Madeleine McCann may have been kidnapped by slave traders and sold to a rich family, an ex-Scotland Yard detective has claimed.
The theory suggests Madeleine, who went missing in 2007, may have been smuggled to Africa via a ferry.
Gangs who operate in Mauritania, West Africa, reportedly sell children to rich Middle Eastern families.
“The Mauritania line is certainly a possibility and needs to be looked at,” Colin Sutton told the Mirror.
“If someone wanted to get a three-year-old child into Africa it’s the obvious route. The infrastructure and contacts for people smuggling are clearly there.”
Private detectives hired by the McCann family apparently think there is “strong reason” to believe Madeleine was taken to Morocco - a route into Mauritania.
Lagos, where boats depart for Africa, is very close to Praia da Luz, where Madeleine went missing, and it has been estimated it would have taken kidnappers no more than five hours to take her to North Africa.
Mari Olli and British husband Ray Pollard had not heard of Madeleine’s disappearance when they saw the girl they believe was her in Marrakech.
“I saw the girl inside the shop. She was wearing clear blue pyjamas. Some pattern on the top, trousers little darker. Don’t think the trousers had any pattern,” Ms Olli wrote to Leicestershire police.
“She was very small. Under one metre. She was with a man. She was standing alone, the man about a metre from her.
“I looked back at her, she was very sweet. It was a strange situation because the man didn’t look like her father.
“And it was very strange to see a blonde small girl standing alone in Marrakech,” she added.