MCCANNS ARE MAIN SUSPECTS SAY POLICE
KATE and Gerry McCann were dealt a crushing blow last night when a police report accused them of killing their daughter Madeleine.
Detectives have told the Portuguese authorities that eight months on from the launch of the case they remain convinced the couple are responsible for her disappearance.
According to the report, which was handed to a judge in Portimao in the Algarve yesterday, detectives believe Kate and Gerry accidentally killed Madeleine – possibly with an overdose of sedatives – and then disposed of her body.
The McCanns, who are expected to undergo further questioning before the end of the month, have also been warned that they could remain suspects or arguidos for as long as 20 years if the case is not resolved. The
news will be a devastating setback to the couple who just days ago said they were looking forward to 2008 with renewed energy and were determined to find their missing daughter.
There had been a glimmer of hope that Kate and Gerry, both 39, would be officially cleared yesterday on the eight-month anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance.
That date marked the deadline for the police to either charge or release the suspects or make details of the case public.
But detectives have instead applied for a six-month extension, claiming the case is too complex to be cleared up at this stage.
Their application is understood to include a progress report setting out the details of the case so far and naming the couple as the main suspects.
According to the Portuguese newspaper Correio de Manha, the dossier of evidence has been handed to a judge, who will now decide how to proceed. He is almost certain to extend the investigation, prolonging the case still further.
It has also emerged that the investigation has now been classified as non-urgent because the arguidos are on the lowest level of bail conditions. Cases where arguidos have been remanded in custody will be dealt with first, meaning further delays are inevitable.
In addition to accusing Kate and Gerry of killing Madeleine, the report is also believed to suggest the couple could end up being charged with perjury and wasting police time for allegedly faking her abduction.
But, adding to the confusion, it also does not rule out the possibility that Madeleine was abducted, meaning fellow suspect Robert Murat is unlikely to be cleared in the near future.
While the Policia Judiciaria have refused to elaborate on why they feel Kate and Gerry are guilty, it is believed much of their case hinges on alleged forensic evidence.
The couple were declared official suspects on September 7 after a series of searches of their holiday apartment and hire car. Sniffer dogs brought in from the UK allegedly discovered minute traces of blood on the apartment walls and tiny samples of DNA in the boot of the Renault Scenic they hired 25 days after Madeleine disappeared.
According to the Portuguese press, police were working on the theory that the McCanns had been sedating their children – Madeleine, then three, and two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie – while they went out for dinner, but had accidentally given Madeleine an overdose.
Detectives believed they had then hidden the body for several weeks before moving it in the boot of the hire car and disposing of it. Kate and Gerry have always vehemently denied any suggestion that they harmed their daughter and have said they find the allegations extremely hurtful.
They have insisted that there is a wholly innocent explanation for the discovery of any forensic material.
A friend of the McCanns last night dismissed the significance of the police report and insisted it did not move the investigation forward in any way.
The friend said: “They are not the prime suspects. As we understand it, the report talks about the police’s continued belief that Madeleine died accidentally in the apartment and that is why Kate and Gerry remain arguidos. It also talks about Robert Murat remaining an arguido and it discusses the possibility of her being abducted. Well, they can’t have it both ways.”
The McCanns’ official spokesman Clarence Mitchell also said the report contained nothing new.
“Throughout 2007 we have declined to comment on speculation in the Portuguese press. We will follow the same policy in 2008,” he said. “If this report is true, however, and this interim police report exists, then we believe it contains nothing new. It is simply a restatement of the current position of the police. And we note that it not only discusses Kate and Gerry as arguidos, but also continues to name Mr Murat as an arguido.
“Crucially it also accepts the possibility that abduction took place.
“We will continue to push for Kate and Gerry to be eliminated from the police inquiry and in turn for the prosecutor to lift their arguido status as soon as possible.”
The Policia Judiciaria want to question the couple further and formal letters to Leicestershire police requesting this will be dispatched in the next fortnight.
Their seven friends, who dined with them on the night Madeleine vanished, will also face questions.
MISSING: Madeleine McCann
STILL SEARCHING: The torment continues for Kate and Gerry as Portuguese detectives remain convinced of their guilt