A British paedophile who is a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case could be brought back to the UK to be quizzed over a number sex attacks.

Former soldier Raymond Hewlett, who has become the new focus of the investigation into the child’s disappearance, is being treated for throat cancer at a hospital in Germany.

He was living just an hour’s drive from the resort of Praia da Luz when she disappeared in May 2007.

Hewlett has a long record of sex attacks on young girls and is wanted by police in the UK and Ireland.

According to the Evening Standard, two police forces as well as Leicestershire Police held a conference call yesterday to decide how to proceed. Manchester police want to quiz him over the abduction and abuse of an eight-year-old girl in 1975 while West Yorkshire police have said they want to quiz him over a number of ‘serious offences’.

In a separate development, detectives working for Kate and Gerry McCann have flown to Germany to speak to 64-year-old Hewlett, where he is being treated.

Sources close to the investigation claimed they were told he spoke to friends about Maddie in such a way that they suspected he was involved or knew what had happened to the three-year-old.

The Standard added that investigators will want to know why Hewlett checked out of a hospital in the Algarve, Portugal, where he was being treated for cancer only to reappear in Germany.

Hewlett is described by detectives as ‘cunning’ and a ‘danger to children’ and operates by cruising in a van. He has posed as a police officer and befriended families to get access to their children.

The McCanns have never given up hope of finding their daughter. Earlier this month they marked the second anniversary of her disappearance from their holiday apartment by releasing two new pictures to help the hunt.

One was a striking computer-aided image of what she would look like today, at six.

Another was a detailed sketch of a suspect seen acting suspiciously near their Algarve holiday complex.

The team searching for Maddie is headed by two retired UK policemen, former Detective Inspector Dave Edgar, 52, and former Detective Sergeant Arthur Cowley, 57, who has worked on ‘cold case reviews’ of old crimes.

Mr Edgar has more than 30 years’ experience with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Cheshire Police.

He was awarded a judge’s commendation for his work on the murder of father-of-four Garry Newlove, who was kicked to death by a teenage gang outside his Warrington home in 2007.

Mr Edgar and Mr Cowley now run the Alpha Investigations Group and have been hired by the Find Madeleine Fund to investigate missed leads.

They are said to have given the McCanns fresh hope after they suffered disappointments working with other private detectives, including the expensive Spanish firm Metodo 3.

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 a further attack in 1988 – for which he was jailed for six years.

He was also investigated over the sex killing of 11-year-old Lesley Molseed near Ripponden, West Yorkshire, in October 1975.

She was abducted after she left her Rochdale home to buy a loaf of bread. She was sexually assaulted, stabbed 12 times and dumped on nearby moors.

Ronald Castree, 54, was jailed in 2007 for the murder of the schoolgirl, but has since been given permission to challenge his conviction.

His lawyers are expected to argue it is ‘overwhelmingly probable’ that Hewlett, who lived in West Yorkshire was the killer. He moved to Ireland soon after the murder.

Hewlett is believed to have been living near the Algarve town of Faro, an hour’s drive from Praia da Luz, at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.

It is not known if he was ever interviewed by Portuguese police but they have been informed about the fears that he could have been involved in an abduction.

Hewlett is also wanted for questioning by several British police forces over allegations of child sex abuse in this country.

But Hewlett last night denied having anything to do with Madeleine’s disappearance.

Speaking of the time and place where she disappeared, he told the Mirror: ‘I know exactly where I was. I wasn’t anywhere near there.

‘I’ve done nothing wrong, nothing, nothing.’

The alert over Hewlett was raised by a British couple who met him while on an extended holiday in Portugal, the Mirror has reported.

He reportedly told Alan and Cindy Thompson, not long before Madeleine’s disappearance, that some ‘gipsy tourists’ had approached him offering cash for his own daughter who is blonde-haired, blue-eyed like Madeleine.

The couple said he told them he refused.

They also told the Mirror they remembered him telling how he had gone to Morocco with his family on a ‘good business trip’.

But he did not reveal any details of what the deal had been.

Hewlett’s trail of sex attacks began in September 1972, when he abducted a 12-year-old girl and took her on to moors near his home in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.

He used paint thinner to knock her out, then raped her. He was jailed for a year.

In 1978 he attacked another girl, putting a gun to her back, but she managed to convince him that visitors were arriving imminently and he let her go. This time he was jailed for four years.

Hewlett also served a six-year prison term for a 1988 sex attack on a 14-year-old girl.

After leaving jail he went on the run. At one stage he was traced to the Republic of Ireland where he is thought to have lived for several years.

Irish police believe he was behind a series of attempted abductions there and he is also known to have travelled to several European countries.

McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: ‘We are aware of Raymond Hewlett and the claims that have been made surrounding him.

‘The investigators searching for Madeleine are currently looking into the circumstances surrounding those claims.

‘Hewlett is an individual of interest to the Madeleine investigation. Beyond that, I cannot go into any further operational detail.

‘It’s my understanding that if you are on the sexual offenders register you are supposed to alert the authorities to your movements.

‘I understand that in this case Mr Hewlett’s whereabouts weren’t known to a number of police forces for some time.

‘Now that he is being treated for an illness in Germany it’s up to the individual police forces as to what they do with that information.’