Mixed messages on missing Madeleine

Mixed messages on missing Madeleine
14 September 2007 06:17 PM
Press Association National Newswire
Sam Marsden and Vicky Shaw

Mixed messages are coming from the investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance, eight days after her parents were named as suspects.

One senior officer said yesterday there was 'nothing concrete'' against Kate and Gerry McCann, but reports continued to suggest police believe they disposed of her body using their hire car.

The McCanns, who insist they are entirely innocent, met their lawyers Kingsley Napley in London yesterday.

There has been huge media interest in the story, with journalists from around the world camped outside the family's home in Rothley, Leicestershire, since they returned from Portugal on Sunday.

From today, the family will be without a campaign manager after the current incumbent, Justine McGuinness, reaches the end of her contract.

Ms McGuinness, a former Lib-Dem parliamentary candidate, is understood to be attending her party's autumn conference in Brighton, which starts today.

It is not known when she will be replaced, but in the meantime a private PR firm is handling media inquiries about the McCanns.

Detectives may be depending on Kate and Gerry McCann making a confession in order to prove their suspicions are correct, a Portuguese newspaper reported yesterday.

A 'high-ranking'' officer in the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) - Portugal's CID - said the evidence was not even strong enough to prove whether Madeleine is dead.

An Australian woman wrongly convicted of murdering her baby after telling police it had been snatched by a dingo spoke out in support of the McCanns.

Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, whose conviction was later overturned, claimed the couple could suffer a similar miscarriage of justice to her own.

'What that couple are going through sounds like a mirror image to what happened to me,'' she was quoted in The Guardian today as saying.

'Lie and tell us you did it, and you can go free, tell us the truth and you can't, the police will be saying.

'I don't believe for one minute those parents are responsible for any wrongdoing.''

The Daily Mail quoted Kate McCann's father Brian Healy denouncing claims that she had killed Madeleine as 'disgraceful'' lies. He said:
'There is no way in a month of Sundays that Kate could hurt her little girl. 'It is disgraceful to say she would, it is lies and I think something is going on to smear her. 'Kate is totally innocent and it hurts me so much to hear these claims.''
It is now 135 days since the young girl vanished from her bed in her family's holiday apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.

The unnamed PJ officer told the 24 Horas newspaper:
'We have nothing concrete. 'There are a lot of indications, but without more elements it's impossible to determine what happened in those four vital hours in the case (between 6pm and 10pm on the night Madeleine vanished).
'Even if the blood and traces gathered in the car or in the apartment were confirmed to correspond 100% to the little girl's DNA, that wouldn't prove anything. 'Those elements could only confirm - and that doesn't even happen - that the little girl was in the apartment (which is obvious) and in the car.

'In either of the cases nothing would prove homicide, just that the body of the little girl had been transferred in the vehicle. 'We don't know if Madeleine is dead, and if she is, how it all happened. 'Was she strangled? Could she have been beaten? They are questions only the parents could clarify in an eventual confession.''

On Tuesday the Policia Judiciaria - Portugal's CID - formally passed their 4,000-page dossier of evidence against the McCanns to Algarve-based public prosecutor Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses. He immediately ordered that the 10 lever-arch files should go before a criminal instructional judge, understood to be Pedro Daniel dos Anjos Frias.

The judge now has until Thursday to consider a number of requests made by the prosecutor, among them that he approve the seizure of Mrs McCann's personal diary, sources said.

It is understood that the judge met Goncalo Amaral, co-ordinator of the PJ in the Algarve town of Portimao, and Guilhermino da Encarnacao, the chief investigating officer in the case, for three hours at the courthouse in Portimao yesterday.

Portuguese newspapers claimed yesterday that police are investigating whether the McCanns had any 'accomplices'' in allegedly disposing of Madeleine's body and concocting a false story. Detectives have admitted the young girl's body may 'no longer exist', according to the Diario de Noticias.

One 'credible'' theory of investigators is that her body was thrown out to sea in a bag weighted with stones, from a yacht belonging to an English sailor, the paper claimed, without specifying its source. The boat is based at the marina in the town of Lagos, just a short drive from Praia da Luz, it reported. Portuguese police could not be reached for comment, but in the past they have refused to confirm or deny press reports.

Intense attention has focused on what police found in the hire car rented by Madeleine's parents 25 days after she went missing.

Senior sources linked to the investigation said police had discovered 'bodily fluids'' - not blood - with an 88% match to Madeleine's genetic profile in the boot. Toxicological tests on the liquid show that 'Madeleine had consumed a significant quantity of sleeping tablets and may have overdosed', the French newspaper France Soir reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources in Portugal.

Mr McCann hit out yesterday at the 'ludicrous accusations'' that he and his wife were involved in their daughter Madeleine's death. He said he and Kate knew they were innocent but were frightened and had been 'backed into a corner'.

A friend said yesterday that Madeleine's parents were under intense pressure but were 'not cracking up'. The friend, a colleague of Mr McCann at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital, added:
'It's very tough. I am concerned that the press attention is intensifying. 'It's a lot of stress but they are coping very well.''

Madeleine's aunt Philomena McCann said her family would be willing to sell their homes to pay Mr and Mrs McCann's legal fees.

Cash from the fund set up to find the missing child will not be used to pay for the couple's legal representation, the McCanns announced this week.

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