Julia Madeleine McCann

‘I regret it’: The girl who claimed to be Madeleine McCann FINALLY speaks out about it all

Julia had everyone shook last year when she was completely convinced she was Maddie

It’s been a year since a girl went viral after she claimed she thought she was Madeleine McCann. The story sent the entire internet into a meltdown, so much so that the McCanns were forced to issue a statement. In the aftermath, Julia went completely silent and deleted her Instagram. But now, she’s finally spoken out about the whole saga.

Julia Wandelt set up a dedicated Instagram called “I am Madeleine McCann” to share all the “evidence” she thought proved she was the missing girl including physical similarities to Madeleine as well as strange memories from her childhood.

Everyone was shook by the story. However, after a DNA test, Julia’s claims were proved to be false as the tests showed that Julia was not of British heritage and was in fact from Poland. Julia deleted her social media and disappeared after this.

But now Julia has spoken out and said she regrets the claims. Speaking to The BBC, she said: “I never meant to hurt anyone, including the McCanns. I really wanted to know who I am.”

She said if she could go back in time and change things, she would never have made the Instagram profile. “I would never go on social media. It can destroy you,” she said.

In the interview, Julia explained why she did what she did and the impact it has had on her.

Via YouTube

Julia said that what happened was in part due to her traumatic childhood. She says she was isolated at school and that as a child she was sexually abused.

Then when she was 20, she started therapy and this was when she realised her memories from her childhood were patchy, with whole chunks of time where she couldn’t remember anything.

She began to ask her family to try and fill in the gaps: “For example, can you show me some pictures from childhood? Can you show me your pregnancy photos?” But her family dismissed her concerns.

She told The Tab at the time that her family didn’t want to talk to her about her theories. “[My] mother didn’t want to talk about it,” she said. “She said the past is in the past and she is not going to talk about the past. She said now is the future and we should focus on the future. My dad said, ‘Even if I am not your father will it change anything?’”.

This was when she turned to missing persons websites and found out about Madeleine’s case. Julia said she had never heard of her disappearance before, since it had not been such a big news story in Poland.

The first “clue” was that she recognised one of the e-fit sketches of the suspects. “I know [what] my abuser looks like. And I know this is very, very similar to the suspects from [the] Madeleine McCann page,” she said.

She then noticed the physical similarities between Madeleine and herself. Both Julia and Madeleine have a coloboma of the iris, a rare eye abnormality that affects one in every 10,000 babies. It’s a gap in the iris that can make the pupil look keyhole-shaped.

After contacting the police in both Poland and the UK, she said “no one treated me seriously. I called them so many times.”

This was when she turned to social media and set up the now-deleted @Iammadeleinemcann Instagram. She quickly gained millions of followers. “I was looking at what people write, what they say, if they believe me or if they will ignore me,” she said.

She gained a lot of support with people sending her flowers, bracelets, teddies and blankets. But Julia also received a lot of abuse, including death threats.

Talking about the hate she received, she said: “I knew that there will be people who will not believe me or hate me, but I didn’t expect that I will get death threats, for example. It was something that I don’t understand. People knew that I was abused and they all knew that I deal with depression.”

“I was trying to be strong even when people said, you should die. You should be raped. You should be killed. You should be murdered. You shouldn’t exist in this world. You’re a bitch.”

One person even put a bounty on Julia’s head and offered £25,700 as a reward. But she kept posting because she “wanted to know the truth”.

When her story went global, she appeared on Dr Phil for her first TV interview and also agreed to take a DNA test. “I want to know who I am,” she told the psychologist.

But Julia’s claims were proven false when the DNA results came back and showed that Julia was from Poland, with some Lithuanian and Romanian heritage. Julia Wandelt was not Madeleine McCann as she believed.

After her claims were proven false, Julia said she apologised to the parents of Madeleine McCann: “I apologised to the McCanns because I don’t know them personally. I don’t know if they were watching this journey, if they were sad or whatever. And I just wanted to say sorry. Because every person can react in a different way and maybe it brought them more sadness.”

“I didn’t want them to feel sad,” she added.

“I really wanted to know who I am, and I knew that it could make them feel sad.” She explained that at the time she really thought she might have been able to help them find Madeleine.

Julia Madeleine McCann

Via Rex Features Ltd/Shutterstock

Julia’s family also made a statement at the time. They said: “For us as a family it is obvious that Julia is our daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin and step-niece. We have memories, we have pictures. We always tried to understand all the situations that happened with Julia.”

The BBC reached out to the Find Madeleine campaign, her official search organisation. They said they are willing to accept Julia’s apology and forgive her for everything that happened.

Julia said she is now at peace with everything that happened. When she first began questioning her identity, she says she was depressed and “felt that I don’t belong here”. Now she says: “I realise that I am strong and I am a fighter and I’m not a weak person.” In a strange way, she said, she feels like it has helped her.

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