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Maddy police ignored vital CCTV

Original Source: TELEGRAPH:21 MAY 2010
By Richard Edwards and Fiona Govan in Praia da Luz
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 gone missing.

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 Monday night.

Police sources said yesterday they had "not confirmed suspicions about the British suspect".

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, Crete, Switzerland and Spain.

Police said none of the reports had yet led to a positive outcome but urged the international community to remain vigilant.


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