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
“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
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
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
“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.