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Portuguese police accuse McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell of 'lying through his teeth'

Original Source: THIS IS LONDON : WEDNESDAY 16 APRIL 2008
London, Friday 10.10.08 Last updated at 00:22am on 16.04.08
Last updated at 01:37am on 16.04.08

Madeleine: Police say they are taking 'significant' steps to find her

 The hunt for Madeleine McCann was engulfed in a war of words yesterday as Portuguese police criticised her parents' spokesman.

Detectives denied Clarence Mitchell's claims that police had deliberately leaked statements from Kate and Gerry McCann and said they regretted his 'baseless intervention'.

In an astonishing attack today Portuguese police union chief Carlos Anjos told respected Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias: "Mr Mitchell wants to discredit the Policia Judiciaria and invent excuses so the McCanns do not come to Portugal to participate in the reconstruction of the night she disappeared.

"He lies with as many teeth as he has in his mouth.

"Finally we know what side truth is on.

"While the Policia Judiciaria were fulfilling their duty of investigating what happened to Madeleine, her parents' spokesman was manipulating public opinion."

The outspoken head of Portugal's Police Federation, who has previously claimed his force has better things to do than look for Madeleine McCann, added: "The person who hatched a plan was Clarence Mitchell.

"He needed to find an excuse for the McCanns not to take part in the reconstitution, saying that he doesn't trust the Policia Judiciaria."

In an extraordinary turn of events, Anjos told Jornal de Noticias his union was offering advice to officers who felt they had been identified by Mr Mitchell's leak claims and wanted to take legal action.

Yesterday, in a rare public statement - only the fifth in the 11-month investigation - the Policia Judiciaria said Mr Mitchell should not have spoken out, because the police operation had reached a 'significant' stage.

But last night Mr Mitchell insisted he stands by his claims that the statements were 'shamelessly' leaked to overshadow the McCanns' high-profile visit to the European Parliament to

promote a missing child alert campaign last week.

Coverage of the visit was dominated by the revelations that on the morning of May 3, just hours before she disappeared from the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, Madeleine asked her mother: "Mummy, why didn't you come when we were crying last night?"

Mr Mitchell said: "I'm not retracting a word of what I said. The Portuguese police have yet to explain how these statements came to be leaked.

"Their criticism of me doesn't explain how that confidential material came to be made public, and with very curious timing."
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Spokesman: Clarence Mitchell makes a statement on behalf of Kate and
Gerry McCann last year

He warned police last week that 'the gloves were off' following the leaking of the couple's police statements, and branded the leak 'brazen, shameless and cackhanded'.

Detectives hit back yesterday after a meeting between the head of the investigation, Paulo Rebelo, and public prosecutor Jose Cunha Magalhaes e Menezes.

In a statement posted on the force's website, a spokesman said: "The spokesman for the couple, Clarence Mitchell, publicly expressed the view to diverse media outlets, that he was certain the Policia Judiciaria was responsible for the leaks.

"The PJ want to make it clear that it is entirely false that this report included material from the inquiry, which is covered by the secrecy of justice.

"The PJ regrets the baseless intervention of the spokesman, above all at a moment when significant moves were being made in the investigation."

The police refused to reveal what was meant by 'significant moves'.

There has been speculation that the named suspects in the case, the McCanns and British expatriate Robert Murat, could be cleared soon. They have always denied any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance.



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Hunt for Maddie: Portuguese police search the area around Priai da Luz where Madeleine disappeaered. Tensions between the police and the McCann family have grown since Kate and Gerry became formal suspects in the case

Mr Mitchell said: "We had hoped the meeting (between Mr Rebelo and the prosecutor) would result in something positive, not in them trying to blame me.

"I don't want to get into a row with them. None of this helps to find Madeleine. We just want them to concentrate on that."

Since the disappearance of Madeleine - who would now be four - the police have refused to comment on their investigation on an almost daily basis.

Police in Portugal supposedly operate under strict secrecy laws which ban officers, witnesses or suspects from speaking about ongoing investigations.

But in practice the laws have meant there have been a series of anonymous leaks and wild allegations from inside the police operation.

The McCanns' wealthy benefactor Brian Kennedy hired Mr Mitchell in September, in part to counter the anti-McCann smears circulating in Portugal.

The 46-year-old former BBC correspondent was initially sent to Portugal by the Foreign Office in May, to help the couple deal with the intense media interest in their daughter's disappearance.

He forged a close bond with the McCanns, both doctors from Rothley, Leicestershire, and quit his job with the Government's media monitoring unit to become their full-time spokesman, on a reported 75,000-a-year salary.

Meanwhile, Portuguese police have yet to make any official comment about the outcome of last week's interviews with the 'Tapas Seven', the friends who dined with the McCanns on the night Madeleine vanished.

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