"I dont know if this information will help the McCanns. We kept interested in whats going on but we tried to avoid the limelight." The father of six yesterday said the Irish family would do anything they could to help the McCanns find their missing daughter. "We have not been contacted by the private detective hired by the McCanns, and have had no contact with the investigating police since May 26 last year. "But anything we can do to help try to solve it, we will." Recalling the event she witnessed, Mr Smith said it was some time before the family realised they could be star witnesses.
We were out the night it happened. My son and his family were leaving on the Friday and we were going for a family meal. We went home about 9.50pm and we heard nothing at all about Madeleine McCann until the next day. I was taking my son Peter to the airport and on my way back, I heard that a kidnapping had happened in the village of Luz. We were looking at all the commotion on Sky News and we really felt quite helpless. "We had two grandchildren with us at the time, aged four and five, and it had a terrible effect on them. They all wanted to sleep in the same room as us until we went home on the Wednesday. We were home two weeks when my son rang up and asked was he dreaming or did we meet a man carrying a child the night Madeleine was taken. We all remembered that we had the same recollection. I felt we should report it to the police. I rang the Portuguese police and they took a statement from me on the phone. Then they asked me to make a statement to gardai, which I did in Drogheda two weeks after the disappearance. Two days later, Leicestershire police got on to us and said they wanted to speak to all nine of us. But we felt there was no point dragging grand children and the whole lot out to Portugal so just my eldest son, Peter, and youngest daughter, Aoife, and I flew to Luz to make a statement. The police were fairly busy and the station was pretty typical. They didnt seem to be the most efficient police you ever came across but they are probably no different to police anywhere else. We were interviewed separately and told them what we saw, and showed them on the map where we met the man and child. We spent the whole day there from 10.30am to 7pm with an interpreter. That day, May 26 last year, was the last time we had any contact with the investigation. I remember clearly because it was my wedding anniversary. I told them we went for dinner at the Dolphin Restaurant and then went on to have just one drink in Kelly's bar, just 50 yards away. We would normally have stayed out longer but my son and his family were going home the next day. As we made our way back to our apartment in Estrella da Luz, we met a guy with a child that appeared to be asleep. It looked like a blonde child, and I thought she might be four years old, as she was the same size as my grandchild who was with us. It was around 9.55pm and it was getting dark and he was looking downward so I couldnt tell you exactly what he looked like. None of us was 100 per cent sure what he was wearing but we all told police he was wearing beige trousers and a darker top. We all put him in his early 40s. I didnt think he was Portuguese.
(Same article later republished with new headline: 'Missing Madeleine McCann: Irish Witness 'Clears' Murat', 12:00pm UK, Monday April 07, 2008 )
We were home two weeks when my son rang me up and asked was he dreaming or did we meet a man carrying a child the night Madeleine was taken. We all remembered the same recollection, and I felt we should report it to the police. We've all been beating ourselves up that we should have made the link sooner, if only we'd remembered the next day. But the Portuguese police said you see these things on holiday all the time.
I rang the Portuguese police and they took a statement from me on the phone. They asked me to make a statement to the Gardai, which I did, and two days later Leicestershire police got on to us. My eldest son, Peter, my youngest daughter, Aoife, and I then flew to Luz to make a statement. They didn't seem to be the most efficient police you ever came across - and that was the last time we had any contact with the investigation. I don't know if this information will help the McCanns, but anything we can do to help try to solve it, we will. We were looking at all the commotion on Sky News and we really felt quite helpless. We had two grandchildren with us at the time and it had a terrible effect on them - they all wanted to sleep in the same room as us.
It was our last night. We left the restaurant early because my wife, who was expecting our third child at the time was feeling unwell. On the way back to our apartment we saw a man walking down towards the beach with a child in his arms. It's a common enough sight in a holiday resort and we didn't think much of it. In fact it was only after we were home two weeks that I remembered seeing him. At the time my attention was focused on looking after my wife. When I mentioned it, it jogged my father's memory and he too remembered seeing the same man.