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Woman adamant she saw Madeleine

Published: 10:35PM Wednesday March 03, 2010 Source: ONE News

The woman who made a sighting in New Zealand of what she believes was missing British girl Madeleine McCann has spoken exclusively to ONE News.

Taryn Dryfhout was working as a checkout operator at a Warehouse store in south Dunedin in late 2007 when a family of a man, a woman and a boy and girl came to the checkout.

"I was stricken by the wee girl who looked just like Madeleine McCann," she says.

Dryfhout spoke with the woman who had an English accent, and then spoke to the girl.

"She had an English accent as well and she told me that her name was Hayley and was quite apprehensive...and sort of stammered over her words when she was trying to think of her name," says Dryfhout.

"She was just very shy and afraid."

Madeleine vanished from her room at the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, just days before her fourth birthday.

Despite a global search effort, she has not been found.

Dryfhout described the man and woman with the child as "a little bit suspicious".

"I spoke to the woman only, not the man, and she seemed like she would rather that I wasn't speaking to her. She sort of tried to keep ending the conversation...she was just in a little bit of a hurry to get out I think."

Dryfhout describes the woman as being "bigger" with short, blond hair. She cannot remember the details of the man very well, and says the boy was older than the girl, perhaps 12 years old.

A short time after approaching the girl and her parents, Dryfhout contacted her manager and the police. 

She says after the store handed over security camera footage she never heard anything more, until Wednesday.

Information just released by a Portuguese court shows Dryfhout's possible sighting and dozens of others were filed away by Portuguese police and not investigated.

London's Daily Mail reports the McCann family is shocked and angry to hear for the first time of the now possible sighting dating back two years, and has labelled the footage of the child as "striking".

Dunedin police say they followed correct procedure and said in a statement it was "unable to obtain any further information or ongoing lines of inquiry", and that the file remains open.

Now, two years after the footage was handed over, police have once again spoken to Dryfhout, asking her to remember details about the sighting of the girl she believes was Madeleine.

"They started asking me questions I should have been asked at the time. They asked me things like 'how had the family paid for their purchase?'...and they wanted quite detailed descriptions of the people."

Dryfhout says she often thinks about the sighting, especially when it resurfaces in the news, and wonders if things would have been different if it had been handled differently.

She says it did not occur to her at the time to go to the media with what she had seen.

"I guess I thought that the police would take a long time with the inquiry because it's an overseas issue, and it was quite a few weeks before I realised that I wasn't going to hear anything at all."

Dryfhourt says her own attempts to find Madeleine McCann's parents were unsuccessful, though she did leave a message through a website that appeared to be connected to the family.

She says it is disappointing that her possible sighting was not followed through.

"I absolutely believe it was her. I have no doubt in my mind."