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Social workers scrutinise McCann twins as evidence dossier given to prosecutor

HOMEPAGE NEWS REPORTS INDEX NEWS SEPTEMBER 2007
Original Source: SCOTSMAN: 11 SEPTEMBER 2007
ALASTAIR JAMIESON
 
SOCIAL services and police in Britain yesterday met to discuss the future of Madeleine McCann's family as detectives in Portugal moved closer to bringing charges against her parents.

Authorities in Leicestershire were discussing how to respond to the four-year-old's disappearance and the naming of Kate and Gerry McCann as formal suspects in the case.

The couple, both doctors, have two other children, twins Sean and Amelie, aged two. Officials are understood to be considering whether they must intervene to protect the twins.

Police in the Algarve last night confirmed that they were handing their file on Madeleine to the public prosecutor, Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses. He will decide whether the evidence is strong enough to bring charges. This could mean months of agonising waiting for the McCanns, who returned home to Rothley, Leicestershire, on Sunday.

The prosecutor has three main options: he could bring charges; rule that no action should be taken; or send the papers back to police with a request for more evidence.

It was reported last night that Portuguese police had found firm DNA evidence that Madeleine's body was in the boot of the family's hire car five weeks after she went missing. The family say this is impossible, as they did not rent the vehicle until 25 days after she disappeared.

It was claimed that the evidence came in blood samples returned from the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham. Reports suggested that the DNA samples found were a full match and could not have been transferred from clothes or a toy. Police would not confirm these details last night.

Portuguese detectives appear to be working on the theory that Mrs McCann killed her daughter by accident and covered up the death by faking an abduction. The results of forensic tests in recent weeks have apparently boosted this hypothesis.

Mr McCann's alleged role is not clear, but sources said police believe he was an accessory. According to reports in Portugal, the police plan to make further searches.

The couple are seeking advice from two of Britain's most experienced lawyers, Michael Caplan, QC, and Angus McBride, from the London firm Kingsley Napley. Mr Caplan acted for Chile's former dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, when Spain tried to extradite him in 1999.

It is 130 days since Madeleine went missing from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, while her parents dined at a nearby restaurant.

Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, said it was "unbelievable" that Kate and Gerry McCann had been named as arguidos, or formal suspects, in her disappearance.

"The way the Portuguese have turned this investigation round - they are no longer looking for a live child, they are assuming, on spurious evidence, Madeleine is dead ... well, we don't agree with that," she said.

The Local Government Association explained that in England, if an individual is named as a suspect overseas, local social services have a duty to consider whether action has to be taken to ensure other children's welfare.

Asked if it was likely that children in such cases were taken into care or placed on the "in need" or "at risk" register, the LGA said it depended on the circumstances.

Leicestershire County Council refused to comment on yesterday's meeting.

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