The Irish Mail on Sunday [Paper edition only] - 10.08.2008
Father-of-six gave garda a signed statement saying he and his wife were ''60 to 80% sure'' that the man they saw holding the child was Maddie's father. The claim, which was taken seriously by the Portuguese police, was made almost four months after Maddie disappeared on May 3rd this year. ??? Since then the McCanns have been totally exonerated of any involvement. Mr. Smith had initally told police he had seen a man carrying a child that night, but that he couldn't identify him because he had not been wearing his glasses. Pas du tout, c'est l'homme croisé qui n'avait pas de lunettes.
Mr Smith's claim was passed to the Portuguese police who took it as more evidence in support of their mistaken belief that the McCanns had something to do with their daughter's disappearence. Friends of the McCann family said last night that the decision of the Portuguese police to pursue Mr Smith's claims prove that they were determined to pin the blame on Maddie's parents come what may. One said ''Look at the facts. This man sees an individual carrying a child on the night Madeleine vanished. He waits 13 days to report this to the police, going back to Ireland.
"The McCanns returning to England - It was this image that alerted Mr Smith in the meantime. At this stage he admits he has no idea who the man is, other than a basic description. A further three, almost four months go by before, after seeing him on television, he feels it could be Gerry. ''By now the police have dozens of statements putting Gerry back at the apartment complex at that time. Yet the Portuguese ask a combination of the Leicestershire police and the Garda to re-interview this witness. About what??' 'And why? The truth is that this is part of the victimisation of Gerry and Kate which has gone on from the very beginning by the Portuguese,who were clearly desperate to get something against them."
The extraordinary saga began on the night of May 3rd 2007, as Martin and his wife, Mary, walked back from a local pub in Praia da Luz to their apartment with members of his family. They had decided to return to their apartment within an hour of dining out because their son, Peter, was catching an early morning flight the next day. As they made their way back, they crossed paths with a slim man with a full head of chestnut coloured hair and dressed in beige trousers coming in the opposite direction.
It was 9.55 pm Personne n'a dit ça.
In the statement to Portuguese police on May 26th, the grandfather -who wears glasses but was not wearing them at the night in question - MS ne dit rien de tel dans sa déposition. said he would not be able to identify the man he saw. Significantly though he was able to tell Police that the man was not Robert Murat, as he had met him on a number of previous occasions. After making his statement, Mr Smtih returned to Drogheda and it was not until four months later that that he made contact with the police again.
This weekend, Mr Smith's wife Mary told the Mail on Sunday her husband had no regrets about coming forward.
He [Martin] doesn't want to talk, said Mrs Smith. He said what he had to say. I was with him [that night]. We saw a man carrying a child and that's all we know. We told them all that and that's it. 'The man he saw had the same stature as Gerry McCann. We felt we had to help. We're happy we did. We reported exactly what we saw. We only did what we thought was right for a missing girl and our hearts are breaking for her parents, as it would be if it were one of ours. I feel very much for them [the McCanns]. I have six grandchildren of my own and six children of my own. "The poor McCann family must be heartbroken.