A young woman from Poland became viral over the weekend after she claimed that she is missing British girl Madeleine McCann. However, there two two glaring issues that undermine her claims.
Julia Wendell launched an Instagram account to share “evidence” that she is the girl who disappeared in the Portuguese resort town Praia da Luz on the evening of May 3, 2007, while her parents were having tapas at a restaurant only metres away from their villa.
She was three years old, meaning if she was alive today, she would be 19. Wendell however is 21-year-old.
Despite this discrepancy, she claims that a member of the McCann family asked her to take a DNA test. This has not been confirmed.
Firstly, neither London’s Metropolitan Police - which still has an open investigation, Operation Grange, into Madeleine’s disappearance - or the Find Madeleine campaign have issued a statement on Julia’s claims.
A Met Police spokesman told news.com.au that they had nothing specific to say on the new claim, but said the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance continued.
Previous updates on the case have been shared by the Met and the McCanns, potentially suggesting that Julia’s claim is not being treated as a serious possibility.
The last major update came in June 2020, when police in Britain and Germany launched a new appeal for witnesses after revealing they had a new suspect, who was later revealed to be jailed paedophile Christian Brueckner.
German prosecutors last year charged Brueckner with three counts of aggravated rape and two counts of sexual abuse of children between 2000 and 2017, but none of the alleged offences are in relation to Madeleine.
The McCanns issued a statement at the time too, saying they welcomed the renewed appeal for information.
Two weeks later, they issued a further statement denying false media reports that there was evidence suggesting Madeleine had died.
“If there are important developments that can be made public, they will be issued through official police channels,” the family added at the time.
The second issue with Julia’s claim has been pointed out by commenters online, who say she does not look like Madeleine.
In one video, Julia showed marks on her body that are similar to Madeleine’s, helpfully adding red circles to illustrate her point.
Another side-by-side image she cites as “evidence” shows her similar facial structure.
Perhaps the most powerful image is one showing Julia with what appears to be a similar eye defect to the one missing Madeleine also has.
In Maddie’s case, this was caused by an extremely rare condition coloboma in her right eye, which police had hoped for years would help identify her.
But people online say the marking on her eye is slightly different to Madeleine’s.
Others have also pointed out that she appears to have a different jawline to Madeleine.
But some social media users have pointed out that her face may have changed slightly in the last 16 years.
Julia told followers she’s not looking for viral fame and “truly believes” she is missing Maddie, even asking her parents for proof of her birth and contacting police.
“Police investigators from UK and Poland try to ignore me. I will tell my story in posts here. Help me,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I have asked for pictures of when my mum was pregnant with me, other medical records and any pictures from my childhood and she never shows them, she just always tells me I’m crazy.
“My school teacher when I was very young said that I wasn’t there from the start but my parents insist I was.
“After all this confusion I began to do my own research I discovered what had happened to Madeleine McCann and started to piece together the similarities we shared.
“It has been so stressful trying to get people to listen to me.”
As a result of the growing interest in Julia’s claims, it has been reported she has caught the attention of Maddie’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.
“The family are taking no chances, they are willing to look at all leads,” a source told the Daily Star.
“It is important they look at all of the factors, the girl does look similar. There’s no disputing that.
“If what she says is true, there is every chance it could be her. It all adds up.”
Many have condemned Julia’s mission to get a DNA test, with the young woman even copping death threats online, something she addressed in a post on Instagram.
“Thank you for support that you give me and for haters I have to say that I am not kidding and I truly believe that I can be her,” she wrote.
“I didn’t take money from anyone and I am not going to do this because police should do DNA test to me and compare it with Kate and Gerry McCann DNA.”
Kate and Gerry, now both 54, recently pledged to “never give up” their quest to find their missing daughter – adding they were entering their 16th year without her with “continued determination and positivity”.
The couple also have 17-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. It’s estimated the probe for Maddie has cost £13 million (approximately $23 million) to date.
READ MORE: TURKISH ELECTIONS: Erdoğan wants elections on May 14, his advisers suggest June 18.