Dodgy trackers top a catalogue of police howlers

Dodgy trackers top a catalogue of police howlers
10 August 2008
Dean Rousewell


BUNGLING Portuguese cops used DUFF sniffer dogs in the search for missing Madeleine McCann.

The animals had only been trained to follow scents in the countryside - yet four-year-old Maddie vanished from her family's holiday apartment a busy TOWN.

And the trackers weren't brought in for five days after the tot disappeared - even though experts said they should have been there within 48 hours.

When the dogs did finally arrive in Praia da Luz, they gave up the hunt after just 100 yards because they were confused by the stench of rotting food from a pile of binbags.

The appalling blunder is revealed in a damning report by Portuguese state prosecutors.

And it is just one of a catalogue of disastrous gaffes by detectives after the toddler went missing from the Ocean Club complex on May 3 last year.

The bungles began almost as soon as Maddie was reported lost.

Blood specks in her bedroom were missed by Portuguese police - only to be found by British cops when they were drafted in three months later.

Bedding was not forensically tested for traces of an abductor.

Cops failed to seal off the flat in the hours after the disappearance.

No fingertip search of local streets was carried out at the time - and house-to-house inquiries were not launched for 48 hours.

Two days passed before police got a list of other holidaymakers at the complex - by which time many of them had already flown home.

Border guards were only alerted about Maddie after 24 hours and coastguards were told nothing for 14 hours.

The catastrophic blunders continued after the shambles with the dogs.

Detectives spent hours poring over footprints found at the scene - which turned out to belong to policemen.

Forensic samples sent for analysis contained ash from cops' cigarettes.

Chief detective Goncalo Amaral, 47 - later thrown off the case after criticising British cops - was accused of taking boozy three-hour breaks.

Police only declared the McCanns' holiday flat a crime scene after two months - allowing 11 other tourists to contaminate vital evidence. And cops leaked stories to local media about Maddie's parents Kate and Gerry and British ex-pat Robert Murat, who were all named official suspects.

The prosecutors said: "Investigators worked with an enormous margin of error and achieved very little in terms of conclusive results, especially with regards to the fate of the unfortunate child."

The sniffer dog revelation infuriated Kate and Gerry, who were only recently ruled out as suspects.

A family friend said last night: "It is heartbreaking for them - but sadly it will be no surprise."

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