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It wasn’t police, but the McCann’s own private investigators Dave Edgar and Arthur Cowley who were the first to make a connection between the man described by witnesses and Raymond Hewlett, a former British soldier and convicted child molester who lived about 30 miles from where young Madeleine disappeared. Hewlett died in 2010 at the age of 64 from throat cancer, but when McCann’s investigators approached him before his death, they saw Hewlett told them he believed “gypsies” had taken the young girl. Now, thanks to a comprehensive review of the Portuguese investigation by British detectives, Hewlett is finally being investigated—albeit posthumously.
There is also evidence in the Portuguese file that Hewlett told another man a similar story, claiming that gypsies were in the Algarve buying children “to order” for child traffickers in Morocco. Peter Verran told police that he met Hewlett on a Moroccan campsite during the summer of 2007, shortly after Madeleine disappeared, and the convicted pedophile told him that there was a booming business in blonde children. “He told me gypsies wanted to pay good money for his daughter,” Verran told The Mirror, a British newspaper. “And he’d met some who traded in children and sold them to pedophiles.”
On his deathbed in 2010, Hewlett allegedly told his son in a “letter of confession” that he had seen the young McCann at least twice after May 2007, but that he had nothing to do with her disappearance, implying that he had seen her on a child-trafficking circuit and got “so close” he could see the now-famous birthmark on Madeleine’s right eye. There is scant information on Hewlett in the actual criminal file, but he had made similar claims to friends before his death, according to several accounts from British newspapers.
Hewlett also reportedly told McCann’s investigators in the days before he died that he would only share the circumstances surrounding the sightings for a sizable cash payout. The McCanns refused to bow to the demands and Hewlett succumbed to his cancer before they could learn more about what he may or may not have known.
There is no evidence among the documents that Portuguese police ever questioned Hewlett about the young child’s disappearance, even though he was a known pedophile living near the scene of the young girl’s disappearance, and that he matched the description given by witnesses the night of the disappearance.