PORTUGUESE police made an embarrassing U-turn on naming a new suspect
after the parents of missing Madeleine McCann held discussions with prime
minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown, it emerged last night.
The Chancellor has spoken to Madeleine's father Gerry on several occasions in
recent days and pledged to do everything he can to support the family.
The McCanns were desperate to release details about a man seen carrying what
was thought to be a child on the night Madeleine went missing and had
threatened legal action.
After a meeting between the couple and Portuguese officials, the police
relented and a physical description was issued on Friday night.
Yesterday, Mr McCann said the talks were amicable and constructive and insisted
the sighting could prove "significant and relevant" in finding the
It is 23 days since Madeleine was snatched from her bed at the Ocean Club Mark
Warner resort in the Algarve
beach resort of Praia da Luz.
Mr McCann said he and wife Kate wanted "more than anything" to get
their daughter back safe and well.
Appealing for help, he said: "Any information, no matter how unimportant
you think it could be might be vital in helping Portuguese and British police
find our daughter."
Mrs McCann, still holding Madeleine's favourite toy, held her husband's hand as
he appealed for help, asking: "Was this man seen anywhere else in or near
the town with a child, or what appeared to be a child? Which direction was he
heading in? Did he have a vehicle?"
After making their plea, the couple spent the afternoon with two-year-old twins
Sean and Amelie, and took them swimming. They are determined to make life as
normal as possible for the children as they wait for news of their elder
sister. Last night, Mrs McCann revealed the twins now slept in their parents'
bed every night.
The top-level discussions with Brown were an added boost to the McCanns after
all other leads appeared to have gone cold.
Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for the family, said: "I can confirm that
telephone conversations have taken place between Gerry McCann and Chancellor
"During them, Mr Brown offered both Gerry and Kate his full support in
their efforts to find Madeleine, although details of the conversations will
"The conversations took place against the background of the Chancellor's
earlier offer to help when he met and spoke to other members of the McCann
family in the UK."
A Treasury spokesman refused to confirm that Brown had personally intervened to
get the Portuguese police to change their minds.
The McCanns are convinced that a white man aged around 35 to 40 and spotted by
a friend of the couple near their apartment at 9.30pm was holding Madeleine. He
was medium build, 5ft 10ins tall, wearing a dark jacket and beige trousers.
Portuguese police have known about the sighting for three weeks but because of
extraordinary laws which forbid the release of details of an investigation the
sighting could not be publicly released.
In other countries, such a vital piece of the jigsaw would have been released
early on in the hope of future witnesses coming forward.
Already there have been reports of a possible second sighting of the man
carrying what appeared to be a child in Praia da Luz that night.
Although the reports have not been confirmed, a friend of the family said:
"This is why the family were pushing to get that out there early because
they are hopeful a number of other people might have seen her."