It's our D-Day

It's our D-Day
Exclusive Return to Portugal
The Sunday Mirror
13 January 2008
Lori Campbell

Kate and Gerry set date in April for Algarve showdown They'll tell cops: show your evidence or clear us for good

Despairing Kate and Gerry McCann are planning to return to Portugal for a face-to-face showdown with police who think they killed their daughter Madeleine.

The pair, who are official suspects - arguidos in Portuguese - hope to call the bluff of detectives and demand to be cleared for good.

Their decision to return to Praia Da Luz after leaving the resort four months ago comes amid yet more agony for them as the case against them is expected to be EXTENDED for another three months tomorrow.

The McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell said last night: "These unending delays are inhumane. Two parents who have been going through an unimaginable nightmare are being forced to wait another three months. It will be almost a year since their daughter went missing, and even then there could be yet another extension.

"Meanwhile the Portuguese police aren't even looking for Madeleine, and that is heart-breaking for Kate and Gerry."

A close friend said the the couple were likely to go back after their "D-Day" of April 11, when their three-month extension is up, and added: "They feel they've waited long enough with this cloud of suspicion hanging over them. They know their return would be very high-profile. They believe investigators do not have the evidence against them to bring charges, and their presence in Portugal would embarrass them. They've so far held off going back there, but they see it as their trump card."

The McCanns made the heartbreaking decision to go home to Rothley, Leicester, without their four-year-old daughter on September 9, fearing they would be framed by police.

Despite repeated calls from the McCanns' lawyers, detectives have since failed to reveal any concrete evidence against the couple - or even keep them informed of any new leads in the hunt for Madeleine.

The Portuguese judicial secrecy laws surrounding the investigation officially expire tomorrow - eight months after the first suspect, Robert Murat, was named. The McCanns had hoped for the case files to be opened so they could see the evidence against them and begin the process of clearing their names. But state prosecutor Jose Magalhaese Menezes on Friday took the unusual step of urging Judge Pedro Frias to grant a three-month extension.

He claims this case is "exceptionally complicated" and therefore requires more time. It means the couple face remaining as suspects until at least April 11, and are still barred from speaking publicly about the investigation. But they have vowed that if the case drags on again after that date, they will make the brave journey back to Portugal.

"It would come just weeks before the first anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance on May 3.

Our source said: "They see April 11 as their D-day. They have decided to give the police reasonable time to clear them, or at least open the case files so they can see the evidence against them."

The McCanns and the Tapas Seven - the friends who dined with them the night Madeleine disappeared - are still waiting for Portuguese detectives to fly back to the UK to interview them again. But we can reveal the process has almost ground to a halt because of bureaucracy.

The Policia Judiciaria in Portugal have only now submitted paperwork to Eurojust - an EU body set up to help judicial cooperation across countries - which has to approve the proposal and contact the Home Office in the UK.

And British Authorities then have to grant permission for UK police to interview the McCanns and the Tapas Seven with Portuguese officers present.

Mr Mitchell said: "It is impossible for a policeman to get on a plane and come over without a ridiculous amount of paperwork. All they want to do is go over so-called inconsistencies in the friends' statements. To our knowledge they have no forensic evidence against Kate and Gerry, and yet it is taking months and months."

Meanwhile family friend Jon Corner told last night how the couple's determination to find Madeleine has not wavered since the day she went missing.

He said: "I have known Kate and Gerry for many years, but I have never admired them as much as I do now. They have so much energy and drive to keep looking for Madeleine, and have as much urgency today as they did on May 3 to find her.

"Kate feels exactly the same now as she did on that night. Whenever I speak to her, she says 'Where is my daughter? What can we do to find her?' They refuse to sit around doing nothing but dwelling on their grief. They feel she is alive but the clock is ticking to find her.

"They are deeply frustrated because their suspect status means the police are only interested in building a case against them, however ludicrous it is, and are not putting any effort at all into looking for Madeleine."

Jon, who is a director of the Find Madeleine Fund, said the McCanns are also focused on getting a Europewide system in place to help prevent other children being abducted.

He said: "Madeleine was snatched by a calculated group of criminals, we are sure of that. We need to be calculated in finding her, and also in preventing this ever happening again. There is no joined-up system in Europe to protect children against paedophiles. If there is one ounce of goodness to come of Madeleine's disappearance, it would be for other children to be saved from the same fate."

Portuguese newspaper 24 Horas yesterday claimed that while Gerry has gone back to work as a heart specialist full-time, Kate is so distraught she barely leaves home.

But Jon, who is godfather to twins Sean and Amelie, said: "Kate is not falling apart. She is constantly in touch with the directors of the fund, trying to push things forward and think of new ideas that might help find Madeleine."

He also said the McCanns are frustrated by the failure of the Portuguese police to follow-up potential leads.

He said: "Our greatest fear is that the vital clue that would lead us to Madeleine is sat on a desk in a police station in Portugal gathering dust."

'The whole case has ground to a halt in confusion'


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