Ten months after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the taxi driver's story hit the international press. It has been reported widely in the UK press, but I don't think I have seen reports that the story had been investigated and rejected after verification. Here is an article from the Belgian site, Enfants Kidnappés, dated February 28th.
Pictured right: the taxi driver, Mr Castela
Ten months after the fact, a taxi driver from Vila Real de Santo Antonio, went public with his witness statement to the PJ. According to reports in the Portuguese press, the taxi driver made his statement to the PJ two days after Maddie's disappearance. "I don't have a lot to say, but what I have to say, I can state with certainty. On the 3rd of May at 8.10pm, the evening of Madeleine's disappearance, three men, a woman and a little girl entered my taxi. Sitting beside me was seated a man who resembled Robert Murat and whom I recognised later in the press. There was also a little girl in pink pyjamas with that distinctive mark in her eye and her mother, of that there is no doubt."I noticed her because there was a nervous tic to her chin and my son had the same tic when he was small. I asked myself why they had not dressed the little girl instead of leaving her in pyjamas. She was awake but she was not talking. The other men were aged between 40 and 50 years. The mother, who looked amazingly like Kate McCann, was dressed in a yellow coat and had her hair in a pony tail. She asked me to drive them to the Apolo Hotel five kilometres from there in a village close to Faro. They asked me in English how much the fare would be and I told them just over three Euros. The man next to me, the one who resembled Robert Murat, gave me a 5 Euro note. They did not take themselves towards the hotel, but to a 4x4, a big dark coloured car, which looked to me like a BMW, with a foreign registration.
Mr Castela, the taxi driver, is used to remembering people's faces. He is 67 years old and has been doing his job for 17 years. Fixing faces in one's mind allows better identification of people. And if he is sure about the time in his story it is, he says, because, "I know they got into my taxi at that time because I usually watch the television news. I was thinking at that moment to return home. I took that fare and I returned home for 8.30pm where I could carry on watching the television news.
"He did not place any importance on his clients until two days later when the media took up the case, "Then I spoke to my son who is an officer with the GNR and he decided to put me in contact with the PJ. I told them exactly what I have just said and the inspector asked me if I knew if the hotel had surveillance cameras. I told him that in theory, yes. Out of curiosity, two days later, I returned to the hotel and asked them if the PJ had contacted them. They told me no. I tried to find out if they had surveillance cameras but they told me that they had been out of order for two years."
The PJ confirmed having been contacted by the taxi driver and his witness statement taken at the time. But these claims had been rejected after verification.