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MURAT NEEDED HIRE CAR IN A HURRY'

HOMEPAGE NEWS REPORTS INDEX FAMILY PHOTOS NEWS MAY 2007
Original Source: MIRROR: FRIDAY 18 MAY 2007
Vanessa Allen And Martin Fricker In Praia Da Luz Martin.Fricker@Mirror.Co.Uk  18/05/2007

'THE HUNT FOR MADELEINE

McCann family (DM)

POLICE hunting missing Madeleine McCann are probing claims that suspect Robert Murat hurriedly hired a car two days before he was arrested - despite already having two vehicles.

Hire firm worker Maria Rocio says Murat rang her on Saturday and asked to rent a Hyundai Getz for three days, insisting he needed it immediately and could not wait.

Maria added: "Robert said to me, 'I need to rent a car for myself because the English people who are looking for the little girl need to borrow my car. They need to put information posters on it.'"
Maria said she told him she was about to shut for lunch - and he threatened to take his business elsewhere unless she let him pick up the car before she went. She said: "There was something about his voice, he was saying, 'I need to have it quickly.' His voice was impatient, I could tell from his voice that he needed it in a hurry."
Portuguese police are reported to have had Murat under surveillance at the time - and were tailing both his gold Kia and a green van owned by his mum Jenny. Maria, who works for the Auto Rent III in Praia da Luz, was so confused over why Murat needed a third vehicle she contacted police.
The blue Hyundai was returned to the firm on Tuesday evening.
It was still in his drive along with the van when the villa he shares with Jenny was raided on Monday.
Police searched both vehicles and have examined Auto Rent's records. Little Madeleine's family yesterday admitted for the first time they fear she has been smuggled out of Portugal. Aunt Philomena told of their anguish as she threw her weight behind a campaign to publicise the four-year-old's plight across Europe.

She said in an email to well-wishers: "We don't believe that she is in Portugal any more and need to get her picture and the story across Europe as quickly as possible."

Philomena also urged people to pass on photographs and details of Madeleine to "everyone you know."

The campaign to publicise Madeleine's abduction, which is being spearheaded by her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, has achieved astonishing success.

The family's website www.findmadeleine.com received an astonishing 25million hits in its first day.
And Madeleine's story even made front page news in US magazine People. Police have also not ruled out the possibility that Madeleine could have been smuggled into North Africa after she was abducted from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz two weeks ago. Posters have been printed in Arabic for use Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

Sergey Malinka, the Russian computer expert arrested on Wednesday, yesterday refused to comment on claims that there were several phone calls between him and Murat shortly after Madeleine went missing.

 

He said: "I'm afraid I can't tell you. That's privileged information. I can't share it with anybody."

Malinka, 22, who helped 33-year-old Murat set up a website, said their relationship was confined to business.

Moscow-born Malinka was released at 3am yesterday after five hours of questioning by police. His laptop and two computer hard drives have been seized. He claimed police had interviewed him after finding his number in Murat's phone.

Malinka said he was stunned by the investigation - and added: "My life has fallen apart. I have been building my life here for seven years. In one hour suddenly I'm a paedophile."

He said police had questioned him about Madeleine, adding: "They were asking if I had any connection with Robert Murat. They asked if I had anything to do with Madeleine's disappearance. I volunteered to help."

Malinka, whose mum and dad followed him to Portugal after he emigrated from Russia, worked for a number of internet cafes in Praia da Luz before setting himself up as a website designer.

He was also linked to a business in Lagos offering boat trips in the Mediterranean and to North Africa.

Last night, police chief Olegario Sousa confirmed that Malinka is being treated as a witness rather than a suspect. But he added: "It might be that during the course of the investigation it could change."

There were reports in the Portuguese press yesterday that police photographed Murat and Malinka together in the days after Madeleine vanished. Tuck Price, a Murat family friend, said this was "absolutely not" sinister. He added: "It's possible, of course. They would probably have a coffee and talk about the website."

It was also revealed that 71-year-old Jenny has been questioned about her son's alibi. He claims he was having dinner with her on the night that Madeleine vanished.

Murat's friends say he is staying out of sight in Jenny's villa, 150 yards from where Madeleine was snatched.

Posters proclaiming Murat's innocence were yesterday put up around the Norfolk village where he used to live with estranged wife Dawn and their daughter Sofia, four.

The A4-sized posters were placed by Murat's Portuguese friend Carla Cunha on front doors, fences, a bus shelter, and the village hall in Hockering, Norfolk. The posters show his face and say: "Rob is innocent. Please Rob be strong for Sofia. She love you very much."

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