couple she was staying with.

2.India

Maddy was reported to have been seen in the Indian city of Leh in February 2012 after an elderly British woman spotted a youngster who looked very similar to her.

A French woman and a Belgian man who were with the girl insisted they were her parents but police took their passports for checking. They were later released.

The McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “They have seen photographic evidence and concluded that it was not her.”

He said Kate and Gerry were grateful for the public’s vigilance.

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3.France

A student insisted she saw Madeleine McCann in a French cafe and said how the girl answered to her name and had the same eye mark.

Melissa Fiering, 18, spotted the little blonde girl with a dark-skinned man near Montpellier.

She said: "I know Madeleine's got a defect in her right iris and when I looked this girl had it too.

"I called her name and she looked up at me. I knew then it was definitely her."

Ms Fiering said how the man grabbed the girl and hurried away before she could stop him. She said: "I could hardly believe my eyes but I knew for sure it was Madeleine.

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"I called out her name and she looked up at me - she obviously recognised it.

"But when I called out 'Madeleine' the man she was with got worried and started dragging her away from the queue."

Melissa said the man was about 6ft, with black hair, a black leather jacket, several days growth of stubble and a small moustache.

4.Morocco

In 2007 there were reports of around 10 separate sightings of a girl fitting Maddy's description in northern Morocco.

Three officers and an army of local informers were in the Rif mountains chasing reports a youngster has been spotted with a woman in her 60s.

In October, one woman reported that she had seen a girl matching Madeleine's description in a petrol station in Marrakech. She said the girl was 'sad' and was accompanied by a man in his late 30s.

At around the same time, a British tourist reported a possible sighting near the Marrakech Ibis hotel.

Interpol discounted these sightings but officers from Leicestershire police stayed in Morocco for some days afterwards.

A Spanish tourist also saw a similar girl as she drove through Zaio in northern Morocco at the end of May.

Then, police again focused on Morocco in June, after GCHQ in Cheltenham picked up phone intercept messages in Arabic referring to "the little blonde girl", a German man, and a ferry from Tarifa in Spain.

There was another possible sighting in Zaio, one in Fnideq, a sighting in Zinat and one in Karia Ba Mohamed in October.

5.Belgium

There were also two reported sightings in Belgium, on in May 2007 in Liège and the second in July in a café in Tongeren.

Witness Katleen Sampermans said that Madeleine was in the cafe in the company of a Dutch man and an English woman but the girl turned out to be the four-year-old daughter of a Belgian man.

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6.Bosnia and Herzegovina

An Irish tourist said they saw 'Maddy' in Međugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in November 2007.

The child was later found to be the three-year-old daughter of Slavko Dedić, a dentist from Ljubuški.

7.Malta

There were at least five 'sightings' of Maddy in Valleta, Malta, in June 2007 on the island.

The total sightings had risen to 29 by 27 June but police investigations didn't produce results.

8.Netherlands

There was a possible sighting in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in early May 2007 after witness Anna Stam reported to Dutch police that a girl aged three or four told her she was with a 'stranger' who had 'taken her from her mummy'.

Ms Stam said the girl, who resembled Madeleine, had come into her shop and told her she had been taken while she was on holiday.

She added that her name was "Maddy". Police drew a blank.

9.Sweden

A picture of a girl who looked similar to Maddy was printed in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in October 2009.

The image was taken by the photographer who claimed that the girl only spoke English, but that she was accompanied by a man who spoke Swedish.

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