Portuguese police searching for Madeleine McCann faced further accusations of
incompetence last night after it emerged they had failed to seize footage
holding potentially vital clues to the abduction of the British toddler.
Authorities revealed that detectives have not asked for surveillance pictures
of vehicles leaving Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine's disappearance.
The criticism came as Madeleine's family admitted for the first time that they
no longer think she is in Portugal.
Her aunt Philomena McCann revealed their belief in an email yesterday to
well-wishers supporting the search for her.
She said: "We don't believe Madeleine is in Portugal
any more and need to get her picture and the story across Europe
as quickly as possible." Police have admitted they failed to notify guards
on the border with Spain
until the morning after Madeleine's mother Kate discoved her oldest child had
The focus of the investigation, 16 days after Madeleine's disappearance, has
returned to the Russian computer expert Sergey Malinka and his links with Robert
Murat, the only formal suspect.
Detectives have reportedly discovered that Mr Murat telephoned Mr Malinka on
his mobile at 11.40pm on the night the four-year-old disappeared.
Police sources claim there had been a series of calls between the pair that day
despite Mr Malinka allegedly claiming they hardly know each other.
They were also seen talking in an "animated" fashion by surveillance
officers following Mr Murat in the days after Madeleine's kidnap, sources said.
In interviews with three different journalists in the past week, Mr Malinka's
story has allegedly changed. He is said to have told one reporter, hours before
he was detained, that he had not seen Mr Murat for three months.
In another interview after he was released by police he reportedly said he had
not spoken to Mr Murat for "around a year".
He told The Daily Telegraph on Thursday he "could not recall". Asked
again last night to clarify, he said: "I have never officially talked
about when I last spoke to Robert."
Mr Malinka was questioned for five hours by police on Wednesday and computers
were seized from his home. He was released and is being treated as a witness
and not a suspect. He insisted yesterday he is innocent and had "nothing
to do" with the kidnapping of Madeleine.
Police chiefs said that investigations are continuing and there is still the
possibility that those released as witnesses could become suspects.
Mr Murat remains the main line of police inquiry but detectives have admitted
they do not have the evidence to arrest him. It emerged yesterday that initial
forensic results at Mr Murat's villa - 100 yards from where Madeleine was
kidnapped - have failed to find any trace of the toddler.
Clothing, hair and soil samples found by specialist search teams at Villa
Liliana, where Mr Murat lives with his mother, were sent to a laboratory on
Police sources said yesterday they had "not confirmed suspicions about the
Meanwhile, there was growing criticism at the police's failure to check motorway
cameras for vehicles leaving Praia da Luz in the immediate aftermath of
Madeleine's kidnap. Euroscut, the company responsible for maintaining and
administrating 80 miles of road between Lagos and Vila Real de Santo Antonio,
on the Spanish border, said the cameras act mostly as a deterrent and only
record for around two hours a day.
However, they are always monitored in a control room.
Police did not contact the company in the hours after Madeleine's disappearance
to alert them and have not approached them since to review material.
Yesterday the global appeal for help in finding Madeleine led to reported
sightings of her in Morocco,
Police said none of the reports had yet led to a positive outcome but urged the
international community to remain vigilant.