Julia Wandelt, a Polish woman who previously claimed she was Madeleine McCann, has expressed regret over her actions, stating she 'never meant to hurt anyone'. Wandelt, who gained considerable attention last year after suggesting she could be the British girl who disappeared in Portugal in 2007, has now retracted her claim.
Madeleine McCann's disappearance when she was just three years old has remained one of the most high-profile missing person cases, ongoing for nearly two decades. Wandelt's assertion added a new chapter to this case, which has a substantial online following.
Creating the Instagram account @iammadeleinemccan in early 2023, Wandelt quickly amassed followers. However, her appearance on the American TV show Dr Phil, where a DNA test was conducted, concluded that she was not McCann but Polish.
In a recent interview with the BBC for its "Why Do You Hate Me?" series, Wandelt reflected on her decision to claim she was McCann. She explained that therapy sessions led her to question her childhood memories and wonder about her past, including whether she was adopted. Despite her family's assurance that she wasn't adopted, her doubts persisted, leading her to explore missing persons websites and eventually the McCann case.
Wandelt noted similarities between herself and Madeleine, such as freckles and the rare eye defect coloboma of the iris. Her pursuit of the truth, as she told the BBC, was not for fame but for personal identity clarification.
Reflecting on the consequences of her social media presence, Wandelt expressed a wish to undo her actions, acknowledging the destructive potential of social media. Her revelations about being a child abuse victim and battling depression drew mixed reactions, including online abuse and death threats, though some followers remained supportive even after the DNA results.
Wandelt has since apologized to Madeleine McCann's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, clarifying her intentions were rooted in self-discovery and a belief that she might aid in locating their missing daughter.
The case of Madeleine McCann continues, with Christian Brueckner, a convicted rapist serving time in Germany, being the current prime suspect. Madeleine's parents maintain hope for eventual closure and truth.