Portuguese police appeared to take a step back from charging Madeleine McCann's parents


14 September 2007
Press Association National Newswire
Sam Marsden, in Praia da Luz, and Tim Walsh, PA

Portuguese police appeared to take a step back from charging Madeleine McCann's parents today after a senior officer said they had 'nothing concrete'' to implicate them in her disappearance.

Detectives may be depending on Kate and Gerry McCann making a confession in order to prove their suspicions, a Portuguese newspaper reported.

The couple were declared formal suspects in the case exactly a week ago, and are now back in Britain waiting to learn whether they will be charged.

A 'high-ranking'' officer in the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) - Portugal's criminal investigation department - said the evidence was not even strong enough to prove whether Madeleine is dead.

It is now 134 days since the young girl vanished from her bed in her family's holiday apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.

The unnamed PJ officer told the 24 Horas newspaper: 'We have nothing concrete.

'There are a lot of indications, but without more elements it's impossible to determine what happened in those four vital hours in the case (between 6pm and 10pm on the night Madeleine vanished).

'Even if the blood and traces gathered in the car or in the apartment were confirmed to correspond 100% to the little girl's DNA, that wouldn't prove anything.

'Those elements could only confirm - and that doesn't even happen - that the little girl was in the apartment (which is obvious) and in the car.

'In either of the cases nothing would prove homicide, just that the body of the little girl had been transferred in the vehicle.

'We don't know if Madeleine is dead, and if she is, how it all happened.

'Was she strangled? Could she have been beaten? They are questions only the parents could clarify in an eventual confession.''

This appears to contradict a report that the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham is examining bloodstains from the apartment next to the McCanns'.

Police believe this sample could hold the key to where Madeleine's body could have been stored after she vanished, the Evening Standard said.

The McCanns left their home in Rothley, Leicestershire, just before 10am today and spent the day in meetings with their London-based lawyers, Kingsley Napley.

A friend said today that Madeleine's parents were under intense pressure but were 'not cracking up'.

On Tuesday the PJ formally passed their 4,000-page dossier of evidence against the McCanns to Algarve-based public prosecutor Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses.

He immediately ordered that the 10 lever-arch files should go before a criminal instructional judge, understood to be Pedro Daniel dos Anjos Frias.

The judge now has until next Thursday to consider a number of requests made by the prosecutor, among them that he approve the seizure of Mrs McCann's personal diary, sources said.

Portuguese newspapers claimed today that police are investigating whether the McCanns had any 'accomplices'' in allegedly disposing of Madeleine's body and concocting a false story.

Detectives have admitted that the young girl's body may 'no longer exist', according to the Diario de Noticias.

One 'credible'' theory of investigators is that her body was thrown out to sea in a bag weighted with stones, from a yacht belonging to an English sailor, the paper claimed, without specifying its source.

The boat is based at the marina in the town of Lagos, just a short drive from Praia da Luz, it reported.

Another newspaper, the Correio da Manha, said the Portuguese authorities planned to put in a formal request to re-interview the friends on holiday with the McCanns when Madeleine went missing.

Portuguese police could not be reached for comment, but in the past they have refused to confirm or deny press reports.

Mr McCann hit out at the 'ludicrous accusations'' that he and his wife were involved in their daughter Madeleine's death.

He said he and his wife Kate knew they were innocent but were frightened and had been 'backed into a corner'.

Mr McCann told a friend, quoted in The Sun: 'There are large craters in every one of these theories, in these just ludicrous accusations.''

Intense attention has focused on what police found in the hire car rented by Madeleine's parents 25 days after she went missing.

Senior sources linked to the investigation said police had discovered 'bodily fluids'' - not blood - with an 88% match to Madeleine's genetic profile in the boot.

Toxicological tests on the liquid show that Madeleine had consumed a 'significant'' quantity of sleeping tablets and may have overdosed, the French newspaper France Soir reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources in Portugal.

Madeleine's aunt Philomena McCann said today that the family would be willing to sell their homes to pay Mr and Mrs McCann's legal fees.

Cash from the fund set up to find the missing child will not be used to pay for the couple's legal representation, the family announced this week.

The family's campaign manager, Justine McGuinness, will step down tomorrow when her contract runs out.

Ms McGuinness, a Liberal Democrat candidate at the 2005 general election, is expected to attend the Lib Dem conference in Brighton starting tomorrow.

It is not known how or when she will be replaced, but in the meantime a private PR firm is handling media inquiries.

(reopens) The judge was seen arriving at the courthouse in the Algarve town of Portimao at 1.30pm today.

About an hour later Goncalo Amaral, co-ordinator of the PJ in Portimao, entered the building along with the chief investigating officer in the case, Guilhermino da Encarnacao.

It is understood the three men had a meeting lasting more than three hours before Mr Amaral and Mr Encarnacao left at speed in a black Mercedes at 5.35pm.

Gerry and Kate McCann left the London office of their lawyers Kingsley Napley at about 6.10pm today.

They got straight into a waiting taxi without commenting.

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