* Madeline McCann went missing in 2007 aged three
* British police investigating suspected sex offender
* McCann case gripped global media
(Adds officer comments, more details, background)
By Sarah Young
LONDON, March 19 British detectives
investigating the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann said
they were looking for a man suspected of carrying out a series
of sexual assaults on young girls staying in Portuguese holiday
villas between 2004 and 2010.
McCann, then aged three, went missing from her bedroom at
the Praia da Luz holiday resort in the Algarve region while her
parents were dining with friends at a nearby restaurant, leading
to a global search that gripped the world's media.
London police, who started a review of the case in 2011 and
began their own investigation last year, said on Wednesday they
were looking for more information about 12 crimes committed in
Portuguese holiday resorts.
In four cases between 2004 and 2006 a man sexually assaulted
five white girls, aged between 7 and 10 years, in their beds, in
three different Algarve resorts, police said. Two of the 12
offences were committed in Praia da Luz.
"We need to eliminate this man from our enquiries and
ascertain whether these offences are linked to Madeleine's
disappearance," Andy Redwood, senior investigating officer at
London's Metropolitan Police Service, told a news briefing.
The man, described as being tanned with short, dark, unkempt
hair, spoke English with a foreign accent and would appear early
in the morning. In some incidents, he was disturbed and left.
"This an offender who has got a very, very unhealthy
interest in young, white female children who he's attacking
while they're on holiday in their beds," Redwood said.
"ALL OPTIONS" OPEN
Redwood said the new appeal for information on the man who
carried out the attacks was just one of the "priority lines" of
inquiry currently being pursued. British police are also in
contact with their counterparts in Spain, Belgium, Jersey,
Switzerland, Netherlands and Germany over the case.
British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a new
investigation by London police after the McCanns wrote to him
three years ago saying neither British nor Portuguese
authorities had done enough to try to find their daughter.
Redwood said McCann might have long been dead.
"There is always the potential that she didn't leave the
apartment alive. What is important for us to do is consider all
the options," he said.
(Editing by Gareth Jones)