Cops are bluffing

Cops are bluffing
Exclusive The search for Madeleine Day 129
The Sunday Mirror
9 September 2007
Lori Campbell in Praia da Luz

No evidence to back claims against parents McCanns fear they'll be charged next week

Portuguese police have no evidence linking Kate and Gerry McCann to Madeleine's disappearance.

And the Sunday Mirror can reveal that officers tried to bluff Kate McCann into making a confession during 16 gruelling hours of interrogation.

But even when she and husband Gerry were made formal suspects - "arguidos" - in the inquiry, the couple refused to buckle. They told police: "Charge us or let us go home."

Yesterday Portuguese papers reported that police will charge the couple next week. They say Kate will be accused of Madeleine's manslaughter and hiding her body, while Gerry will face claims of helping her to hide the body.

Kate and Gerry have taken a resilient stand against the Portuguese police and have demanded they reveal what evidence there is against them.

The furious couple came out fighting after long and intense separate grillings as the search for Madeleine took a dramatic twist.

The McCanns know police do not have any proof to support their accusations - and are trying to force them into a confession so they can close the bungled investigation.

During her interview in a stuffy, hot room at Portimao police station, Kate was repeatedly asked if specks of blood found in her hire car belonged to Madeleine.

But instead of telling her the blood was Madeleine's, detectives said: "We put it to you that the blood in the boot of your car belonged to Madeleine and that you killed her."

Kate turned the tables on them and asked them what evidence they have. She told them she knew the blood could not be her daughter's.

Police refused to say if forensic tests carried out in a Birmingham lab proved for certain that the blood was Madeleine's, or even if the sample was blood. So Kate refused to back down, despite the detectives putting the same accusation to her dozens of times.

A close friend said: "Kate knew they were bluffing. She asked them, 'Have tests shown the blood is definitely Madeleine's? Show me the proof. I know I didn't kill Madeleine so show me your evidence if you have any.' She wasn't going to be pushed around."

Police also accused Kate, a GP, of using a huge dose of sedatives meant for herself on Madeleine to help her sleep while she and Gerry ate at a restaurant. But she angrily replied: "I do not give my kids sedatives, I never have done and I never will do. I know you can't prove that because it is a ridiculous suggestion and it is not true."

The police suggested Kate used a Renault Scenic car - hired for the couple by a Mark Warner representative 25 days after Madeleine disappeared - to move her body after already having buried it once.

Kate was also told sniffer dogs had discovered the scent of a corpse on her jeans. But she said that could be easily explained because as a locum GP she had been near a dead person before the family's holiday.

The McCanns have been baffled by the flimsy evidence being used to vilify them. At the centre of the claims are DNA results from samples taken from the hire car and reactions of sniffer dogs. But in the UK, sniffer dog behaviour would simply be classed as "intelligence" - not evidence in its own right.

Despite maintaining a brave face in public, Kate and Gerry have regularly sobbed uncontrollably when behind closed doors.

Gerry burst into tears when he arrived back at the villa in the early hours of yesterday morning for an emotional reunion with Kate.

Their friend said: "It has been a gruelling experience for both of them."

Last night the couple cancelled plans to attend a church service to celebrate the Senhora da Luz (lady of light) festival. They instead chose to say quiet prayers at home.

The friend said: "They are trying to maintain as normal a life as possible for the twins. Kate and Gerry are bearing up really well, considering. But they are incredibly angry."

There are currently no bail conditions preventing Kate and Gerry from going home. And the couple have decided to return to Rothley, Leics, where they will continue to fight the allegations with the support of friends.

Their friend said: "They desperately want to go home but they do not want to look like they have something to hide, because nothing could be further from the truth."

The friend added: "They don't want to be seen as running away from all of this. Not only because it may look bad, but more importantly they want to put the focus back on the hunt for Madeleine."

The couple are concerned that the search for their missing daughter has been distracted by the inquiry shifting to them.

The friend said: "Kate and Gerry still believe Madeleine is alive and they are now worried that no one is looking for her as police are concentrating their efforts on them."

We can also now reveal how Kate and Gerry knew the investigation was turning on them weeks ago. And they decided to announce they were going home this weekend to force the police's hand.

The friend said: "Their last 'informal' interview was three weeks ago and the police became aggressive and hostile in their questions to Kate. She broke down in tears several times. Since then the police have kept them completely out of the loop, refusing to brief them on new leads in the investigation as they had before. Their relationship broke down completely. They decided that if the police had anything against them, they wanted to hear it. They called a senior detective and said they planned to leave Portugal. A couple of days later they were summoned for separate interviews."

Portuguese newspapers, which have led a relentless smear campaign against the couple, said yesterday that the police were carrying out a "war of nerves".

Local paper Sol said officers had withheld information on the investigation for as long as possible to put Kate and Gerry under pressure. It said: "The Policia Judiciaria used the strategy of pressure on the McCanns. They have treated Kate in an exhaustive manner, trying to exploit her weaknesses. They had used long interrogations, concentrating on the samples they have and inconsistencies in the statements of her friends."

It said police opted to interview her first to put pressure on Gerry as they thought he might crack under the strain of how Kate was being treated. "They have watched his media appearances and saw him storm out of an interview with Spanish TV," the paper added.

It also said the police strategy was to delay making Kate an arguida for as long as possible because the status gives her the right to silence and she is not obliged to co-operate. But none of the papers - who have been briefed by police sources - published any evidence against the McCanns.

Yesterday Kate and Gerry's relations said the allegations against them were "ludicrous". Kate's mother Susan Healy, 62, said: "We are reeling." Her father Brian added: "The worst thing is that it is detracting from the campaign to find Madeleine alive."

And Gerry's sister Philomena said: "People react badly when it comes to children who've been harmed or murdered and I fear people are going to turn against them, and against the family.

"We just have to hope their names can be cleared as soon as possible and we can get back to looking for Madeleine."

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