Police fly to UK to quiz wife of kidnap suspect

Police fly to UK to quiz wife of kidnap suspect
20 May 2007
The Sunday Independent (Ireland)

PORTUGUESE police officers have flown to Britain to step up their inquiries into the abduction of Madeleine McCann.

Officers investigating the disappearance of Madeleine 17 days ago are expected to interview the estranged wife of Robert Murat, the only official suspect in the case. They hope that Dawn Murat will be able to provide an insight into her husband's character and behaviour.

The latest twist came as police sources revealed that the search for the four-year-old has been widened to include Britain and North Africa.

"I know that there are PJ (Policia Judiciaria) officers who have gone to the UK, but I don't know if they have found something," said one police source.

Despite Mr Murat's insistence that he had no involvement in Madeleine's disappearance, officers want to delve into the past of the 33-year-old ex-pat, after failing to find any evidence linking him to the case during a search of his villa.

He lives in a property which is just 160 yards from the apartment from which Madeleine was taken.

Although Mrs Murat, 41, has expressed support for her husband, with whom she has a young daughter, Sofia, friends of the couple have claimed that she was left in a financially precarious position when they separated and, for a time, struggled to pay the mortgage on the three-bedroom, semi-detached house in Hockering, Norfolk.

One friend said: "Robert left her with real financial problems with the mortgage and friends had to help her out."

Mrs Murat, however, is fiercely protective of her estranged husband, insisting that he was "not capable of hurting anybody". She had "no doubt at all" about his innocence, adding: "He is not a person to do this. He is the most helpful and genuine person I have ever met. I'm absolutely disgusted by what people are saying. It is absolute total shock and disbelief. He has been made a scapegoat."

Neville Lake, a friend of Mrs Murat, said: "Dawn has been a bag of nerves. She has been in floods of tears all week. She's been glued to the television news and reading the papers."

As a video of Madeleine was shown at the FA Cup Final at the new Wembley stadium yesterday, her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, spent another day waiting for news.

The Football Association allowed the broadcast, watched by an estimated worldwide audience of 500 million, at the request of Madeleine's family.

It is understood that police on the Algarve are still waiting for the results of DNA tests carried out at the Mr Murat's villa.

On Friday, reports claimed that Mr Murat had made a late-night call to Sergey Malinka, 22, a Russian computer expert living in Praia da Luz, shortly after Madeleine vanished. The call, from Mr Murat's mobile phone, is alleged to have taken place at 11.40pm. Yet earlier in the week, Mr Murat had claimed that he had not spoken to Mr Malinka "for months".

Mr Malinka has also fiercely denied any role in the disappearance. He said yesterday: "The disappearance of a child is always difficult. No parent would want any of that to happen to anybody. So I wish and truly hope that Madeleine will be found and returned to her parents. I have a clear conscience. I have nothing to worry about."

Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from her room shortly before 10pm on May 3 as her parents ate with friends at a tapas bar close to their apartment.

On Friday, Mrs McCann, 38, wept in public for the first time since her daughter was snatched. She sobbed as she left the village church and whispered to supporters: "Bring Madeleine home."

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