Shropshire Star

How the disappearance of Madeleine McCann led police to a sprawling Shropshire estate

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British paedophile Raymond Hewlett

It is a little incongruous that one path taken by those attempting to solve the riddle of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance led to a sprawling West Midlands estate.

Woodside, among the first communities created for Telford new town, is a maze of neat homes and wooden fences.

It is more than 1,600 miles from the scene of Madeleine’s 2007 abduction – the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz.

The Woodside estate, pictured in 2001

Culturally, climatically and architecturally, Wellsfield, Woodside – somewhat sombre and functional – appears even further away.

But within one of its homes resided twisted paedophile Raymond Hewlett, a man once considered a suspect in what has been described as “the most heavily reported missing persons case in modern history”.

Raymond Hewlett always denied any involvement

In 2007, the former car dealer was living an hour’s drive away from the McCann’s holiday apartment.

And following the 62-year-old’s death from throat cancer in 2010, claims surfaced he had confessed to knowing who snatched Madeleine.

His son said Hewlett, who spent his last days in Aachen, Germany, had alleged the little girl was “stolen to order” by a Belgian gang.

The three-year-old has never been found and detectives’ attention is now focused on Christian Brueckner, who stands trial this month accused of a string of sex attacks in Portugal.

Suspect Christian Brueckner

Hewlett, dishevelled and dirty, looked what he was – every mother’s worst nightmare.

He was jailed for 18 months in 1972 for abducting a 12-year-old. Hewlett overwhelmed the girl by placing a rag doused in paint thinner over her face, then took his victim to Todmorden moors, Yorkshire.

In 1978 he was locked up for four years after holding a gun to the head of a 14-year-old girl and attempting to rape her.

Ten years later Hewlett received six years for kidnapping and assaulting a newspaper delivery girl of 14 in Cheshire.

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