Raymond Hewlett: lived in Cork and Donegal

A serial sex offender, whom private detectives are "interested" in speaking to about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, lived in Ireland on and off between 1997 and 2001 but was never under investigation for committing a crime in this country.

Garda sources have hit out at "hysterical stories" in newspapers last week stating that Raymond Hewlett, 64, who is being treated for throat cancer in a German hospital, is wanted for questioning by gardaí for alleged crimes here.

"It's completely untrue," said one senior source. "Yes, he lived here on and off for a few years, and while we certainly kept an eye on him, he was never under suspicion for committing any crimes here. He was living like a bit of a hippie in a caravan with his family and moved around the country a bit."

The British man has been jailed several times for sexual offences against young girls. He is wanted for questioning by police in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Leicestershire.

Hewlett was staying 30 miles away from the resort of Praia da Luz, in Portugal, when three-year-old Madeleine McCann went missing in May 2007.

He has denied any involvement in the disappearance but is being investigated by detectives hired by Gerry and Kate McCann, Madeleine's parents.

When living in Ireland, the convicted paedophile spent time in Cork, Donegal and parts of the northwest living in a caravan and a cottage. When locals in Dunaff, Co Donegal, found out about his past, he was "chased out of the town", according to a source. 

Former Fianna Fáil TD Séamus Hughes, the state solicitor for Mayo, spoke out publicly in 1997 against paedophiles, including Hewlett, using Ireland as a base.

Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann, said last week the family was following a line of enquiry about Hewlett.

"We are aware of Raymond Hewlett and the claims that have been made about him in some newspapers. The investigators searching for Madeleine are currently looking into the circumstances surrounding these claims. Mr Hewlett is an individual of interest to the Madeleine investigation but I would stress it is just one line of inquiry," he said.

Hewlett, a former Scots guardsman who has worked as a trawlerman and fairground operator, was convicted of two sex attacks on girls in the 1970s and another attack in 1988, for which he was jailed for six years.