German TV show on missing British toddler receives 500 calls, emails

BERLIN - A German broadcaster said Thursday it received more than 500 phone calls and emails after airing a programme on the 2007 disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann in Portugal.

Maddie's parents launched an emotional appeal for information to help them find their daughter on the ZDF public television show "Aktenzeichen XY... ungeloest" which is similar to the BBC's "Crimewatch".

"Please have the compassion and courage to tell us what happened to her," her mother Kate McCann said on the programme watched by 7.26 million people, its highest rating in 15 years.

"After the broadcast of... Aktenzeichen XY, the number of tip-offs rose to more than 500," said a spokesman for the broadcaster who cautioned it was not known how much of the information would prove useful.

Maddie disappeared from a holiday apartment in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, just days before her fourth birthday while the parents were in a nearby tapas bar.

Scotland Yard this week launched a major new appeal in Britain, the Netherlands and Germany asking for information to help solve the case, and senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood also appeared on the TV programme.

Redwood said witnesses had spotted a man in the Ocean Club resort area who was carrying a young child toward the beach, and that he was the likely kidnapper. He was described as white, aged between 20 and 40, with short brown hair, of medium build, medium height and clean shaven.

Police also want to identify two other men, probably with short blond hair and possibly speaking German or Dutch, who had also been seen repeatedly near the apartment.