Madeleine police are doing their best, says ambassador

Madeleine police are doing their best, says ambassador
John Bingham and Chris Greenwood
9 May 2007
Aberdeen Press & Journal

The British ambassador stepped in to the media spotlight last night to defend the efforts of the police in Portugal as they try to find missing Madeleine McCann. John Buck said he had received assurances at the highest level that detectives were doing all they could to find the three-year-old.

The diplomat said Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry - with whom he spent an hour yesterday evening - were happy with the investigation so far. And he underlined the restrictive nature of Portuguese law which has so far virtually gagged police, despite a huge clamour for information about their inquiry.

Speaking in the Algarve, Mr Buck said Mr and Mrs McCann were "grateful" for the work of police from Portugal, Britain and across Europe. He added: "I also wanted to assure myself personally that the necessary links between British and Portuguese experts here on the ground are working well - and they are."

Mr Buck said he had spoken to the Portuguese prime minister's office, cabinet ministers and the police authorities. "They all assure me that everything possible is being done to ensure the safe return of Madeleine," he said.

The Portuguese ambassador in London, Antonio Santana Carlos, echoed his comments, saying the police were doing all they could.

As the search entered its sixth night, with no evidence of a breakthrough, some details did emerge of the scale of the investigation. Officers said they had followed up 350 separate suspicious incidents and searched 500 apartments.

Two British experts - reportedly in child-abduction cases - arrived to join three family-liaison officers from Leicestershire Police.

Police are believed to have an e-fit picture of their suspect, reportedly a dark-skinned man, but have refused to release it.

Officers said they had interviewed more than 100 people following a deluge of phone calls by both Portuguese people and foreigners.

Detectives involved in the inquiry are also investigating British paedophiles with links to the Algarve, according to Portuguese media reports.

Leicestershire Police confirmed they were responding to any requests from the Portuguese police to supply them with information from the UK.

Officers said they had also scoured fields across a nine-mile (15km) area for traces of little Madeleine.

Meanwhile, appeals were made by football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo, John Terry and Paulo Ferreira.

Madeleine, from Rothley, near Leicester, disappeared on Thursday night after she was left with her brother and sister, two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie, in a holiday apartment.

Her parents, Gerry and Kate, had been dining in a nearby restaurant and checking on them regularly.

She was wearing white pyjama bottoms with a small floral design and a short-sleeved pink top with a picture of Eeyore on it when she vanished.

A vigil was held in Madeleine's village last night as family and friends prayed for her to be found safe and well.

One of the 350 reports of suspicious incidents came from tourist Amanda Mills, 34, of Basildon, Essex. She said she saw a man trying to steal a pushchair at the same resort two weeks ago.

"It was late at night," said Mrs Mills. "This guy came along and put his hands on a pushchair outside somebody's apartment. He didn't even look to see if there was a child in it."

A Mark Warner Holidays spokesman said she only reported the incident three weeks later. Had she done so immediately it would have been followed up.

Football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo made his own personal appeal - in English and in his native Portuguese - for help in tracing the three-year-old.

It is hoped the appeal by Ronaldo, who plays for the Portuguese national team and is a huge star in his own country, will boost the search further.

He told Sky News: "I was very upset to hear of the abduction of Madeleine McCann and I appeal to anyone with information to come forward, please come forward."

His countryman, Chelsea star Paulo Ferreira, and England captain John Terry, also appealed for the safe return of Madeleine.

Terry said: "We are all devastated to hear that Maddie was abducted. Our thoughts and feelings go to her parents and family.

"We are urging anyone out there with any information at all - please, please, please come forward. It's a terrible thing for her family to go through - she's only young - so, please, please come forward."

Portugal international Ferreira repeated his team-mate's words in Portuguese.

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