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Madeleine McCann: Tapas 9's secret meeting

Original Source:  TELEGRAPH: 11 DECEMBER 2007
By Fiona Govan in Praia da Luz
Last Updated: 2:15am GMT 11/12/2007
The McCanns and the seven friends who dined with them on the night Madeleine went missing have met for the first time since her disappearance on May 3, it has emerged.

The "emotional and deeply sad" reunion was held at a hotel near Kate and Gerry McCanns' home in Rothley, Leicestershire around a fortnight ago.

The Tapas Nine had wanted to keep the meeting secret but yesterday details of it were leaked by a source close to the McCanns.

"It was a private meeting in a hotel and was the first time that the group had collectively met since Madeleine's disappearance," said the source.

"Of course it was emotional and deeply sad for all involved," the source said and also admitted that it was an opportunity to discuss events amid reports that the group are to be re-interviewed by police.

"It was an opportunity for the group to discuss the events of the summer and to talk about what may happen next," the source continued.

"They wanted to talk about possibly being interviewed by police again and what that may entail."

The willingness of the friends to meet dispels claims that some of them had fallen out with the couple and wanted to change their witness statements given to Portuguese police.

"It was a show of solidarity under police claims that one or two had wanted to change their stories," said the source.

"That is just not the case and the meeting showed that. It was a meeting to express support by the friends and just to see each other again. They hadn't seen each other properly."

But the meeting could anger Portuguese detectives who hope to travel to Britain to carry out interviews of the group in the coming days.

They believe that inconsistencies in original statements made by members of the Tapas Nine could hold the key to solving the mystery.

Meanwhile a former Portuguese police chief said the McCanns should have been arrested as soon as their daughter disappeared for "abandoning" their children.

"When the parents told police that they went to dinner and left the children at home alone, they confessed to the crime of abandonment and should have been charged on that first day," said Paulo Pereira Cristovao in an interview with Portuguese daily newspaper 24 Horas.

"The penalty of abandonment is at least three years imprisonment," he stated reiterating previous calls for them to face prosecution for their actions.

Mr Pereira Cristovao, 38, left the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) in September and now heads the Portuguese Association for Missing Children (APCD), which leads the hunt for missing children in Portugal.

When Madeleine disappeared on May 3 from the hotel apartment in Praia da Luz she became the ninth official missing child in the country but Mr Pereira Cristovao said her case would not be considered by the organisation.

"I was asked what I thought about inviting the McCanns to the APCD. I said no, because they're suspects," said Mr Pereira Cristovao.

"She is (the ninth child on the PJ's missing people page) but the case involves a criminal investigation which is still on the boil, with the parents as suspects." "We have eight children whose disappearances are unexplained," he said vowing not to rest until he had discovered what happened to them.

Commenting on the snub, Mr Mitchell said: ""Madeleine is still a missing child and she went missing in Portugal so we would hope that she would be treated as such by this organisation but ultimately that is a matter for them."


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