are we asking this now?
Portuguese authorities revealed yesterday that the country's
Policia Judiciaria (PJ) have completed their final report
into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, who vanished
from the flat in a holiday village on the Algarve where her
parents were staying with seven friends in May 2007. A state
prosecutor must now decide whether to press charges or
declare the 14-month investigation closed.
abduction from Praia da Luz of the three-year-old, who was a
few days from celebrating her fourth birthday, became a
global news event as reported sightings from Morocco to
Switzerland were passed to police. Over a period of six
months, attention slowly switched from the hunt for a
kidnapper to Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann. The
couple, both doctors, were declared "arguidos", or formal
suspects, on 7 September 2007.
Will Kate and Gerry McCann be cleared?
Verão, the lead prosecutor, has three courses of action open
to him once he finishes examining the evidence, which runs
to "dozens of volumes". He can order the PJ to continue
their investigation, he can file charges against the McCanns,
or he can order the case to be "archived", meaning it will
lie on file but all active inquiries will be at an end.
numerous previous consultations between detectives and the
prosecutors' office about the direction of the inquiry, the
first option is highly unlikely. Portuguese newspapers
reported yesterday that the police report will state that
detectives have not been able to ascertain whether Madeleine
was abducted or murdered on the night she disappeared, or
her body concealed after an accidental death.
declared that the PJ has concluded it does not have enough
evidence to charge the McCanns and will thus clear them. The
couple's spokesman said yesterday that he expected their
"arguido" status to be officially lifted if the case was
shelved, but it is not unusual in Portugal for people to
remain official suspects for years on the basis that new
evidence could still emerge.
What evidence has been gathered?
strict judicial secrecy laws mean that almost nothing is
known officially about the lines of inquiry pursued by the
investigation team. Yet a culture of successive leaks from
within the PJ to the Portuguese media means that vast
amounts have been written about the twists and turns of the
admission from the PJ's national director, Alipio Ribeiro,
that his force had been "hasty" in declaring the McCanns "arguidos",
much effort has gone into analysing alleged discrepancies in
the accounts of the night of the feared abduction from the
McCanns and the so-called "Tapas Seven" – the friends of the
McCanns who were eating with the couple at an on-site
interviews last August, it became clear that police were
exploring whether Madeleine was given an accidental overdose
of a sedative. There has been extensive forensic analysis of
Apartment 5A, where the family were staying, and of a
Renault Scenic car hired by the McCanns. Reports suggested
that DNA found in the car came from Madeleine's body but
subsequent leaks said the forensic proof was too badly
degraded to support any such conclusion. The McCanns have
always denied any involvement in their daughter's
Were the McCanns victims of a smear campaign?
have privately expressed concern that they are being framed
for their daughter's disappearance. Last year Chief
Inspector Olegario Sousa, who acted as the public face of
the Portuguese investigation for its first four months, made
it known through friends that the leaks from within the
inquiry were part of a strategy to exert pressure on the
British couple to reveal any involvement in Madeleine's
disappearance. The result has been a concerted fightback by
the couple to clear their names as well as maintain interest
in finding their daughter. The Portuguese police have been
heavily criticised for some aspects of the conduct of their
investigation, which included leaving the crime scene
unsecured and leaving the border with Spain open for 12
hours after the feared abduction.
anyone else still under suspicion?
Murat, an Anglo-Portuguese property consultant with a house
just 100 yards from Apartment 5A, was questioned and made an
"arguido" 11 days after the disappearance, apparently after
a British newspaper reporter alerted police to his
34-year-old acted as unofficial translator in the early days
of the police hunt. An extensive search was carried out of
his home, which he shares with his mother. After 10 months
of investigation, the PJ returned to Mr Murat possessions
seized in May 2007 including clothing and a computer amid
speculation that he was no longer a suspect. His lawyer said
yesterday that he would only be satisfied when he was
formally declared to have no involvement in the case.
What role has the media played in the investigation?
few hours of Madeleine's disappearance, a relative of the
McCanns appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today programme to appeal
for help in finding the toddler. The subsequent tidal wave
of sympathetic coverage took on a more disturbing tone as
public appetite for news on the story was sated by leaks
suggesting the involvement of the McCanns to the Portuguese
media, many of which were subsequently reported again by
their British counterparts.
this year, the Daily Express and Daily Star published
unprecedented front-page apologies to the couple and paid
out £500,000 after they started legal proceedings stating
they had been "grievously wronged" by the papers' coverage.
Mr Murat has also instructed solicitors to examine libel
proceedings against 11 publications.
Are we any closer to finding Madeleine?
are not expected to make a formal decision on whether or not
to shelve the case until August. Coincidentally, this is
when the ban on revealing any details of the PJ
investigation also expires. Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns'
spokesman, said yesterday that he hoped that any decision to
"archive" the inquiry would also entail all police evidence
being made public to allow the family and their
Spanish-based private detective agency, Metodo 3, to
re-examine every line of inquiry. The couple have said they
still believe their daughter is alive and will never abandon
their hunt to find her.
Has the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance
achieved anything at all?
progress has been slow, Portuguese authorities deny the
investigation has been closed
* If the
case is allowed to lie on file, that does not mean it is
closed. Information could come to light in the future
* The case
has been given a huge amount of resources in Portugal and
the UK. The lack of a charge does not mean a lack of effort
* After 14
months, hundreds of interviews and dozens of volumes of
evidence, no one has been charged over Madeleine's
early optimism, efforts by a private investigation firm to
find Madeleine have also foundered
* Not only
does the case remain unsolved, but crucial mistakes early on
by police may have made their job far harder
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