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PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:42 pm 
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PICTURE OF FUN: Madeleine on the fateful holiday

Tuesday November 27,2007
By Nick Fagge in Praia da Luz

CRUCIAL evidence which could point the finger of suspicion at Kate and Gerry McCann is being kept under lock and key, it was revealed last night.

DNA tests are said to undermine their claims that they had nothing to do with the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine.

A piece of lining from the couple’s hire car is being held in high-security storage at a laboratory in Birmingham.

It is there that tests into DNA particles allegedly linking the McCanns to Madeleine’s death have been carried out.

The disclosure, made by sources within the laboratory, undermines claims by the couple that their own tests have cleared them of involvement in the four-year-old girl’s disappearance.

Last week sources close to the McCanns told the Daily Express that examinations of the couple’s Renault Scenic hire car – in which Madeleine’s body is alleged to have been carried – discovered “no DNA evidence linked to Madeleine”.


These tests were made by an independent team of Home Office-accredited pathologists whose results appear to contradict completely Portuguese police findings.

But yesterday sources within the laboratory of the Forensic Science Service said key evidence from the car – a piece of its boot lining – is being kept locked away and the McCanns’ scientists have had no access to it.

It is claimed this means that the results from the couple’s own DNA tests cannot absolve them because they were carried out on the wrong material.

Last night the McCanns’ official spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, confirmed that a piece of evidence had been retained by the Forensic Science Service but added that this did not alter the couple’s position.

Mr Mitchell said: “We do not believe that this affects the results of our tests at all.

“They were extremely thorough and covered all aspects of the vehicle. The piece retained by the Forensic Science Service is extremely small. If anything has been found on it there is a wholly innocent explanation for it.”

Several other pieces of crucial forensic material are also being kept in the high-security storage facility at the laboratory in Birmingham, it is claimed.

Leaks from the Portuguese police maintain that these official tests discovered traces of Madeleine’s bodily fluids and hair in the back of the car.

Detectives in the Algarve see this as highly significant because the car was rented 25 days after she vanished and was one of the main reasons police directed their investigation towards the parents.

No official statement has ever been made on these forensic examinations which were carried out at the British laboratory at the request of the Portuguese authorities.

But within hours of the first batch of results arriving in Portugal, both Kate and Gerry McCann were called in for questioning and were named as arguidos – official suspects.

A second set of test results, which are understood to have supported the initial conclusions, were subsequently sent to detectives in the Algarve.

The McCanns have always maintained there are innocent explanations for any traces of Madeleine in the car because her DNA could have been transferred via her clothes or toys. But these suggestions have been dismissed by detectives, claim sources close to the investigation.

They point out that the highly-regarded scientists conducting the tests take such possibilities into account.

Detectives also emphasise that the scientists are able to distinguish between DNA which has been deposited directly from a body and that which has been passed on via a secondary source such as clothing.

The official forensic tests are also understood to have found traces of Madeleine’s blood at the Mark Warner holiday apartment in Praia da Luz where she disappeared. Specially-trained sniffer dogs detected the scent of death on Kate McCann’s clothes, in the hire car and at the apartment.

However, Portuguese police sources say forensic test results are rarely enough to press charges and add that other evidence is usually needed.

The McCanns deny any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance.

Last week their lawyer, Edward Smethurst, said he believed it was “highly unlikely” that charges would ever be brought against the couple.

Madeleine has now been missing for 208 days.

She vanished from the family apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3 while her parents were dining with friends at a nearby tapas bar.

As she was being tucked up in bed, she said: “Mummy, I’ve had the best day ever. I’m having lots and lots of fun.”

Last week father Gerry again used his online blog to emphasise his belief that she was abducted and “is still out there somewhere”.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:42 pm 
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ATTACK: Lawyer Francisco Pagarete with Murat

Wednesday November 28,2007
By Nick Fagge in Praia da Luz

KATE and Gerry McCann were yesterday told they deserve to be "cursed" in an astonishing attack by a lawyer.

The solicitor acting for Robert Murat, the first official suspect after their daughter Madeleine vanished, condemned them for leaving their children alone in their holiday apartment.

Francisco Pagarete said Murat and his lover, Michaela Walczuch, are having their names dragged through the mud on a daily basis. But Madeleine’s grief-stricken parents are “swanning around with bulging bank balances.”

He then accused the couple of hypocrisy for saying the Portuguese police were the best in the world before they were made official suspects – and the worst afterwards.

The outspoken lawyer also branded the Spanish private detectives hired by the family as “mercenaries”, and accused them of trying to make witnesses change their statements.

In his blistering attack on the McCanns which was published yesterday in the respected newspaper 24 Horas, he raged: “The McCanns deserve to be cursed to pay for leaving three children unprotected.”

He added: “I’m just sorry that there are people out there ready to feed a couple who abandoned their three children and strutted round the streets daily. On top of that, with bulging bank accounts.

“In the meantime my client, his mum and his girlfriend, who have nothing to do with this case, are seeing their names dragged through the mud on a daily basis.

“Before they were made official suspects, the Policia Judiciaria were the best in the world and after they became the worst.”

Turning on the detective agency Metodo 3 hired by the McCanns, he said: “Metodo 3 should be charging 10 times more than they are to wage this defamatory campaign against my client. Any other private investigator would be charging thousands of pounds.”

His words have struck a cord with many in Portugal who fail to understand why the 39-year-old doctors regularly left their children – Madeleine, now four, and twins Sean and Amelie, two – alone in their apartment while they ate at a tapas bar.

Portuguese children, no matter how young, routinely accompany their parents to restaurants and are allowed to stay up late.

Metodo 3 claims a lorry driver identified German-born Walczuch as the woman seen handing a child in a blanket to a man in the nearby town of Silves two days after Madeleine vanished.

Detectives have said they believe this was the moment she was passed from her original kidnappers to a paedophile gang.

The agency claims to have interviewed a British nanny who identified a man who tried to snatch a baby from the same apartment that Madeleine disappeared from six months earlier.

The firm’s founder, Marita Fernandez, told a Spanish newspaper that she thought expat property developer Murat knew more about the case than he was letting on.

But yesterday Mr Pagarete said the company was breaking Portuguese criminal secrecy laws by talking to official witnesses and accused them of trying to make witnesses change their statements.

He said: “The Metodo 3 investigators are mercenaries. The people from Metodo 3 have spoken to everyone, including witnesses.

“They have worked in Portugal, they’re pressurising witnesses and no one does anything.

“They are constantly pursuing my client and his girlfriend and they no longer have a private life. This is simply unacceptable in a democratic country.”

Private investigators are allowed to work in Portugal. But they are not permitted to approach witnesses or official suspects. However, a spokesman for Portugal’s attorney general said he was not aware that any official witnesses had been approached by Metodo 3 agents.

The firm was yesterday described as “one of the best” and praised for it’s professionalism by Spain’s Association of Private Detectives.

A spokesman said: “It has received prizes from several different bodies, including the ministry of the interior.”

Last night the McCanns’ official spokesman, Clarence Mitchell said: “We are not going to get into an argument with Robert Murat’s lawyer.

“All we will say is that Senor Pagarete should keep his views to himself and concentrate on representing Mr Murat.

“I would remind him that the McCanns have committed no offence in either Portuguese or British law, and to throw about such accusations is as abusive as it is unhelpful.

“Metodo 3 retain our full confidence and are working diligently within the law in every country they are in to find Madeleine.”

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:43 pm 
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Thursday November 29,2007
By Nick Fagge

Police flew to Britain yesterday to view evidence which could condemn or clear Madeleine McCann’s parents of involvement in her disappearance.

The visit – dubbed a DNA summit – is crucial to Portuguese detectives who have accused the doctors of being directly involved in the four-year-old’s death.

The decision by the team, which includes the second in command of Portugal’s forensic science service, caught the McCanns and their lawyers completely by surprise.

The team want to be briefed on the precise methods used by the British scientists who analysed the forensic evidence which led to the McCanns being named as arguidos, or official suspects, in September, a police source revealed yesterday. He said: “The investigators are hugely anxious. It is hoped that the tests are conclusive this time.

“The meeting with UK forensic experts will enable investigators to see what’s already been analysed and find out what information is already available from the results the English scientists obtained.”

The meeting, due to start first thing this morning, was expected to analyse in fine detail the implications of the results of DNA evidence from the couple’s holiday apartment and hire car.

The strength of the evidence, which has been the subject of widespread speculation, will help detectives to decide if the McCanns have a case to answer.

The Portuguese prosecutor will rely on this heavily as he composes a letter to Leicestershire police, in which he may ask them to re-interview the McCanns and their friends, and explain the exact nature of the further questions he wants them to face.

The four-man team is made up of Inspector Ricardo Praia, a detective with the investigative Policia Judiciaria, two police forensic science experts and the vice-president of Portugal’s National Pathology Institute, Francisco Corte Real.

They will meet senior officials from the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Birmingham at a secret location.

The team want to familiarise themselves with the pioneering methods used so that they can explain them to the investigating magistrate in the Algarve who will decide whether to charge or clear the McCanns.

The source added: “They are going to England to decode the results of the tests so we are not caught by surprise.”

He added: “The team that is going to the UK is going to examine everything microscopically to make sure the tests have not been manipulated by someone linked to the suspects.
“We want to be sure all the information that reaches us has not previously been interfered with.”

The meeting was also due to be attended by Detective Supt Stuart Prior, who is in charge of the Leicestershire police operation, working under the direction of the Portuguese force.

Last night Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ official spokesman, said the couple from Rothley, Leics, had nothing to fear from the visit.

He said: “We have been informed by Leicestershire police that a meeting between forensic scientists from Portugal and the Forensic Science Service laboratory will be taking place.

“We understand there is no intention for the McCanns to be interviewed or indeed anybody else. That such a meeting is taking place is not particularly surprising and we do not see this as a significant development.”

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:43 pm 
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Friday November 30,2007

Kate and Gerry McCann's spokesman has declared "enough is enough" as he called on Portuguese police to clear the couple over their missing daughter Madeleine.

Four members of the Portuguese investigation team are due to fly home from the UK on Friday after a meeting with British forensic experts to discuss DNA samples collected for the inquiry into the missing four-year-old.

Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell told reporters: "Enough is enough. There can be nothing that incriminates Kate and Gerry because they are innocent. We are hopeful this meeting will help speed up the process eliminating Kate and Gerry from the inquiry.

"They just want the injustice of being suspects to end and the real job of finding Madeleine to resume in earnest.

"We hope that following this meeting the Portuguese prosecutor will let common sense prevail and will lift their arguido status.

"Forensic evidence, if there is any, is inconclusive or explicable, so they should be eliminated from the inquiry."

The Portuguese team met five experts from the FSS to consider DNA results from tests the organisation has been conducting on behalf of the authorities in Portugal over the last four months.

The tests are said to have been carried out on blood samples, bodily fluids and hair found in the McCanns' holiday apartment and the vehicle they hired 25 days after the four-year-old disappeared.

Both Leicestershire Police, who are helping their Portuguese counterparts, and the Birmingham-based Forensic Science Service described it as "routine".

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:43 pm 
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Friday November 30,2007
Martin Stote

A TEAM of senior Portuguese police and forensic experts will fly home today after a DNA summit knowing their evidence about Gerry and Kate McCann is unlikely to support a prosecution.

Despite this, the couple are still regarded as official suspects in the disappearance of daughter Madeleine, four, from their Praia da Luz hotel apartment on May 3.

Last night, the McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell pleaded for them to be freed from the uncertainty of their status.

He said: “Enough is enough. We are hopeful this meeting will help speed up the process eliminating Kate and Gerry from the inquiry.

“They just want the injustice of being suspects to end and the real job of finding Madeleine to resume in earnest. We hope that following this meeting, the Portuguese prosecutor will let common sense prevail and will lift their aguido status.

“We urge the police to realise they are not implicated and we hope this meeting will show that evidence, if there is any, is inconclusive or explicable and they should be eliminated from the inquiry.”

The UK’s renowned Forensic Science Service – which has been carrying out vital tests on samples in the case – had revealed that two months after the couple were made suspects even more analysis needs to be carried out.

The visiting team who met them to discuss their findings, including the deputy head of Portugal’s National Forensic Science Organisation, faced the growing likelihood that the result would never be complete enough to see the couple charged.

The McCanns, from Rothley, Leicestershire, were made official suspects on September 7.

The initial Portuguese investigation, which first identified British ex-pat Robert Murat as its prime suspect, was criticised for failing to preserve the original scene and for running a smear campaign about the McCanns. Forensic evidence has always been central to the police case.

The one witness, Jane Tanner, 36, who may have seen an abductor, never saw his face and admits she would probably never be able to identify him again.

The team that flew in from Portugal on Wednesday as part of a two-month review of the probe by Paulo Rebelo, the new head, spent much of yesterday at Leicestershire Police HQ talking to five members of the FSS and Det Supt Stuart Prior who heads the force’s part of the investigation.

Inspector Ricardo Paiva, the senior police officer in the visiting team, was under orders to phone Mr Rebelo last night as soon as the meeting was over to discuss the outcome.

Results would have helped justify any requests by the Portuguese to re-interview the McCanns and the seven friends who were with them on holiday in Portugal. In Portugal it was reported that police hope to close the Madeleine inquiry by January 3.

Detectives believe the next seven days will prove decisive in their quest for the truth.

Results of the forensic summit held in Birmingham have the power to condemn or clear Kate and Gerry McCann of involvement in the disappearance.

The scientific evidence is linked to hair and traces of body fluids found on a six-inch square piece of material from the boot of a Renault Scenic, hired by the McCanns 25 days after their daughter vanished.

There were also traces of blood on the wall and on the curtains of the family’s apartment in the Ocean Club resort and hair found behind the sofa.

Sources claim the theory that Madeleine died in the holiday apartment as the result of an accident and that Kate and Gerry hid and later disposed of her body helped by friends, is still viewed as the most probable scenario by Policia Judiciaria detectives.

But they are increasingly accepting that without damning evidence, they may have to clear the couple.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:56 pm 
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Saturday December 1,2007
By Nick Fagge and David Pilditch in Praia da Luz

Kate and Gerry McCann are still regarded as the prime suspects in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine despite inconclusive findings from DNA evidence.

Portuguese police will come to Britain next week to re-interview the seven friends who were dining with the couple on the night the little girl vanished, a highly placed source claimed yesterday.

It shatters the couple’s hopes that they will be cleared by Christmas.

Investigators say that while findings revealed at a DNA summit this week did not give them enough evidence to bring charges, they do provide the legal basis to demand further interviews of the McCanns’ friends and relatives on British soil.

Leaks in Portugal claim tests on DNA samples support Portuguese detectives’ theory that the couple were involved in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Portuguese daily newspaper 24 Horas reported that a police source said: “The existing evidence up until now is far from clearing the McCann couple in the case.

“There are more and more indicators that they were involved in the disappearance of the child, but it has been difficult to prove this fact. We will continue to follow all hypotheses.”

Investigators still cling to the theory that Madeleine died as the result of an accident in the family’s holiday flat in Praia da Luz, and that her parents hid and later disposed of the body with the help of their friends.

Respected Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manha reported: “The main theory is still the accidental death of the child on the afternoon of May 3, specifically in the two hours when the parents were alone with their children.

“That is when the McCanns say they gave her a bath and put the three children to bed before 8.30pm and then met their friends for dinner.”

Detectives are understood to be intrigued by “certain inconsistencies” in the statements made by the McCanns’ seven dining companions.

They also want to know who Kate was referring to when she cried “they’ve taken her” when she found Madeleine was missing. These are among “100 questions” detectives want to put to the McCanns and their friends, police sources claim.

Yesterday British ambassador Alex Ellis and Algarve official Angela Morado met Paulo Rebelo, who heads the investigation, and Portimao District Attorney Jose Magalhaes e Meneses at police headquarters in Faro.

The British Embassy in Lisbon said the timing was a coincidence but confirmed the McCann case had been discussed.

A team recently returned from the UK where it was told what the Forensic Science Services lab had learned from analysis of blood and hair found at the McCanns’ holiday apartment and in their hire car.

But yesterday sources close to the investigation said the tests “are only one of the pieces of the puzzle” and “other operations were being done”.

Yesterday Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ spokesman, said: “Kate and Gerry’s friends are happy to be reinterviewed by police if necessary, indeed are keen to help if it clears up any inconsistencies. They, like Gerry and Kate, have nothing to hide.”

The McCanns, both 39, of Rothley, Leics, were named as suspects on September 7. Gerry wrote in his blog yesterday of his hopes of being free of suspicion by Christmas.



Transcription of the articles in the Sunday Express 2 December 2007.
Paper edition. With many thanks to Bouncy for typing this up.

A close friend of Kate and Gerry McCann who was holidaying with them when Madeleine vanished will be questioned by Portuguese police this week over a "mystery" phone call.

Dr Russell O'Brien, 36, has come under investigation after a team of telephone surveillance officers highlighted a mobile phone call made to the missing four-year-old's father just over a month after she disappeared.

Portuguese detectives now believe that a phone call between Gerry McCann, 39, and Dr O'Brien is the missing link in Madeleine's disappearance and could help find her body.

Investigators are focusing on the exact whereabouts of Dr O'Brien when the call was made on June 10.

Last night it was unclear exactly what was said during the debated call but it is understood that key words aroused police suspicions.

The development is a massive blow to the McCanns who had been led to believe they would be cleared of any involvement in their daughter's alleged death by Christmas.

A team of senior detectives are to fly to Britain after gaining official permission to re-interview certain members of the group, including Dr O'Brien. He has taken advice from a lawyer recommended by the McCann legal team.

The Sunday Express has learned Mr McCann told police the call, 38 days after Madeleine vanished, was made within 4km of the Mark Warner resort in Praia da Luz where the party were staying but technicians working on the mobile phone network have dismissed his claim after examining records.

It has also emerged that each member of the "Tapas Nine" was placed under surveillance after Brisitish communications experts arrived in the Algarve at the end of May.

A close friend of the group told how just weeks after Madeleine went missing, her parents and their friends had grown concerned they were being closely watched by Portuguese police.

He said: "Although they never officially thought they were under surveillance - Kate and Gerry were always cautious when making calls because they knew it was possible that somebody could be listening in.

"They were concerned that their phones could have been tapped or that the electronic traffic between them and their friends was being recorded"

Kate and Gerry, both 39, were named as "arguidos", formal suspects, in their daughter's disappearance on September 9.

They have not been charged but police let it be known they had evidence to indicate that Madeleine accidentally died in apartment 5A and her body was hidden for weeks before being moved in the boot of a Renault Scenic the family hired 25 days later.

British experts attempted to trace the movements of Madeleine's abductor by following a trail left by mobile telephone signals. The technique helped convict Ian Huntley for the murders of Holly wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 2002.

Trails are created by silent transmissions sent by mobile phones even when not in use. These create a timed computer log of the handset's movement which can narrow down its location to an area as small as a few square yards.

Police analysts examining records of mobile phones belonging to the McCanns and their holiday group returned their findings to Portuguese prosecutors last week.

Detectives used the detailed information to "test" statements by guests and staff at the Ocean Club complex.

Last week, Portuguese officers arrived in Britain to talk to Leicestershire Police and British forensic experts about the implications of DNA results from tests at the Forensic Science Service's base in Birmingham.

Friends of the McCanns thought the summit indicated Madeleine's parents would be cleared as suspects after DNA evidence against them appeared to collapse, but last night it was clear there are still doubts about contradictions in the statements the group gave to police. Both Kate and Gerry McCann deny any involvement with Madeleine's disappearance but police still maintain the case against them does not rely on DNA results.

Dr O'Brien could also be named as an arguido. Last night a friend said: "If he faces a situation where the arguido status becomes an issue, it allows certain rights, like the right to have a lawyer present and the right to remain silent."


Now hunt centres on disused barn

The hunt for Madeleine McCann last night centred on a disused barn near Praia da Luz where police found a towel stained with what may turn out to be the little girl's blood.

Fibres found on the towel allegedly match fibres from the hire car rented by Maddie's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.

Portuguese detectives discussed the breakthrough when they met British police and a Crown Prosecution Service official last week at a police station in Leicester.

Today for the first time the Sunday Express can shed light on the new avenue plicie are pursuing in the hope of a breakthrough in the baffling case.

Based on fresh information from mobile phone surveillance police began a search of an area in the south east of the resort. They came across a towel, with an Aztec design, near a disused barn in a remote area close to Praia da Luz.

Portuguese sources say forensic scientists used a substance called Luminol to look for blood deposits and found three sites on the edges of the towel. They tested the blood deposits to see if there was a match for Madeleine's DNA.

Although the samples were not good quality the scientists were able to do what is called low copy analysis, which showed there was "moderate" support to suggest the blood deposits matched Madeleine's blood.

The results were not conclusive are not regarded as being strong enough to be presented as evidence in any court case.

They also found a loaf and a carrier bag, which produced no significant information, but close analysis of the towel revealed fibres which were not made of the towel material. The fibre fragments were microscopically examined against fibres found in the boot of the Renault Scenic hired by the McCanns 25 days after Maddie vanished.

Portuguese police said there was "strong support" that the fibres found on the towel matched fibres from the boot of the car.

One possibility being considered by the Portuguese detectives was that the towel had at some point been in the boot of the Renault Scenic, which would explain how fibres had got on it.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:58 pm 
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Monday December 3rd 2007
By Nick Fagge

A British diplomat warned the Foreign Office of concerns regarding Madeleine McCann's parents, it emerged last night.

Doubts about Kate and Gerry McCann were raised almost immediately by an official sent to Praia da Luz due to what he considered to be "inconsistencies" in the couple's testimonies about the night the four-year-old vanished.

The warning was contained in a classified document sent from the Algarve to the Foreign Office days after Madeleine's disappearance.

Details of the letter have been leaked through the British diplomatic mission in Brussels to the respected Belgian newspaper Deniere Heure.

The unnamed diplomat voices his concern about the "confused declarations" as to the whereabouts of Kate and Gerry McCann and their friends in the final hours before Madeleine's disappearance.

He also mentions the couple's "lack of co-operation" with the Portuguese police in the light of instructions from London suggesting consular staff "overstretch their authority and put pressure on the Portuguese authorities".

The document also asks for confirmation of orders sent by the Foreign Office in London the day before, commanding embassy staff to give "all possible assistance to the McCann couple".

Diplomats in the Algarve were told the McCanns had to be "accompanied at all times during any contact with the Portuguese police" by a member of consular staff or by British police officers sent out from the UK.

The letter, sent just days after Madeleine disappeared, warns of the risks of siding with the McCanns so completely.

Excerpts published in a report by La Derniere Heure quote the diplomat as saying: "With the greatest respect, I would like to make you aware of the risks and implications to our relationship with the Portuguese authorities if you consider the possible involvement of the couple.

Please confirm to me in the light of these concerns, that we want to continue to be closely involved in the case as was requested in your previous message."

A huge team of diplomats have been involved in the case since Gerry McCann asked the Foreign Office for help.

In an unprecedented move, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair despatched special envoy Sheree Dodd a former Fleet Street journalist, to Portugal to act as a "media liaison officer" for the McCann family.

Direct government communications with the McCanns came to an abrupt halt, however, when the couple were made official suspects in the case in September.

Portuguese detectives believe it is possible Madeleine died as a result of an accident on May 3 in the family's holiday apartment and that her parents hid and later disposed of her body with the help of their friends.

The couple have always said they had nothing to do with their daughter's disappearance. The Belgian report says it is highly significant that almost all of the diplomats involved at the outset have now been taken off the case.

Special envoy Sheree Dodd has since resigned from the Foreign Office, the British consul in the Algarve Bill Henderson has retired and the British ambassador to Portugal John Buck is no longer in Portugal.

Last night the Foreign Office refused to comment on the report.

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Saturday December 8,2007
By David Pilditch in Praia da Luz

KATE and Gerry McCann yesterday launched another desperate plea for witnesses to their daughter Madeleine’s disappearance.

They believe British holidaymakers might have information that will unlock the investigation, now in its eighth month.

Private detectives hired by the couple when Portuguese police named them suspects in September have chased leads in Europe and Morocco, but failed to make a breakthrough.

Now the McCanns have launched a fresh appeal to try to trace witnesses who could help to clear their names.

In a statement they said: “We would like to thank everyone who has come forward with information. Every call could prove vital.

“We know there are a number of British people staying in or around the Ocean Club when Madeleine was abducted and who have not yet been interviewed by British police.

“We would appeal to any UK residents who have still not been spoken to and who were in Praia da Luz on May 3 to contact their local police or our confidential phone line in Spain.”

British police interviewed witnesses after being handed a list of holidaymakers in Praia da Luz when Madeleine disappeared, but many were not asked to leave their details.

Yesterday Gerry wrote on his website: “We would like to thank everyone who has come forward with information. The smallest detail may provide a clue that leads us to find Madeleine. Someone, somewhere knows something and Madeleine needs their help.”

MEANWHILE, Gerry McCann has been nominated for a special award as Scot of the Year. The Glasgow-born cardiologist is one of 12 candidates for the honour put forward by a Scottish newspaper.

Other nominees include Gordon Brown and Alex McLeish, the former Scotland football manager.

To pre-order a copy of Madeleine: A Most Heartbreaking And Extraordinary Disappearance by Robert Downing, £12.99 (Northern & Shell Publishing), published on December 10, with free UK delivery, send cheque/PO payable to Express Bookshop to: Madeleine book offer, Express Bookshop, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ or call 0871 521 1301 with card details or order online at

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Monday December 10,2007
By David Pilditch in Praia da Luz

PORTUGUESE police want British officers to get tough on Madeleine McCann’s parents to make them “targets of pressure” and avert a whitewash in the UK, it is claimed.

Senior Portuguese detectives last night raised concerns that British police will not get at the truth with Kate and Gerry McCann because interrogations will not be tough enough.

The Portuguese fear that during “make-or-break” interviews, British police will “go easy” on the McCanns and the friends they were on holiday with in the Algarve when four-year-old Madeleine vanished.

Portuguese law allows suspects and witnesses to be quizzed more confrontationally.

Yesterday it was reported that Portuguese detectives have raised questions over the “competence” of British officers. They are said to be frustrated that they are not being allowed to carry out the interviews themselves because they have no jurisdiction in the UK.

A formal request for the McCanns and their friends to face new interviews is expected to be passed to the Home Office early this week.

The group will be questioned by Leicestershire police – the McCanns’ home force – in meetings that Portuguese officers can sit in on.

The Portuguese visitors will hand a list of 100 questions to prosecutors, which will be passed on to the British police.

Yesterday, Portuguese newspaper 24 Horas quoted an unnamed senior officer saying: “The Portuguese investigators may only sit in and make some suggestions. It would be different if those involved were interrogated by our investigators and targets of pressure.”

But it was reported yesterday that the interviews may not take place till after Christmas because they will be held up by a mass of red tape.

The Portuguese may also ask for the McCanns and their friends to return to the Algarve to take part in identity parades and face-to-face showdowns with witnesses.

Yesterday, the McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “This is a matter for Leicestershire police but we have seen nothing that has ever given us any cause for concern. There is nothing to suggest that they will not approach this with anything other than utter professionalism and competency.”

Meanwhile, the McCanns have been refused a meeting with Gordon Brown amid fears that their plight is being snubbed by the Government.

They are said to have been offered only a meeting with a junior official.

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Wednesday December 12,2007
By David Pilditch in Praia da Luz

THE priest who once gave comfort to Kate and Gerry McCann has had his church stripped of all memories of their missing daughter.

Father Jose Manuel Pacheco ordered the removal of scores of green and yellow ribbons which were put up as a symbol of hope in the days after Madeleine vanished.

Posters and photographs of Madeleine which used to fill the windows of every restaurant, bar and business in the village of Praia da Luz have also been taken down.

Residents of the Algarve resort are finally trying to move on from the tragedy more than seven months ago – and every trace of Madeleine has been wiped away.

But the most devastating turnaround has come from Father Jose, the Roman Catholic priest whom the couple turned to in their hour of need.

Friends fear for the priest’s health and tell how his life has been ruined after he offered the couple solace.

Father Jose, 46, came under police scrutiny after he gave the couple the keys to his church so they could pray round the clock.

He was questioned twice by detectives, and the church and its grounds were searched by police as they followed up leads into possible hiding places for Madeleine’s body.

Investigators became convinced Kate had confessed to him – but the tormented priest insisted he would stand by his vow to take the secrets of the confessional to the grave.

He was given a dressing-down by his superior, Algarve Bishop Manuel Quintas, and allegedly tried to shift the focus on to worshippers who had advised him to provide the McCanns with all the help he could.

In the days after Madeleine went missing, locals flocked to the church to show their support for the McCanns. They laid a sea of floral tributes outside, while pictures of Madeleine and messages of support were pinned to the wooden doors.

Now all that is left are two faded green ribbons – the symbol of hope in Portugal – still tied to the noticeboard outside the church.

Last night a close friend of the priest told the Daily Express: “Father Jose can’t even hear the Madeleine case mentioned without becoming irate.

“Even his closest friends must tread carefully when dealing with anything connected to the McCanns. When they broach the subject he immediately changes it.

“He says that it is an extremely unpleasant situation and that the McCann family only ever brought him problems. He told one friend they ruined his life.

“As soon as it was made public that he had given the key of the church to the McCanns, everything changed.

“He said it had been his flock’s decision. That was a mistake – the parish didn’t react well. He no longer goes to the coffee shops that were part of his daily routine.

“He just wants to get on with his peaceful life before the McCann whirlwind raped his world. He just wants it all to go away. This has all been a very bad experience for him.

“There are things he would like to tell and can’t, therefore he refuses to speak of it at all so as not to be tempted into letting out more than he should. I feel greatly for him. All he did was his best for souls in need and this is his payment.”

Another friend said: “All this family brought him were problems. Talking about Madeleine is a sure way to spoil his day. There are two completely different Pachecos, the one before the McCanns and this shell of a man after the McCanns.

“He’s a nervous wreck. He’s hiding secrets that are destroying him.”

Last night Father Jose refused to comment.

The McCanns began to face local hostility after the Portuguese media pointed the finger of suspicion at them in a smear campaign fuelled by leaks from the police.

They were dubbed the “b****y McCanns” by locals who insisted they had had enough of all the attention the case was bringing. Opposition towards the couple intensified after they were named as official suspects.

The couple left the country within days, raising further suspicions among locals.

Others believe the search for Madeleine had become a charade because they are convinced she is no longer alive. Residents who relied on tourism to make a living raised concerns that the high-profile case was turning away visitors.

Now locals say they want to return to the lives they had before. Canadian Meri Hanlin, who has been in Portugal for four years and runs a health food shop in the resort, said: “It was like a dark cloud hanging over us for so long.

“It’s not that the locals don’t care about what happened, but they just want to get the village back to how it was. For the locals it got a little too much.

“I’m sure there are a lot of businesses who have lost a lot of money because people have stopped going.” Local resident Rui Rodriquez, 34, said: “We’re sick of hearing about Madeleine. It is time for everyone to move on.”

A cashier at the Alisuper convenience store opposite the church said: “I took down the posters and I no longer wear the bracelet that the child’s father gave me.

“It no longer makes sense to display symbols of the child’s disappearance when the parents are suspects.” Another shopkeeper said: “Opinions hardened when the McCanns went back to England and things have changed since then. It’s not just the Portuguese, the views of the English people also changed.

“People started taking the posters down because they did not believe anything any more. There are too many doubts about the case, it is best forgotten.”

Last night the McCanns’ spokesman, Clarence Mitchell insisted the couple had gained strength from the support of the local community during their four months in Portugal.

He said: “The people were incredibly supportive and we believe that affection and support is still there.

“Kate and Gerry have nothing but fond memories and remain very grateful to the people of Praia da Luz. At some point the community in Praia da Luz has to move on, just as it has in Rothley.

“The tributes to Madeleine in Kate and Gerry’s home town were taken down some time ago.

“They cannot help how people feel but they hope everyone will continue to be vigilant in looking out for Madeleine. They believe she is still alive and is out there somewhere.’’

The couple and their holiday friends, dubbed the Tapas Nine, are set to be questioned by British police in the presence of Portuguese detectives.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Robert Murat – the first official suspect – has complained that British diplomats gave favourable treatment to the McCanns.

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