Detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann may have a new lead.

London’s Metropolitan Police are probing whether there’s a link between the McCann case and an intruder who sexually abused five girls – ages 7-10 – between 2004 and 2010. Those cases all happened near the Portuguese resort town of Praia da Luz, where 3-year-old Madeleine was staying when she vanished in May 2007.

Police say the circumstances of the other crimes are not identical but are similar to the McCann case.

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The unknown man is suspected of gaining access into a total of 12 villas occupied by British families between 2004 and 2010 in the area. In four cases, which occurred between 2004 and 2006, he sexually assaulted girls while they were in their beds, police said. In once instance, he attacked two girls staying in the same villa.

The alleged break-ins and assaults occurred mostly during "low season" in the popular resort area of Portugal, according to British police.

Of the twelve break-ins, two occurred in Praia da Luz -- the same resort town where McCann, of Leicestershire, England, was vacationing with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and her two younger siblings in 2007.

The toddler's parents left her sleeping in a room with her younger brother and sister, while they dined at a restaurant with other couples about 150 feet away. The McCanns checked on their three children periodically throughout the evening. When Kate McCann arrived at the ground-floor villa at around 9 p.m., she discovered Madeleine missing from her bed. 

"Whilst not identical, there are many similar aspects to each of the incidents in that in most cases there were no signs of forced entry to the property, nothing was taken, and the intruder appeared in the early hours of the morning," between 2 and 5 a.m., British police said in a statement released Wednesday . 

"The suspect may have been in the villa or looking round the villa for some time before committing the offenses or being disturbed either by a parent coming in, or the child waking up. He remained calm, even when disturbed," the statement read. 

Police said the man in question is described as having tanned skin and short, dark, unkempt hair. Witnesses reported that he spoke in English with a foreign accent -- his voice sometimes slow, possibly slurred. During some of the encounters, he was bare chested, police said, and had a "noticeable odor."'s Cristina Corbin contributed to this report. 

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