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Charges less likely as police admit they have 'nothing concrete' against McCanns

HOMEPAGE NEWS REPORTS INDEX NEWS SEPTEMBER 2007
Original Source: SCOTSMAN: 15 SEPTEMBER 2007
FERGUS SHEPPARD Sat 15 Sep 2007
 
PORTUGUESE police appeared to take a step back from charging Madeleine McCann's parents yesterday after a senior officer said they had "nothing concrete" to implicate them in her disappearance.

Detectives may be depending on Kate and Gerry McCann confessing to prove their suspicions, it was reported last night.

The couple were declared formal suspects in the case a week ago, and are now back in Britain waiting to learn whether they will be charged.

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

It is 134 days since the four-year-old 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 per cent to the little girl's DNA, that wouldn't prove anything.

"Those elements could only confirm that the little girl was in the apartment [which is obvious] and in the car.

"In either case, 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 a confession."

The McCanns left their home in Rothley, Leicestershire, just before 10am yesterday for a day of meetings with their London-based lawyers, Kingsley Napley.

A friend, a colleague of Mr McCann at Leicester's Glenfield Hospital, said Madeleine's parents were under intense pressure but were "not cracking up".

He said: "There's a very strong feeling of support within the hospital for Gerry and Kate.

"There's little doubt that there's support among colleagues who know Gerry and Kate, who still see them as people who need support in the face of the loss of Madeleine, and we all feel that they are facing an added burden [with the police investigation] which is barely credible.

"But obviously they need to get through this phase and get the focus back on what they can do to find Madeleine."

On Tuesday the PJ formally passed the 4,000-page dossier of evidence against the McCanns to the public prosecutor, who

immediately ordered that the ten lever-arch files should go before a criminal instructional judge, understood to be Pedro Daniel dos Anjos Frias. The judge has until Thursday to consider requests made by the prosecutor, among them that he approve the seizure of Mrs McCann's diary, sources said.

Portuguese newspapers claimed yesterday that the police were investigating whether the McCanns had any accomplices in allegedly disposing of Madeleine's body and concocting a false story.

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

Mr McCann reportedly told a friend: "There are large craters in every one of these theories, in these ludicrous accusations."

Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, later said the 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 family announced this week.

THE PLOT THICKENS: A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF THE PARENTS
SLEEPING
pills, DNA traces, seized diaries and missing hours - the Madeleine McCann case has ended the week amid claim and counter-claim. Here are the main strands and what evidence - if any - supports them.

THE OVERDOSE

This allegation, made by a French journalist in France Soir, surfaced late on Thursday. It claimed toxicology tests on bodily fluid found by police indicated Madeleine died from an overdose of sleeping pills. The McCanns call this "ludicrous".

In the absence of a body, it is hard to know how conclusive tests could be.

THE CAR

Intense speculation has focused on what DNA material was recovered from the vehicle hired 25 days after Madeleine vanished. It is alleged to include bodily fluids and hair providing a 90 per cent match to Madeleine. The drawback is that all these claims tend to be sourced to unnamed "officials".

KATE McCANN'S DIARY

Portuguese police are claimed to have applied for seizure of Mrs McCann's personal diary. Portuguese newspaper reports claim diary entries detail her struggle to cope with her "hyperactive" children. However, there is no official confirmation of what is in the diary.

THE SEARCH FOR MADELEINE

Police are now contemplating the possibility that there was a four-hour window on 3 May in which Madeleine might have disappeared. Until now, the McCanns' version of events suggested there was less than an hour. Portuguese police were yesterday said to be planning to interview some of the seven friends holidaying with the McCanns at Praia da Luz when their daughter vanished.

Detectives reportedly want to revisit the timings in light of DNA evidence.

One Portuguese newspaper, the Diario de Noticias, claimed detectives were looking at a "credible" theory that Madeleine's body was thrown into the sea in a weighted bag from a yacht belonging to an English sailor. Again, all this remains conjecture. There is no body and no proof that Madeleine is dead.

SPOKESWOMAN STEPS DOWN

JUSTINE McGuinness, a public-relations adviser, will today step down as spokeswoman for the McCann family.

The one-time prospective Liberal Democrat MP was contracted for a fixed term to act for the family. A campaign helper said Ms McGuinness had been working on the campaign for over 80 days and that it was "time to take a break".

Ms McGuinness, who unsuccessfully ran as a parliamentary candidate in the 2005 general election, is expected to attend the Lib Dem conference, which starts today.

Phil Hall, a former editor of the News of the World who now runs his own PR company, is widely expected to take on the role early next week.

Mr Hall has experience of working for high-profile, controversial clients, having acted for Heather Mills during the height of media attention following her split from Sir Paul McCartney.

Mr McCann's sister, Philomena, yesterday defended the family's decision to retain a big-name PR adviser. "If you look at how they had to travel back from Portugal and how their house is camped out with media, you can't expect to live normal lives because of the constant scrutiny," she said. "It's just become very difficult for them."

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