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Profile: Robert Murat, suspect in Madeleine case

Original Source: TIMES: 15 MAY 2007
From Times Online
May 15, 2007

Robert Murat, a suspect in the disappearance of four-year-old Madeleine McCann, adored his own daughter and desperately missed her after his marriage broke down.

The former car salesman “lost” her when his wife, Dawn, returned to her native Norfolk with their daughter four months after the family had emigrated to Portugal because she was homesick and he stayed behind.

Mr Murat, 33, whose father is Portuguese, carried on as a self-employed property consultant on the Algarve, but visited the child regularly.

Gareth Bailey, a close friend and former colleague of the suspect at Inchcape Autoparc used car dealership in Norwich, where Mr Murat had worked for four years, said the family embarked on a new life in Portugal in 2005.

Married in 1994 in Deerham, Norfolk, the couple had been trying for a baby for years until she fell pregnant in 2002 and had looked forward to moving abroad.

”But Dawn was unhappy in Portugal and became homesick,” Mr Bailey said. “She is a Norfolk girl and her family are in Norfolk.

”She only stayed with Rob for three or four months before she decided to come home with [their daughter]. He had already got a life out there, so he decided to stay. At first, he kept his relationship with Dawn and kept flying back to the UK to spend time with her and her daughter.

”He was going backwards and forwards between Portugal and here all the time, often only staying a couple of days before going back there. In the end, their relationship just fizzled out.”

Friends today described Mr Murat's daughter, four, who is also blonde, as “his life”.

Mr Bailey, who last saw his friend two months ago, added: “He is a laidback guy who loves the wonderful weather and the relaxed lifestyle out there.

”But he was upset about being away from his daughter. She is his first child and she means a lot to him. When she was born, it was the best thing ever for him. I know he stays in contact with [her] and telephones her all the time from Portugal. She is his world and he loves her to bits.”

Mr Murat was born on November 20, 1973, at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, Hammersmith, west London - the elder son of John Henry Queriol Murat, a company director, who is Portuguese, and Jennifer (nee Eveleigh), from Sidmouth, Devon.

Mr Murat’s parents were then living in Richmond-upon-Thames, but moved to Portugal, where he was educated.

As a young man, he returned to Britain, where he took a variety of jobs and enjoyed playing darts and clay pigeon shooting.

Mr Murat, who lost an eye in a motorbike accident as a teenager when he crashed into the wall of a railway station, worked for the turkey tycoon, Bernard Matthews, at the company factory in Lenwade, Norfolk, between 1994 and 2000.

He and his wife, who has a son, David, now 20, by a previous marriage, bought a modest, semi-detached, three-bedroom house, now worth £190,000, in The Street, Hockering - a quiet Norfolk village near Deerham (population 230).

Mr Murat went on to become a successful car salesman with Inchcape for four years before moving on to work at Desira car dealership in Norwich, selling Nissans, Alfa Romeos, Fiats and Citroens.

But he also earned £150 a time as a translator for Norfolk police, using his language skills to help their inquiries among the large Portuguese community in the county. His wife has worked at Fenland council and acted as secretary to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in East Anglia.

Mr Bailey remains certain of his friend’s innocence. He said: “I would trust him with my own daughter. It was a complete shock to hear what has happened in Portugal. If I was to give him a character reference, I would describe him as brilliant and a real people person.

”He is ever such a likeable guy and probably one of the most helpful people you could come across. He was very conscientious when I worked with him and spent masses of time with customers - almost to the point where he would become annoying. It’s just the way he is.

”He is one of those overly helpful people who likes to get involved. Sometimes at work, I had to tell him to go away in a friendly way.”

Mr Murat had a reputation, not only in the car trade but in Hockering, as something of a Good Samaritan.

His next door neighbour, Colin Shackcloth, 85, said: “He is a lovely man, but, two years ago, I realised he was gone. I went round with a little present at Christmas, a box of chocolates and Dawn said: ’Robert has gone back and he is stopping there."

Mr Shackcloth, a retired display manager, added: “He always struck me as a down-to-earth kind of fellow. If you wanted anything, he would help. If you needed it, he would be round to replace a bulb for you. What he is supposed to have done just doesn’t fit.

”They were both very nice to us. We never had an angry word since they moved in about 11 years ago. I can’t say a bad word about him.”

Police stood guard at the house, from which Mrs Murat was driven away at speed by police late on Monday night carrying her daughter in a blanket.

The little girl and her mother are being cared for at an undisclosed address.

Mrs Murat’s mother, Margaret Chapman, who lives in Norwich declined to comment.

Geoffrey Livock, 71, said: “I was speaking to Dawn after the little girl went missing last week and she said that Rob had been helping out the police in Portugal. Dawn said she could not understand how anyone could take a little girl like that.”


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