Last updated at 10:27am on 24th February 2008
Kate and Gerry McCanns face yet another devastating blow after reports emerged last night that Madeleine McCann has been spotted in Britain.
Detectives are said to be launching a major inquiry into the claim that the missing four-year-old was seen by a man in Dorset.
Retired civil servant Alan Cameron alerted police after a Portuguese couple turned up his home in the village of Stratton.
Kate and Gerry McCann face potential heartache with a new sighting of Madeleine. Mr Cameron became suspicious when he saw a girl matching Madeleine's description sitting in the couple's car.
It is the first time a sighting of Madeleine has been reported in Britain since she vanished while on holiday in Portugal last May.
Mr Cameron,66, told the Sunday Express: "They knocked on my door and said they had come to buy the garden furniture I'd put on sale in a local ad."
"Straight away they struck me as odd. The woman said she was Italian but they were speaking fluent Portuguese.
"The man had a few days' growth on his face and was wearing filthy clothes. He told me they ran a language centre in Weymouth but then the woman hit him and told him to be quiet."
Mr Cameron, a former clerk with the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the girl spoke in English and appeared distressed.
"I hear a voice, in perfect, clear English say 'I need to use the toilet'. I could see that she was blonde and four years old."
"I said of course and the woman grabbed her and scooped her under her arm. She didn't allow the girl to walk and deliberately pushed the hood of her jersey over her head. She was sobbing. This little girl was unhappy and she was scared. "I knew straight away it was a face I'd seen in the news. I'm convinced of it."
A spokesman for Dorset police confirmed that inquiries into the sighting were ongoing. The McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said last night that the private detectives in charge of the investigation had been informed.
He said: "There's a lot about this sighting which suggests at the very least that we are talking about an abducted young girl. "We are eagerly awaiting any outcome."
The new reports will cause more fresh heartache for the couple, coming hard on the heels of a suspected sighting of Madeleine in South of France earlier this month. The McCanns urged French police to show them CCTV footage of a suspected sighting of daughter Madeleine in the South of France. Although French police have ruled out the possibility it is the four-year-old her parents want to see the surveillance video from a French diner where a Dutch tourist reported seeing the missing British girl. They refuse give up hope it is her until they have seen the footage and believe it would "put their minds at rest".
There have been several suspected sightings in Europe and North Africa of Madeleine, who vanished from her bed in the Portuguese holiday resort days before her fourth birthday.
Meanwhile detectives from the McCann's private investigators Metado 3 were back in Praia da Luz last night. They were seen studying aerial photos of the area.