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'New leads' in Madeleine search

HOMEPAGE NEWS REPORTS INDEX SEARCHING NEWS MAY 2007
Original Source: BBC: 10 MAY 2007
Thursday, 10 May 2007
 

Police hunting for three-year-old Madeleine McCann are studying fresh leads, Crimestoppers has said.
Some 35 tip-offs from callers in Portugal and the UK to a hotline have been passed on to Leicester police, who lead the UK side of the inquiry.

Portuguese police have refused to confirm or deny reports that they are searching for two men and a woman.

Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from an apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, a week ago.

A spokeswoman for Crimestoppers said she could not say whether any of the tip-offs given to it were significant leads, but added that they were all "useful pieces of information".

Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, spent time with police on Thursday afternoon.

"They were called to the station to clarify one or two points," said chief inspector Olegario de Sousa.

Meanwhile local media have been reporting that two men and a woman were photographed at a petrol station driving a car with a British number plate on the night of the little girl's disappearance.

However, Portuguese law prohibits police from releasing any information about an ongoing investigation, including details of any possible suspects.

Police have also asked locals if they recognise an image of a possible suspect, described by one shopkeeper as looking like "an egg with hair".

Meanwhile, photographs of Madeleine wearing an Everton FC shirt have been released by the club.

Team captain Phil Neville said: "Everton has fans all over the world and I know that they, along with everyone connected with the football club, are hoping and praying for Madeleine's safe return."

On Thursday morning, a church service was held for Madeleine in Praia da Luz where prayers were led by her mother.

Another service will he held later on Merseyside, organised by friends of the family and led by Father Paul Seddon, who married the McCanns and baptised Madeleine.

On Friday, a vigil is planned in Glasgow, where Madeleine's father is from.

And a club spokesman has said that Celtic and Aberdeen footballers will show their support for the McCann family by wearing yellow armbands during their match on Saturday.

'Moved on'

Earlier, Madeleine's grandmother said Portuguese police made mistakes at the start of the hunt for her, possibly because they were "inexperienced".

Susan Healy, from Liverpool, said the three-year-old's parents had found it hard to communicate to police early on.

However, the British ambassador to Portugal, John Buck, said earlier this week he had been assured by Portuguese authorities that "everything possible" was being done to ensure the little girl's safe return.

And the Portuguese ambassador in London Antonio Santana Carlos asked people to trust the police who, under Portuguese law, can disclose very little information.

Meanwhile, Madeleine's uncle, John McCann, from Glasgow, countered criticism from those who say the couple were wrong to leave their children alone in the holiday apartment while they ate dinner at a nearby restaurant.

"If you look at the layout of that place, it was entirely safe. The issue at stake here was, that the flat was broken into, and wee Madeleine was abducted," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

On Wednesday, Kate and Gerry issued a statement thanking those involved in the search for their daughter.

"At present we are channelling all of our emotions and all of our efforts into the steps that are being taken to secure Madeleine's safe return."

British child abduction experts have been in Portugal to assist the investigation.

Superintendent Graham Hill of Surrey police, who investigated the disappearance and murder of Surrey schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, is among them.

Madeleine is believed to have been taken from her bed last Thursday evening while her parents were eating at a nearby restaurant.

They had been regularly checking on her and their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.

An online appeal to help find Madeleine has also been set up.

The appeal by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the Virtual Global Taskforce is available in English, Portuguese and Spanish on
www.ceop.gov.uk.

The international number for Crimestoppers is +44 1883 731 336. People with information about Madeleine can call anonymously.

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