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PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2014 12:07 pm 
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NY Times: The Lede Blog

Madeleine McCann? Don’t Believe Your Eyes

By Mike Nizza
September 27, 2007 7:43 pmSeptember 27, 2007 7:43 pm

The real McCann and two other cute kids. (Photos: From left, McCann Family via AP; Antoine Antonio for The New York Times; Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP)

Hopes were raised on Wednesday when Interpol announced that they were investigating a blurry photograph from northern Morocco that was quite possibly Madeleine McCann, the 4-year old British girl who went missing on May 3.

Another man placed an urgent call to The New York Times this week to say that he saw Madeleine in a large photo on page C5 of Tuesday’s Business section. The child in the photo, above center, was blonde, seemingly lost and unidentified in a Paris drug store. Madeleine vanished a couple of countries away.

Both were false leads. And Interpol said that it was one of many that they have received in Europe, Morocco and elsewhere.

The difference this time was that the Morocco sighting didn’t simply emerge briefly and fade away until the next one came along. Instead, it was completely debunked when The Associated Press tracked down the the young blonde in the photo, who turned out to have the wrong name (Bouchra Ahmed Ben Aissa) and the wrong age (3, not 4). She’s the one on the right in the photo above.

In the case of Elizabeth Smart, a girl who went missing in 2002 and turned up nine months later, the situation was reversed. This American Life, the radio show, tells the story best in an audio clip. Here’s the introduction:

Though pictures of Smart were everywhere in Salt Lake City, and thousands of volunteers searched for her, her captors brought her back to the neighborhood she was taken from, and they walked freely through the streets with her. But no one recognized her.

Why are people seeing one girl when she isn’t there while another remained missing in plain sight? That might be harder to explain than those people who see the Virgin Mary in grilled cheese. Any ideas out there?

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