David Brown in Praia da Luz and Patrick Foster
A private security firm has been secretly investigating the disappearance of
Madeleine McCann for four months because her parents feared that Portuguese
police were failing properly to search for their daughter.
Control Risks Group (CRG) is believed to have been checking reported sightings
of Madeleine from around the world and building up profiles of likely abductors.
Kate and Gerry McCann turned to the company, which employs former members of the
intelligence services and special forces, after becoming concerned that officers
in the Algarve assumed their daughter was dead.
A source close to the couple’s legal team confirmed that CRG had been working
with the family since May but refused to discuss how the company was being paid.
“Control Risks are one of the groups who’ve offered their services to the
McCanns,” he said. “You can assume that they are doing some things that the
Portuguese police can’t do.”
Friends of the couple said the decision showed that they believed Madeleine may
still be alive 144 days after she was reported missing from the bedroom of her
holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.
Mr McCann first contacted private investigation companies less than three weeks
after his daughter was reported missing on May 3 because of concerns that the
Portuguese police were not properly checking out all reported sightings. But he
had publicly to deny that they were using private detectives when Portuguese
police said it would be against the law.
Detectives from the Policia Judiciária say that have checked out 250 reported
sightings in Portugal and a further 150 from around Europe and North Africa. But
the McCanns have privately expressed fears that key pieces of information may
not have been acted on. A source close to the family said that they were
particularly dismayed that officers had failed properly to investigate two
reports that Madeleine had been spotted in Morocco six days after she
A British tourist from Yorkshire told police that he saw a girl resembling
Madeleine outside the Ibis hotel in Marrakesh. His testimony was identical to
that of another tourist, Marie Pollard, 45, from Norway, who claimed that she
was “100 per cent convinced” that she saw Madeleine at a police station
Both witnesses have complained that Portuguese officers were not interested in
what they believed were potentially key sightings. Mr and Mrs McCann, both 39,
spent two days in Morocco in June to seek assurances from the authorities that
sightings would be investigated and to promote the hunt for Madeleine.
“Gerry and Kate McCann have always believed the Morocco sightings were vital,” a
friend said. “Kate said her instinct from the start has been that Madeleine was
smuggled into North Africa.”
Clarence Mitchell, the couple’s spokesman, said: “We have been aware of it for
months. It was made known to us when it happened. All I can say is that any
possible sightings, if credible, we hope would be examined thoroughly, whether
it’s in Portugal, Spain or anywhere else.”
Other sightings reported in Spain, Malta, Belgium and Switzerland have been
ruled out after investigations by local police. The McCanns hope that CRG will
help to verify such reports as well as provide information on the type of people
who might have abducted Madeleine and support networks that might operate in
The company has more than 600 employees, many former members of MI5, MI6, the
SAS and Special Boat Service. It is the highest-earning British security firm
operating in Iraq.
A former intelligence expert who has worked with CRG said: “They can offer
advice on personal safety, counter safety. For example, who is watching the
McCanns and even advice on hostage negotiation should that be needed. In
addition . . . they will most likely offer the McCanns security advice and how
to deal with bogus tips.”
A CRG spokesman would only say: “Our policy is simply not to talk about our
clients. We promise our clients 100 per cent confidentiality - discretion is our
What forensic evidence has been collected?
Dozens of samples were recovered from apartments used by the McCanns and another
family at the Ocean Club resort. Police have also searched the McCanns’ hire
car. The material has been examined by the Forensic Science Service (FSS) in
Is there enough evidence to convict Kate and Gerry McCann?
Portuguese detectives have been briefing the media since the middle of August
that there was compelling evidence from hair, bodily fluids and blood. But in
the past ten days the briefings have been more doubtful. A police source told 24
Horas newspaper yesterday: “There is no element which can definitively state
that the body of the little girl was transported in that vehicle”
What does the FSS say about its results?
The laboratory was reported yesterday to have sent an e-mail to Portuguese
police complaining that its findings had been “widely misused”. The Mail on
Sunday said that the FSS had criticised detectives for overplaying the results
and leaking information – most of it inaccurate – to the Portuguese media
What do the British authorities say?
Leicestershire police say they are bound by the Portuguese laws of judicial
secrecy and that releasing any information on the case could jeopardise their
delicate working relationship with colleagues in Portugal
The rich list bankrolling the McCanns
Brian Kennedy Made £250 million from double glazing and home improvements
and now owns Latium Group plastics and Sale Sharks rugby union team. Offered
Latium’s in-house lawyer and is paying the McCanns’ new official spokesman,
Sir Richard Branson Contributed to rewards totalling £2.5 million after
Madeleine’s disappearance. Has spoken to the McCanns several times and this
month donated £100,000 to a fund for their legal costs. “I trust them
implicitly,” he said. Is trying to encourage other wealthy people to contribute
to the legal fund
Sir Philip Green The billionaire owner of TopShop and BHS lent the
McCanns his private jet for their visit to meet the Pope. Known to have been
annoyed when news of his involvement emerged and has refused to comment on his
John Geraghty A 68-year-old businessman from Leicestershire who now lives
on the outskirts of Praia da Luz. Offered to store the McCanns’ hire car so that
they could commission independent forensic tests