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Madeleine: Fears after Murat sat in on police interviews with Tapas Nine

HOMEPAGE NEWS REPORTS INDEX SUSPECTS PHOTOS MADELEINE PHOTOS NEWS DECEMBER 2007
Original Source: MAIL: 17 DECEMBER 2007
By REBECCA CAMBER Last updated at 00:10am on 17th December 2007
 
The first suspect in the Madeleine McCann case sat in on police interviews with some of the Tapas Nine, it emerged last night.

Robert Murat, 34 - who later became an arguido or official suspect - was allowed to act as a translator for police during crucial questioning of Kate and Gerry McCann's holiday friends.

It meant that he had an extraordinary insight into the investigation during the vital early days after May 3 when Madeleine, then aged three, disappeared from the Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz.

Friends of the McCanns reacted with disbelief and anger to the news.

There were also fears that Mr Murat could have influenced the police's understanding of the statements of the Tapas Nine.

Rachael Oldfield, 36, who was dining with the couple on the night Madeleine vanished from her apartment at the Ocean Club complex, revealed yesterday how she spoke to police through Mr Murat.

Last night, Mr Murat's lawyer, Francisco Pagarete, confirmed that his client also helped police during the interview of Dianne Webster, the mother of Fiona Payne, who was at the Ocean Club's tapas restaurant with the McCanns that night.

He denied Mr Murat had helped in any other interviews of the group.

It has already emerged that another holidaymaker, Bridget O'Donnell, the partner of a key witness, spoke to detectives with the aid of the expat estate agent.

Ocean Club nanny Charlotte Pennington, who said she was convinced she had seen Mr Murat outside the Mark Warner complex on May 3, also spoke to police via the translator. At the time, police had not been alerted to any suspicions about British-born Mr Murat, who was named as an arguido on May 14.

He has always denied any involvement in the child's disappearance and claims he spent the evening at home with his 71-year-old mother.

His lawyer said: "My client did not preside over police interviews of multiple witnesses. The only interview of which he translated was that of Dianne Webster."

But last night one of the McCanns' friends: "It beggars belief. It's absolutely outrageous that someone who a few days later is declared an arguido was aware of much of what initial witnesses said."

The revelation came as a waiter at the Ocean Club cast fresh doubt over Kate McCann's account of the night Madeleine disappeared.

Yesterday, the respected Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias reported that detectives consider the eyewitness account a "trump card", critical to pining down supposed contradictions in the accounts of the Tapas Nine.

The waiter, who has not been identified, was first on the scene moments after Mrs McCann found she was missing at 10pm on May 3.

His evidence is said to be so vital that police have re-interviewed him for the third time in recent days.

The waiter claims that the parents and their holiday friends, the Tapas Nine, did not check on their children every 30 minutes.

Contrary to what Mrs McCann told police, he said that she did scream, "they've taken her, they've taken her" when she learnt Madeleine was missing.

The waiter said that instead of running back to the tapas bar, Mrs McCann raised the alarm from the balcony of their holiday apartment.

But friends claim the 39-year-old GP raised the alarm when she ran back to the restaurant on May 3 and shouted "Madeleine's gone, Madeleine's gone".

The McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "This is all lies. Kate has consistently and categorically denied that she said that on the veranda. Whoever this guy is and if he is saying this, he is either making it up or he is mistaken."

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