Who is the woman claiming to be missing British toddler Madeleine McCann?
A Polish woman has gone viral on social media after claiming that she is missing British toddler Madeleine McCann.
Julia Wendell, 21, took to Instagram and TikTok last week to share her belief that she is grown-up Maddie, who went missing at the age of four 16 years ago in Portugal's Praia da Luz.
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Julia's social media channels, @iammadeleinemccan, have over 1.1 million followers combined while her videos have been viewed over 27 million times on TikTok alone, where she has shared "evidence" that she is Madeleine - which includes having freckles in the same place and a rare Coloboma in her eye.
Three-year-old Madeleine vanished during a family holiday to Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3 2007. At present, there is no evidence to support Julia's claim.
So, what makes Julia think she is actually Madeleine McCann?
According to her videos, it was a comment made by her grandmother that led Julia to delve into her childhood which she says is rarely spoken of.
Julia says that she has no real memories from her childhood but does have a hazy recollection of being on holiday "in a hot place where there was a beach".
She says that she has never seen a photograph of her mother while she was pregnant with Julia and has never seen her birth certificate despite asking her parents for it.
Julia also claims there are inaccuracies in what her parents have told her.
An example she provides is a conversation she recently had with her kindergarten teacher who said she only joined the school in September 2007 but her parents say she was enrolled in the school earlier than that.
One of the details focused on during the search for Madeleine was a distinctive defect in the iris of her right eye.
Known as coloboma, it occurs when there are missing pieces of tissue in the eye.
It can appear, as it does in Madeleine's case, as a black notch at the edge of the pupil giving it an irregular shape. The condition affects around one in every 10,000 births.
In photos shared by Julia, she does appear to have a shadowy mark in the same spot in her right eye.
She admits that it is not as pronounced as in pictures of Madeleine but claims she could have undergone a procedure as a child in an attempt to rid her of the distinguishing feature to avoid suspicion.
The social media accounts are filled with side-by-side comparisons with real pictures of Madeleine as well as artist impressions of what Madeleine may have grown up to look like over the years since her disappearance.
Julia draws attention to their similar face shapes, gaps in their baby teeth, and freckles on their face and legs.
There are also a number of photos and videos in which Julia identifies physical traits that she says resemble Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.
Julia has stated that she was “a victim of a German paedophile” as a child.
She said her abuser looks similar to a picture shared on the Find Madeleine website.
Julia says she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as a result of the abuse.
What does not add up?
Julia is 21 years old but Madeleine would be 19 today — due to turn 20 in three months' time.
In a bid to explain this discrepancy, Julia says that she could have been lied to about her age in yet another bid to avoid suspicion.
How have people reacted?
Julia Wendell's case has sparked outrage online among many who do not believe she is grown-up Maddie.
As the backlash continues to grow, Wendell has now sought help from a Persian medium, Dr Fia Johansson, who has reportedly helped the US police on missing person cases.
The self-professed psychic issued a statement claiming to be investigating Julia’s case and has urged people giving the young woman hate online to stop and “respect her privacy.”
In an Instagram video, which has gained thousands of likes, Dr Johansson said: “Julia's mental health, at this moment, it's not okay because of a lot of haters out there, because of a lot of comments and a lot of nastiness that went through directly to her skin.”
“At this moment, she needs help. I do understand that 50 per cent of you guys hate her now to the hundredth degree, just because you guys think and believe that she's 'not the real person, that she's not Madeleine, she's this and that'.”
“I'm telling you guys, my team and me, we are investigating already about her family, her background, where she came from, which family she belonged to, what school actually she went to, and all other details.”
“We understand that this case, Madeleine's case, would be very sensitive for every, each of you.”
Julia has been calling for British authorities to conduct a DNA test on herself and Madeleine's parents to see if they match.
She said the Met Police have not engaged with her although she has been trying to contact them.
Julia's family is not willing to do a DNA test to confirm that they are her blood relatives. She told her followers that they will not entertain her ideas that she is Madeleine.
The McCann family has since requested a DNA test after she claims she was previously ignored by police.
A source close to the McCanns told the Daily Star: “The family are taking no chances, they are willing to look at all leads.”
“It is important they look at all of the factors, the girl does look similar.”
Where does the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance stand now?
Convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner is currently the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine.
The 45-year-old has denied any involvement but investigators believe he abducted and murdered Madeleine in 2007.
While he denies any involvement, Brueckner was identified as a murder suspect in the case by Portuguese officials in June 2020.
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