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Original Source: EXPRESS: SATURDAY 24 NOVEMBER 2007
By Nick Fagge in Praia da Luz
The Daily Express, Sat 24 November 2007



ANGUISH: Stress shows on Kate McCann's face


THE mother of Madeleine McCann could be jailed for up to 10 years for abandoning her children, it emerged last night.


Kate and her husband Gerry face being put behind bars even if they are cleared of any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.



A lawyer yesterday accused the couple of committing the crime of child abandonment simply by leaving their three children alone in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.



Under Portuguese law, the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison if the victim is a dependant and dies as a result of being abandoned. Lawyer Jose Olimpio, aged 42, said: “The fact the McCanns were made arguidos means that there are justified suspicions against them of committing a crime.”


Mr Olimpio claimed the Portuguese penal code states that placing a person’s life in danger by abandoning them is punishable with a jail sentence of between one and five years.



But the sentence rises to between three and 10 years if the victim is a child and the crime is committed by a parent or guardian.



The McCanns have admitted regularly leaving their children – Madeleine, Sean and Amelie – alone in their apartment at the Ocean Club while they went for dinner with friends.



But last night their official spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said: “They have committed no offence under Portuguese, British or any country’s laws.”



News of the possible charges came as the couple faced a further setback in the fight to clear their names over accusations that they were involved in Madeleine’s disappearance.



Reports in Portugal claimed it could be a further six months before they are re-interviewed by police, although the 39-year-old doctors from Rothley, Leicestershire, say they are ready to be quizzed again about Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3.



But the official process to allow detectives to interrogate them is progressing at “a snail’s pace” because of red tape.



Madeleine’s parents refused to answer up to 40 questions in a gruelling set of interviews with police in Portugal when they were named as arguidos or formal suspects in September.



The couple faced accusations that Madeleine died as a result of an accident and they disposed of her body with the help of their friends. Police believe re-interviewing the couple and their seven holiday friends could provide the key to unlocking the Madeleine mystery.



Detectives have prepared a legal letter outlining 100 questions for the McCanns, their friends and relatives. But it must now pass through a complicated chain of officials before the questions can be put to them in fresh interviews in Britain.



The local state prosecutor is at the moment waiting for forensic test results from a Birmingham laboratory before sending the letter on to a judge.



The judge will in turn send it to the Attorney General in Lisbon. It will then pass through the Justice Ministry to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who will pass it on to the British Foreign Office.



But the complicated process does not stop there. The Foreign Office will send it to the Ministry of Justice, who will pass it on to the Lord Chancellor’s office before British police are asked to carry out the interview.

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 The scale of the convoluted legal process became clear a day after Portugal’s Attorney General said Madeleine was almost certainly dead.


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