Express 15 May 2007 [Now removed from internet]
investigating the disappearance of
Madeleine McCann in the Algarve do not
have enough evidence to arrest the main
suspect, they said tonight.
Briton Robert Murat was questioned by
police after they swooped on his
Portuguese villa yesterday.
Police said "various material" belonging
to him was seized for analysis and
forensic examination carried out.
But although the police confirmed that a
33-year-old man living in the area had
been classed as a suspect, they said no
evidence had been collected to justify
putting him formally under arrest.
Robert Murat is a formal suspect but
there is not enough evidence for police
to arrest him
Detectives searched five houses Monday
as part of their investigation and have
also questioned two other people.
In a statement Portuguese detectives
said: “During the information collection
last weekend one of those lines under
investigation achieved strength and
“Thus it was necessary to carry out
different house searches."
Robert Murat lives with his mother in
the house just 100 yards from the
apartment where Madeleine was snatched
12 days ago.
Murat has a young daughter by his
estranged wife who is understood to bear
a striking resemblance to Madeleine.
Locals have told police that he appeared
to have been acting strangely near the
apartment complex hours after Madeleine
The suspect today said that "his life
has been ruined forever".
He told his cousin Sally Eveleigh that
he was "totally devastated" to be named
the main suspect in the case.
Mrs Eveleigh said: "Robert is shattered
by this. He feels his life has been
"He feels he entered in the search for
Madeleine to try to help and now police
have turned against him."
Murat has lived in Portugal for 16 years
after his mother and Portuguese father
moved there from Britain. But he
returned to the UK for over three years
before going back to the Algarve, saying
that he was in the middle of a custody
dispute with his wife, who is thought to
live in Norfolk.
Chillingly, Murat said: “I know how it
feels to Madeleine’s parents because I
have a daughter aged three and a half
who I am in a custody battle over.”
Murat’s mother, Jenny, was among the
first to come forward and join the
search and he became a well-known face
to reporters, telling them that he was
acting as an interpreter between police
But, as time went on, observers said he
became jumpy and then vanished for four
days after journalists began asking him
about his exact role on the fringes of
He later returned and refused to answer
further questions, telling reporters he
had sworn an oath and could not say any
more. At one stage he had joked to
reporters about being a prime suspect.
Murat, who is believed to work as an
estate agent, is of stocky build, around
5ft 8ins and with dark hair. He has a
glass eye and wears dark tinted
His mother, a retired nurse, looked
distressed and frail as forensic
officers swarmed over her property. She
insisted her son was innocent.
She told the Daily Express that she had
no idea what the police were looking for
but confirmed it was her house and Murat
was her son.
The Casa Liliana villa is well hidden
from public view. But last night a green
tarpaulin could be seen screening part
of the building and officers had drained
the swimming pool.
Gaynor de Jesus, who went to school with
Murat and has been working for news
organisations as a translator, said she
thought Murat was 32.
She said: “He was a quiet guy and very
friendly. His mum has helped running a
stall at the scene trying to get
information about the missing girl.
“She is an ex-pat widow, who married a
Portuguese man. She had taken it upon
herself to gather information regarding
the case from the police if local
people, or holidaymakers, felt
uncomfortable talking to officers
“I was quite surprised by him saying he
was an official translator for the
police because he did not speak
Portuguese fluently. But the police
seemed to confirm what he was saying was
One journalist who spoke to him said:“He
volunteered to help the police. At the
start of the search he was hanging
around the apartment. He said he was
helping to translate witness statements.
He was very vague about certain aspects
of his background.
“He said he was from the UK, and going
through a divorce back there.
“He was angry about the way the British
media had criticised Portuguese police
over their handling of the
“He was coming up with lots of
suggestions about what had happened to
Madeleine and said he thought she had
probably been taken to Spain.”
Murat’s uncle runs a bar on the
beachfront in the nearby town of Burgau.
Staff there last night confirmed that
police had visited it.
Last week, there were reports that two
men and a blonde woman were being sought
in the hunt. They were said to be
connected to a holiday apartment.
Last night police would only confirm
that they were interviewing a man, and
indicated that two other people were
also being questioned.
The villa was sealed off with police
standing guard outside as officers and
forensic teams carried out a fingertip
search of he villa and its grounds.
A police spokesman, Chief Inspector
Olegario Sousa, said: “Since 7am this
morning we have been taking some actions
in the field and until this moment they
are working in the place.
“They also tell me that some people have
been brought here to the department but
there are no arrests.” He added that up
to three people were being questioned.
There were unconfirmed reports that the
home of Murat’s estranged wife in
Norfolk was also being searched by
British police last night.
As the search of the Algarve villa
continued John Buck, the British
ambassador to Portugal, said that
“impressive resources” had been
allocated to finding Madeleine, who was
four on Saturday.
He also praised Mr and Mrs McCann’s
“remarkable resilience and dignity in
very distressing circumstances”.
Yesterday he spoke to the national chief
of police in Lisbon as well as the chief
investigating officer in the Algarve.
Speaking on a visit to Praia da Luz, Mr
Buck said: “There are clearly impressive
resources being devoted to this
“Those resources are, rightly, primarily
Portuguese, but we also have a number of
British police officers working with
their Portuguese colleagues closely here
in the Algarve.”
He added that the chief investigating
officer had told him the collaboration
between British and Portuguese police
was “truly exceptional”.
Mr Buck also thanked journalists for
respecting Mr and Mrs McCann’s privacy.
He said: “They appreciate that the media
have an important role to play in
helping to find Madeleine.
“They and I are very grateful for the
constructive, responsible and
considerate way in which the media have