Alibi of Madeleine McCann suspect thrown into doubt

The alibi of Madeleine McCann suspect Robert Murat’s girlfriend was thrown into doubt yesterday.

Friends of Michaela Walczuch claimed she had told police she was at a Jehovah’s Witness prayer meeting on the night three-year-old Madeleine vanished.

But a woman at the church said she was not at the meeting while other worshippers said she was “cast aside” by their community more than a year ago.

They claimed Portuguese police had not taken the trouble to check her alibi.

A man at the church, who refused to give his name but said he was a “brother” in the group, said: “I haven’t been interviewed. The police haven’t been here.”

The man, identified by locals as Teofilo Castela, refused to say why Miss Walczuch, 34, was thrown out of the congregation.

But she is known to have been seeing Mr Murat for almost two years while still living with estranged husband Luis Antonio. The strange set-up was thought to have angered Jehovah’s Witness elders.

Mr Castela said. “She was cast aside. It was before this year. The church has certain rules and they must not be broken.”

Claims that Miss Walczuch was at the church would have given her a solid alibi for the night that Madeleine disappeared.

The Jehovah’s Witness group in Lagos holds Thursday night meetings between 8.30pm and 10.15pm, and Madeleine vanished between 9pm and 10pm on the night of May 3, which was a Thursday.

If witnesses had agreed that she was there, it would have placed her five miles from Praia da Luz where Madeleine vanished.

But a woman at the church – a gloomy, badly lit room at the bottom of a rundown block of flats – denied Miss Walczuch attended the May 3 meeting.

She said she had not seen the German-born mother-of-one all year, since she had been thrown out. Others said they could not remember if she attended in May.

Miss Walczuch has refused to reveal publicly where she was on May 3, or on the dates when two witnesses claim to have seen her with a child resembling Madeleine. She has dismissed the alleged sightings as “ridiculous and bizarre”.

She and her husband, 37, were both interviewed as witnesses on the day Mr Murat was made an official suspect. Their homes were searched.

Kate and Gerry McCann’s private detectives are investigating the two potential sightings of Miss Walczuch and Madeleine.

A Portuguese lorry driver claims he saw her driving a hire car on a road near Silves, 25 miles from Praia da Luz, on May 5.

He said he saw her hand over a child in a blanket to a man in a black car and said he believed the child was Madeleine.

On June 15 a Spanish woman claims to have seen Miss Walczuch in a town in northern Morocco, moments after she saw a child resembling the missing girl with a woman in a Muslim headscarf.

Miss Walczuch, her husband and Mr Murat, 34, all deny involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance. They refused to comment on Miss Walczuch’s alibi.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses follow what they believe is a “purer” form of Christianity, based on the First Century Church. The ultimate sanction on those who break the rules is excommunication, known as disfellowship.

• Original title: Madeleine: Now Murat’s girlfriend’s alibi falls apart

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This post was last updated: Friday, December 16, 2016 at 9:32 AM, Central European Time (CET)