Doubt over conduct of local police

11 May 2007
Belfast Telegraph
Jonathan McCambridge and Victoria O'Hara

Bangor-born Jim Gamble - the former RUC head of Special Branch - leads the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) which has sent two officers experienced in dealing with paedophile crime to the Algarve, to assist the investigation.

Top Premiership footballers Cristiano Ronaldo, John Terry and Paolo Ferreira have also made appeals to find the toddler, amid mounting concerns over the conduct of the ability of the Portuguese police in the investigation.

Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from an apartment in Praia da Luz six days ago. CEOP is designed to protect children at risk of sexual abuse and track down predators.

A spokesman for Jim Gamble said: We have put some officers out there to help the Portuguese authorities.

Police in the country have already followed up 350 different leads, interviewed 100 people and taken hundreds more calls from the public, but their response to Madeleine's disappearance has been criticised.

The little girl's great uncle, Brian Kennedy, said: It took the police a long time to get things moving. The early stages could have been much quicker.

Cathy Morris (32), a freelance journalist from Bangor who is based in the Algarve, told the Belfast Telegraph that the Portuguese penal code prevented clear information being relayed to the public. There is a real feeling of shock here. And there is a feeling of desperation, she said.

Belfast journalist Len Port (65) has been based in the Algarve for 25 years. The mood here is one of increasing despair and utter sadness, he said. The Portuguese police and people are very family orientated, and from their point of view, this is a desperate and terrible crime. The community in the village are used to experiencing petty crime, but not on this level. They have a tremendous empathy for the family and genuinely believe the police are doing the best they can.

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