Cops probe nanny's dumped at sea claim

Cops probe nanny's dumped at sea claim
14 October 2007
The Sunday Mirror
Lori Campbell and Grant Hodgson

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Portuguese police are becoming increasingly convinced Madeleine McCann's body was dumped at sea.

Last night officers drafted in to revitalise the investigation were planning to re-interview a key witness who saw a sailor acting suspiciously after the tot disappeared.

And British police are to delve into the student pasts of Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry.

Last night nanny Charlotte Pennington told how she saw a sailor kicking at something in the hull of his vessel in Praia da Luz, where the McCanns had been staying, two days after their daughter vanished.

Charlotte, who was working at the Mark Warner holiday complex where their apartment was, ran to get a friend to see what was happening but by the time they returned the boat - and the sailor in yellow fluorescent jacket - had gone.

The next day Charlotte spotted the man, wearing what she thought was the same jacket, and contacted police.

Charlotte, 20, back home in Leatherhead, Surrey, said: "I'm really pleased they are taking this seriously because it means they aren't just looking at the McCanns as suspects."

Her sighting of the sailor - and his possible involvement - was last night described by one police source as "credible".

The officer added: "Whoever had the expertise to make Madeleine disappear from the flat also had the expertise to throw her into the sea."

Police believe Madeleine was killed on May 3 and her body dumped in the Atlantic. They fear she may never be found.

Local council leader Manuel Borba reckoned the chances of finding Madeleine in the area were now virtually nil.

Mr Borba, who spent two weeks searching, insisted: "I personally looked in 40 wells. I'm not going to say that it's impossible the body has been hidden here but I don't believe that it has." Several new officers, including two murder squad detectives based in Lisbon, started work on the case yesterday under the command of Paulo Rebelo.

He replaced controversial Goncalo Amaral, 48, taken off the case after his criticism of British police. Mr Rebelo is reported to be receiving long-awaited results from DNA samples taken from the McCanns' hire car and apartment in the next few days. The test results, produced by the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, are being sent in sealed envelopes via the British embassy.

The Portuguese hope they will provide a breakthrough - and possibly back their theory that Madeleine's parents helped dispose of her body after she died accidentally.

Detectives in Britain are to dig into the couple's backgrounds as far back as their university days 20 years ago.

Strathclyde Police have been asked to contact former friends and colleagues to establish if there is anything in either's past which may shed light on the case.

Kate and Gerry, both 39, from Rothley, Leics, met as junior doctors in Glasgow's Western Infirmary in 1992 after finishing their medical degrees.

The couple, who attended the Church of the Sacred Heart near their home yesterday with two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie, have had no contact from Portuguese police since they returned to the UK. They deny any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance.

A friend said: "They've not heard a word. Not only are they unaware what is happening regarding their status as suspects but they fear nothing is being done to look for Madeleine."

Their spokesman Clarence Mitchell said they would stay in Leicestershire for the twins' sake but would return to Portugal if asked.

In an increasing sign of desperation, Portuguese police were last night studying a map sketched by Chilean mystic Isabel Avila of an area where she claims Madeleine can be found. It suggests she is near a bridge and tall antennas.

Desperate cops to study map drawn up by a psychic

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