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Madeleine McCann suspect queried over car rental

Original Source: NEWS .CO EU: 19 MAY 2007
By Fiona Hudson in Portugal May 19, 2007
THE only suspect in the abduction of British girl Madeleine McCann hired a car in a hurry two days before police hauled him in for questioning.

Portuguese police are investigating why suspect Robert Murat, 33, needed a hire car at short notice when he owns two others.

Madeleine, 4, was abducted from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, on May 3 as her parents Gerry and Kate dined in a nearby tapas bar.

Hire car company worker Mario Rocio said Mr Murat told her he needed a car quickly on Saturday - more than a week after Madeleine disappeared - because his own was being used to help in the hunt for the toddler.

“There was something about his voice when he asked for the car,” Ms Rocio said.

“He was saying, 'I need to have the car quickly'. I could tell from his voice he needed it in a hurry.”

The latest twist came as a Russian man questioned by police as a witness, not a suspect, declared his innocence.

Russian website designer Sergey Malinka, 22, shared several phone calls with suspect Robert Murat the night Madeleine disappeared, but wouldn't say what they discussed.

“I'm afraid I can't tell you. That's privileged information. I can't share it with anybody,” Mr Malinka said.

He said the investigation had ruined his reputation.

“My life has fallen apart. I have been building my life here for seven years,” Mr Malinka said.

“In one hour, suddenly I am a pedophile.”

The IT expert designed a real estate website for Mr Murat's business, and insisted they were not personal friends.

British newspapers reported Mr Malinka was named on a tour company website specialising in boat trips to Africa.

One of the theories being investigated by police is that Madeleine was smuggled away through Lagos marina.

Mr Murat's mum Jenny, 71, was also questioned yesterday - as a witness - by police investigating Mr Murat's claim he had an early dinner with her and went to bed soon after on the night in question.

The McCann family said yesterday it would extend the search for their daughter across Europe.

A fund set up by the family on Thursday to gather donations had received offers of financial help from private citizens and multinationals, to help make the European poster campaign possible.

Tens of millions of people from around the world have left messages of support on a website set up by the McCann family -

Family spokesman Michael Wright said parents Gerry and Kate just wanted to find their girl.

“Gerry and Kate are taking immense strength from the support and good wishes they are receiving from all over the world,” Mr Wright said.

Fast-food companies, supermarkets and petrol stations across Europe have put up posters to raise awareness of Madeleine's disappearance.


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