Police in make or break summit

Madeleine - Police in make or break summit
Daily Express
29 November 2007
By Nick Fagge in Praia da Luz and Martin Stote in Rothley

Portuguese detectives fly to Britain

POLICE flew to Britain yesterday to v iew evidence which could condemn or clear Madeleine McCann's parents of involvement in her disappearance.

The visit – dubbed a DNA summit – is crucial to Portuguese detectives who have accused the doctors of being directly involved in the four-year-old's death.

The decision by the team, which includes the second in command of Portugal's forensic science service, caught the McCanns and their lawyers completely by surprise.

The team want to be briefed on the precise methods used by the British scientists who analysed the forensic evidence which led to the McCanns being named as arguidos, or official suspects, in September, a police source revealed yesterday. He said: "The investigators are hugely anxious. It is hoped that the tests are conclusive this time.

"The meeting with UK forensic experts will enable investigators to see what's already been analysed and find out what information is already available from the results the English scientists obtained." The meeting, due to start first thing this morning, was expected to analyse in fine detail the implications of the results of DNA evidence from the couple's holiday apartment and hire car.

The strength of the evidence, which has been the subject of widespread speculation, will help detectives to decide if the McCanns have a case to answer.

The Portuguese prosecutor will rely on this heavily as he composes a letter to Leicestershire police, in which he may ask them to reinterview the McCanns and their friends, and explain the exact nature of the further questions he wants them to face.

The four-man team is made up of Inspector Ricardo Praia, a detective with the investigative Policia Judiciaria, two police forensic science experts and the vice-president of Portugal's National Pathology Institute, Francisco Corte Real.

They will meet senior officials from the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Birmingham at a secret location.

The team want to familiarise themselves with the pioneering methods used so that they can explain them to the investigating magistrate in the Algarve who will decide whether to charge or clear the McCanns.

The source added: "They are going to England to decode the results of the tests so we are not caught by surprise." He added: "The team that is going to the UK is going to examine everything microscopically to make sure the tests have not been manipulated by someone linked to the suspects.

"We want to be sure all the information that reaches us has not previously been interfered with." The meeting was also due to be attended by Detective Supt Stuart Prior, who is in charge of the Leicestershire police operation, working under the direction of the Portuguese force.

Last night Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' official spokesman, said the couple from Rothley, Leics, had nothing to fear from the visit.

He said: "We have been informed by Leicestershire police that a meeting between forensic scientists from Portugal and the Forensic Science Service laboratory will be taking place.

"We understand there is no intention for the McCanns to be interviewed or indeed anybody else.

That such a meeting is taking place is not particularly surprising and we do not see this as a significant development."

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