The policeman leading the hunt for missing youngster Madeleine
McCann said Portuguese police are doing all they can to
find her but added that he could not be sure she is
Little information about the police investigation has been made
public, prompting criticism that police are not doing
enough to find the missing three-year-old.
But Chief Inspector Oligeario Sousa said yesterday: "I want to
assure the family and all the people involved that the
professionals are doing the best they can."
On Saturday, Portugal judicial police said they believed that
Madeleine was still alive but, yesterday, the Chief
Inspector admitted: "We have no facts to sustain that
the child is alive or not.
"We are searching for the child until the moment she appears.
"We can say nothing more because we are not magicians.
"All the authorities involved are doing the best efforts to recover
The blow came just hours after Madeleine's mother, Kate, made a
powerful direct appeal to anyone holding her daughter to
let her go.
With her husband Gerry beside her, she said: "We would like to say
a few words to the person who is with our Madeleine, or
has been with Madeleine.
"Madeleine is a beautiful, bright, funny and caring little girl.
She is so special. Please, please, do not hurt her.
"Please do not scare her, please let us know where to find
Madeleine or put her in place of safety and tell
somebody where. We beg you to let Madeleine come home."
She added: "Please give our little girl back", and then repeated
this final phrase in Portuguese, saying: "Por favor,
devolva a nossa menina".
The toddler disappeared on Thursday night while she was left with
her brother and sister, two-year-old twins Sean and
Amelie, in a holiday apartment. Her parents had been
dining in a nearby restaurant and checking on them
The young girl was wearing white pyjama bottoms with a small floral
design and a short-sleeved pink top with a picture of
Eeyore on it when she vanished.
Yesterday's chaotic press conference began more than two hours late
and even when it started, Chief Inspector Sousa said
that he could reveal little about the case because of
the restrictions of Portuguese law.
He insisted that, as a father himself, police were doing everything
they could to find Madeleine.
Asked whether he was keeping the family fully informed, he said:
"The family is the number one interest in the case but
even then, they must be a little far from the
Speaking of the McCanns' pain, he said: "What they are feeling now
I can't imagine, I am a father too, all the police, we
are fathers and mothers.
"It is probably pain with no measure they are feeling."
Answering questions which were fired in English and Portuguese,
Chief Inspector Sousa repeatedly said that he could not
publish an artist's impression of a man seen acting
suspiciously because he feared it could harm the case.
The hunt was extended yesterday by up to nine miles around Praia da
Luz, as police said they have found evidence she was
abducted but refused to disclose details.
Officers also revealed that Interpol has become involved.
There has been speculation in the Portuguese media that police
suspect a Briton or Britons may be behind the abduction.
Broadcaster RTP interviewed Barra da Costa, a former inspector in
the Judicial Police, PJ, who said the force believed her
abductor may be from the UK.
He said investigators told him that a working description of the
suspect being used by detectives suggested someone of
The former police officer said the apparently meticulous planning,
without leaving forensic evidence, could also point to a
British rather than Portuguese intruder.
Experts have put together an artist's impression of a "suspect" but
have not publicly revealed details and it is believed it
only shows the back of a man's head and his hair.
It was also reported yesterday that police are investigating a
claim a man was seen dragging a young girl along towards
a marina in the nearby town of Lagos.
Around the marina at Lagos, which was busy with British tourists
yesterday, bars and restaurants were displaying
photographs of Madeleine to jog customers' memories.
Police have taken records of all boats booked into the marina right
through from April 27 to May 6.
Marques Pereira, harbour captain at Lagos, admitted that they were
searching for a body as well as other evidence.
He told Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias: "We can't afford
to discard or abandon evidence such as clothes, shoes or
even a body."
Joao Riveiro, who works on the marina staff, said large numbers of
police officers have been searching the area.
A small party of around 20 volunteers was searching forests and
rough ground around the outskirts of the village of
Along the nearby coast police have checked a cave complex at Ponta
da Piedade, with the help of volunteer canoeists.
Villagers in Madeleine's home village will today hold a silent
vigil to show they are thinking of the McCann family.
Resident Valerie Armstrong, who is one of the organisers, told GMTV
that people would be encouraged to light a candle or to
tie a red ribbon around railings at the War Memorial on
the village green at Rothley, Leicestershire.
Madeleine's great uncle Brian Kennedy said it was a "wonderful
Mr Kennedy told GMTV that Madeleine's mother must be under
tremendous strain but seemed to be keeping her spirits
He added: "But as the days go on it must be very difficult."
Mr Kennedy, a retired headmaster who lives a few streets away from
the McCanns, said any analysis of the police
investigation should take second place to the hunt to
He said: "I think the main thing is to keep up the search. Any
shortcomings should be looked at afterwards."
Staff at Leicester's three hospitals will join in prayer today for
the McCann family.
Madeleine's father is a consultant cardiologist at the city's
Colleague Doug Skehan, also a consultant cardiologist, said: "Gerry
is a popular, hard-working colleague, for whom we have
great affection. We are greatly concerned by the
disappearance of his daughter.
"Staff from our three hospitals will join together to pray that she
is returned safely to her family."
The hospitals' chaplaincy team were due to lead prayers at
Glenfield Hospital, in Groby Road, from 1pm.
Copyright Press Association 2007