Gerry and Kate 'still the prime suspects'
Daily Express
1 December 2007
From Nick Fagge and David Pilditch in Praia da Luz

Kate and Gerry McCann are still regarded as the prime suspects in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine despite inconclusive findings from DNA evidence.

Portuguese police will come to Britain next week to re-interview the seven friends who were dining with the couple on the night the little girl vanished, a highly placed source claimed yesterday.

It shatters the couple's hopes that they will be cleared by Christmas.

Investigators say that while findings revealed at a DNA summit this week did not give them enough evidence to bring charges, they do provide the legal basis to demand further interviews of the McCanns' friends and relatives on British soil.

Leaks in Portugal claim tests on DNA samples support Portuguese detectives' theory that the couple were involved in Madeleine's disappearance. Portuguese daily newspaper 24 Horas reported that a police source said: "The existing evidence up until now is far from clearing the McCann couple in the case.

"There are more and more indicators that they were involved in the disappearance of the child, but it has been difficult to prove this fact. We will continue to follow all hypotheses." Investigators still cling to the theory that Madeleine died as the result of an accident in the family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz, and that her parents hid and later disposed of the body with the help of their friends. Respected Portuguese daily newspaper Correio da Manha reported: "The main theory is still the accidental death of the child on the afternoon of May 3, specifically in the two hours when the parents were alone with their children.

"That is when the McCanns say they gave her a bath and put the three children to bed before 8.30pm and then met their friends for dinner." Detectives are understood to be intrigued by "certain inconsistencies" in the statements made by the McCanns' seven dining companions.

They also want to know who Kate was referring to when she cried "they've taken her" when she found Madeleine was missing. These are among "100 questions" detectives want to put to the McCanns and their friends, police sources claim.

Yesterday British ambassador Alex Ellis and Algarve official Angela Morado met Paulo Rebelo, who heads the investigation, and Portimao District Attorney Jose Magalhaes e Meneses at police headquarters in Faro. The British Embassy in Lisbon said the timing was a coincidence but confirmed the McCann case had been discussed.

A team recently returned from the UK where it was told what the Forensic Science Services lab had learned from analysis of blood and hair found at the McCanns' holiday apartment and in their hire car.

But yesterday sources close to the investigation said the tests "are only one of the pieces of the puzzle" and "other operations were being done".

Yesterday Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' spokesman, said: "Kate and Gerry's friends are happy to be reinterviewed by police if necessary, indeed are keen to help if it clears up any inconsistencies. They, like Gerry and Kate, have nothing to hide." The McCanns, both 39, of Rothley, Leics, were named as suspects on September 7. Gerry wrote in his blog yesterday of his hopes of being free of suspicion by Christmas.

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