Daily Express - - Front Page - From Martin Evans in Praia da Luz

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

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