The man at the centre of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine
McCann was back with his mother yesterday at the house that police have been
searching, just 150 yards from the apartment where the girl was abducted.
Robert Murat, 33, who has been named as a formal suspect, continued to protest
his innocence and said his three-year-old daughter had been forced to leave her
home in Hockering, Norfolk,
and go into hiding with his estranged wife, Dawn.
"He is very distraught," said a friend, Tuck Price, who was with Mr
Murat and his mother at their Casa Liliana villa in the Praia da Luz resort on
the Algarve, in southern Portugal,
yesterday. "He is especially distraught because his own daughter has now
had to go into hiding."
Mr Murat asked for assistance from British consular officials in Portugal yesterday.
Mr Price said that, after struggling to get a reply, officials had contacted
the family during the afternoon.
"The British consulate is contacting a British citizen who may be linked
to the case so that, should it be necessary, consular assistance could be
offered," a Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday.
The investigation received what may prove to be a major boost with the launch
of a special fund designed to help carry the search for four-year-old Madeleine
beyond the borders of Portugal.
"We have got one principal objective with this fund - we want Madeleine
back," said her uncle, John McCann. He explained that the "Madeleine
Fund" was the result of popular demand for a way of turning the
groundswell of moral support into concrete action.
Before its launch the fund had already raised £10,000 from medical colleagues
of Gerry and Kate McCann and from a bucket of money filled up by visitors to
Madeleine's father works.
The money for the fund - which will gather donations through the website
findmadeleine.com, via cheques and through donations at NatWest and Royal Bank
of Scotland branches - will be used to help search for Madeleine and to support
the McCann family.
The McCanns have said they are unable to leave Portugal for the forseeable future.
The fund also seeks to have her abductors brought to justice. Any eventual
excess from the fund would be dedicated to similar causes.
Gordon Brown yesterday also offered "moral support" to the family
yesterday when he was visited by Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann.