A Polish woman has garnered viral attention over claims that she may be Madeleine McCann, the missing British girl who disappeared from a Portuguese resort in 2007 when she was three years old.
In an attempt to prove her claims, Julia Wendell, 21, has posted numerous pieces of “evidence” to social media, most of which are side-by-side comparisons of similar physical characteristics between herself and young McCann.
This week, Wendell claimed that after hearing her social media cries, the McCann parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, have asked her to take a DNA test.
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Neither London’s Metropolitan Police — who are still investigating McCann’s disappearance — nor the McCann family have commented publicly on Wendell’s claims.
The crux of Wendell’s “proof” regarding physical resemblance revolves around McCann’s rare eye disorder, one Wendell claims to share. When McCann went missing, a coloboma abnormality in her right eye was used as a major identifying feature. (A coloboma is a hole in the structure of the eye, often causing a visible tear or hole.)
Wendell also claims to have the same dimple as McCann, and several similarly located moles and freckles.
In side-by-side childhood photos of her and McCann, Wendell even said she had similar teeth gapping.
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This week, Wendell wrote on social media that a past police sketch of a potential suspect from the case (found on the Find Madeleine website) resembles her own past abuser.
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Wendell, who claims to be of sound mind, has said she is not sure about her identity and does not have many memories of her childhood. Her father, mother and grandmother have allegedly “shunned” Wendell for claiming to be McCann and have declined to take any form of DNA testing or supply her birth certificate.
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She has shared baby photos provided by her grandmother to social media but said she cannot personally accept them as legitimate.
If alive, Madeleine would be 19 years old. Though Wendell is 21, she fears her age may be incorrect.
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The response to Wendell’s claims online has been intensely polarizing. Many are calling for London’s Metropolitan Police to investigate her claims, while others accuse Wendell of being a malicious fraudster.
According to the New Zealand Herald, several of Wendell’s critics claim she has been identified online with several last names, including Faustyna, Wendell and Wandelt.
The disappearance of Madeleine McCann
On May 3, 2007, three-year-old McCann went missing from a hotel room in Praia da Luz, Portugal, while on vacation with her parents. Kate and Gerry McCann were dining with friends at a nearby tapas bar, leaving Madeleine and her two siblings asleep in their bedroom on the evening she disappeared.
Her disappearance launched a cross-country investigation and resulted in an international media frenzy.
For over a decade, Portuguese, English and German police forces have collaborated in an attempt to locate McCann and her kidnapper.
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Last year, German authorities said “new evidence” connected German native Christian Brückner to McCann’s murder. Brückner is a convicted rapist, but he has yet to be charged in this case. He lived in the Praia da Luz area from 1995 to 2007.
Brückner is serving a seven-year prison sentence for raping a 72-year-old woman in 2005 in the same area where Madeleine went missing. He has also been convicted of drug charges
It was the first time a formal suspect had been named in the McCann case since Madeleine’s parents were declared such in 2007. They were later cleared of suspicion in 2008.
In June 2020, German police said that Madeleine is assumed dead but British authorities continue to treat her disappearance as a missing person case.
— With files from Motorcycle accident toronto today’ Kathryn Mannie
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