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Scotland Yard officers in Spain as search for Maddy crosses the border

Justin Davenport, Crime Editor  5 Dec 2011

Missing: Maddy disappeared in 2007

Emotional: the McCanns at the Leveson inquiry.

Scotland Yard detectives examining the Madeleine McCann case have flown to Spain, the Standard can reveal.


Homicide officers have met Spanish colleagues in Barcelona in the last two weeks to hold talks over her disappearance.


The trip widens inquiries by officers carrying out the "investigative review" into the three-year-old's disappearance from a Portuguese holiday resort in 2007. Police are believed to be discussing reports that Madeleine may have been abducted and smuggled across the border to Spain.


Detectives have also travelled to Portugal three times to meet detectives involved in the original investigation.


Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine's parents, issued a statement today hailing the work of the Metropolitan Police, saying : "We are pleased that the review is making progress."


Their comments came after they made an emotional appearance at the Leveson inquiry into press standards, when they told how they were left distraught by suggestions they were responsible for their daughter's death.


Scotland Yard was called in to carry out a review of the McCann files this year after a request by Prime Minister David Cameron. The McCanns had asked him to help revive the search for their daughter, who disappeared shortly before her fourth birthday while the family was on holiday in the Algarve.


She vanished from a holiday flat in the resort of Praia da Luz as her parents, both doctors, were dining with friends nearby.


Since then there have been hundreds of "sightings" of Madeleine around the world but none confirmed. The official police inquiry into her disappearance was shelved in July 2008 but private detectives employed by the McCanns continued the search. Scotland Yard says the trips to Portugal, and now Spain, are part of "laying the ground work" for future co-operation between the police forces.


They are playing down any suggestion of a breakthrough in the case but the visits raise the possibility that British detectives will be involved in an active role in any future inquiries. In July Scotland Yard said it would examine all the evidence connected to the case, including material gathered by private investigators.


One theory - among the many others - was that the child was snatched by a paedophile gang and smuggled over the border to Spain an hour's drive away, or even taken there by boat. There were sightings of someone matching her appearance in Spain shortly after she disappeared and Portuguese authorities were criticised for not alerting border and police officials until 12 hours after she went missing.


The British team is believed to have been discussing these reports with Spanish colleagues.


Detectives spent the first five months reading a huge file of case material which had to be translated into English from Portuguese.


The Met says it has been in close liaison with the McCann family about their actions. The Yard emphasises that the Portuguese police remain the "lead force".


A Met Police spokesman said: "There has been very good co-operation with Portuguese authorities and liaison will continue.


"Officers have travelled to Portugal three times in connection with the investigative review and three officers travelled to Barcelona. They are continuing to discuss how to take it forward and we are hopeful that we will be able to do that."


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