Detectives investigating the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann in Portugal said on Wednesday they were looking for a lone intruder who sexually abused four girls during break-ins at holiday homes.
The tanned, dark-haired man is suspected of breaking in to 12 properties where British families were staying in the Algarve between 2004 and 2010, the Metropolitan Police said.
In four of the incidents, girls aged between seven and 10 were sexually assaulted.
The attacks happened between 2004 and 2006, before Madeleine vanished from a holiday apartment in 2007, days before her fourth birthday.
Her parents were dining with friends at a nearby restaurant at the time.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said tracing the man, who is said to have “an unhealthy interest in young white female children”, was one of his priority lines of inquiry.
His team currently has 38 people classed as “persons of interest” and is also sifting through details of 530 known sex offenders whose whereabouts cannot be accounted for.
Of those 59 are classed as high priority, and some are British.
Portuguese authorities closed their investigation into Madeleine's disappearance in 2008, but the Metropolitan Police spent two years reviewing the evidence at the British government's request and opened their own probe in July last year.
The girl's parents Gerry and Kate McCann have never given up their campaign to find Madeleine. - Sapa-AFP