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'A year in jail and you can go home' [ PART 2]

Original Source: SUN: TUESDAY 29 APRIL 2008
Published: 29 Apr 2008





THE abduction of Madeleine McCann has gripped the world for a year. This three-part Sun series provides the most comprehensive account to date.


Part One yesterday described how Kate and Gerry McCann met and started their family. It gave a detailed description of their holiday in Portugal, the night Madeleine was taken, the naming of Robert Murat as a suspect and the global appeal for information.


In Part Two, JOHN PERRY examines how the tide turned against the McCanns, how they reluctantly returned home and the tormented lives they now lead

THEY had no leads nor evidence, so the Portuguese police turned on the McCanns. After more than a month covertly investigating them, they brought the couple in for questioning — and officially made them suspects in their daughter’s disappearance.


It was the culmination of a propaganda campaign against Gerry and Kate that began within hours of Madeleine’s kidnap on May 3, 2007.


Despite keeping in line with Portugal’s secrecy laws which decree that the public be kept in the dark about an investigation, a string of leaks was given to Portuguese reporters in the hope of panicking the McCanns into giving themselves away.


Publicly, the police insisted the McCanns were merely witnesses. But as early as May 4 one Portuguese newspaper reported that, behind the scenes, police had doubts the toddler was snatched at all. The McCanns’ story was “badly-told”, it said. There was ludicrous speculation about the McCanns and their friends being swingers and claims that they had drugged their children to sedate them.


Another local newspaper said police were convinced Madeleine was already dead. Unnamed sources claimed the alibis of the McCanns and their friends were riddled with contradictions.


On May 13, a Portuguese former detective, briefed by ex-colleagues working on the investigation, openly speculated on TV that Madeleine died from an overdose of sedatives and argued that her parents’ jobs as doctors lent weight to the theory.


It held that the McCanns had used drugs to ensure their kids slept as they dined out at the tapas bar.


As the investigation developed, detectives believed they had unearthed harder evidence. Blood was said to have been found in a car hired by the McCanns 25 days after Madeleine’s disappearance.


A sniffer dog allegedly smelled death in their apartment on August 1 as well as on Kate’s T-shirt, jeans and on Cuddle Cat, Madeleine’s favourite soft toy.

For most of the last 12 months Kate McCann has been the embodiment of suffering — her face wracked with the unbearable agony of a mother whose child was taken to an uncertain fate. The slideshow pictures below show her pain, month by month.


Kate pointed out that, as a GP, she was present at several deaths just before flying to Portugal.


A friend said: “It’s ludicrous to try to trap Kate on the basis of forensics when there has been so much contamination since Madeleine vanished. Kate has been holding Madeleine’s clothes, stroking them and smelling them to get the scent of Madeleine and comfort herself.


“The twins have been playing with Madeleine’s toys. It would be strange if her DNA was not all over the parents, the twins and everything they touch, including the hire car.”


Police were also suspicious when Kate washed Cuddle Cat. They believed she was trying to hide forensic evidence. The move was also questioned in the British Press by commentators convinced most mums would want to keep their missing child’s smell as long as possible.


Kate said she washed it simply because it was covered in dirt and suntan lotion.


A behavioural expert hired by police added to the suspicions.


While the McCanns made clear at the outset that they would do everything to keep Madeleine in the public mind, the “expert” was convinced it was an attempt to distract themselves from their “crime”.


Their apparent lack of emotion in public betrayed a couple focusing on a cover-up, the expert said — though their friends and family insisted their grief in private was real and overwhelming.

On September 6, the gloves came off. Police called Kate in for questioning — and later made her an “arguido”, an official suspect like Robert Murat. At one stage they asked her straight: “Did you sedate Madeleine?”


Kate, in a white top and clutching Cuddle Cat, arrived at the police station in Portimao at 1.55pm. Gerry, who drove her there, kissed her on the lips and she walked nervously the 50 yards to the station door.


She was kept waiting for an hour and 15 minutes by formalities before the interview began.


At her side was Lisbon-based lawyer Carlos Pinto de Abreu. Kate picked a translator from an accredited list and a marathon grilling began.


Each question was asked in Portuguese and translated before Kate gave her answer. Her responses were written out in longhand, typed up and read back to Kate for her to agree.


The question-and-answer session became highly charged. At one point she was offered a two-year jail sentence if she confessed to killing Madeleine.


Cops outlined the forensic evidence they claimed to have against her and said they believed Madeleine died accidentally after being given too much of a children’s painkiller in the apartment.


They said they believed Kate then panicked and hid the body before moving it to its final resting place weeks later in the family’s hire car.


Kate was told she would receive between two and three years in jail if she signed a confession and could expect to serve 12 months in “supervised custody”.


Police tried to tempt her into signing by saying Gerry would immediately be freed without charge to take Sean and Amelie back to Britain. The deal was: “Do a year for accidental death and your family can go home.” Kate was appalled, insisted she was innocent and screamed “No!” She branded their claims “bloody ridiculous”.


She emerged at 1am looking pale and shattered. Two hours later the police phoned the villa she and Gerry had rented and repeated their plea-bargain offer.


Kate was heard by a relative shouting “No, no, no!” to her lawyer.

She was then ordered back to the station on September 7 and bombarded with 22 questions about Madeleine’s disappearance. Police demanded: “Tell us what you did with her.” Kate hit back: “You must be insane to think we’d put ourselves through this.”


Police told Kate DNA from Madeleine’s bodily fluids was found under the seat of the McCanns’ hired Renault Scenic. They claimed her blood was found on the window and under a sofa in the flat where she vanished.


They even found “evidence” in the devout Catholic’s Bible, open at the Old Testament story of how King David’s general killed his son Absalom. A friend of the McCanns said: “The officers were suggesting that Kate was driven to kill her child after reading it, or that she read it as solace after committing the act. It is completely crazy.”


The aggression increased. The plea bargain offer turned into a threat. If Kate did not sign their confession, they told her, she would lose Sean and Amelie too.


Detectives said they would charge her and Gerry and could hold them for a year without bail before trial. They would lose their jobs, home — and children.


Within hours the spotlight fell on Gerry. He was grilled for eight hours at the police station in Portimao and also declared an arguido. He walked out just after midnight on September 8 looking exhausted.


His lawyer Mr de Abreu said: “Kate and Gerry have been declared arguidos with no bail conditions. No charges have been brought. The investigation continues.”


Earlier Gerry rebutted accusations that his wife killed Madeleine — and said she was “completely innocent”. He said: “The suggestion that Kate is involved in Madeleine’s disappearance is ludicrous. Anyone who knows anything about May 3 knows that Kate is completely innocent.”


Kate’s dad Brian Healy said: “It’s unbelievable, obscene and disgusting that the police think Kate or Gerry were involved. My daughter is incapable of harming Madeleine.”


Kate’s mum Susan accused police of planting evidence. She insisted: “This is a set-up. Maddie is Kate and Gerry’s world. They would never do anything to harm her.


“It’s absolutely ludicrous that Kate and Gerry have been named as suspects.


“The police are trying to frame them for murder. If there is any evidence to implicate Kate and Gerry in any way then it has been planted. I don’t know how, what or when, but something has been put in place to bring about this bizarre line of questioning.”


Brian blasted the police for “time-wasting” instead of looking for Madeleine. Gerry’s sister Philomena branded them “imbeciles”.


She said: “It’s inconceivable what’s happening to them out there. There they are, victims of this horrendous crime, and now they’re trying to sully their name in this disgusting manner with this smear campaign. Some of the things that Kate has been asked are just incomprehensible.”

But back in the UK too the tide was beginning to turn against Gerry and Kate. The result of the police’s refusal to make any evidence public — combined with their long questioning of the couple they now considered suspects — made many think they knew something we didn’t.


Were the couple hiding something? Even some seasoned journalists admitted they were beginning to “think the unthinkable”.


The change of mood was not lost on the Vatican, which erased all mention of the McCanns’ visit on May 30 from its website.


A family source admitted: “This has been their worst week since Madeleine vanished.”


Being treated as suspects was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Gerry and Kate. Once, they had vowed never to return home without Madeleine. On September 9, 2007, they did just that.


The McCanns gave cops just a few hours’ notice that they would be flying home. The police had no choice, since they could not hold them and their British address was listed as their home on all official documents.


Gerry angrily told a pal before boarding the plane: “I don’t care if the police say we are fleeing. I don’t care if people think we’re fleeing. We’re being set up and I’ve had enough. We’re going home.”


The couple and their twins set off for the grim journey home as daylight broke. Gerry’s sister Trish and her husband Sandy had helped them pack.


Hundreds of journalists gathered in the tiny lane leading to the McCanns’ villa at 4am.


A van arrived to take away 20,000 letters from supporters. Two boxes full of toys were seen outside.



Published: 29 Apr 2008

As camera crews jostled for position, police cordoned off the street. Local vicar’s wife Susan Hubbard went in and out of the villa. She had grown close to the family — and babysat the twins while Kate was being grilled by police.


Gerry inched the McCanns’ Renault through hordes of pressmen on its way to the airport. Kate’s hand was supportively on his thigh. Sean and Amelie were in the back with Cuddle Cat beside them.


Just under an hour later they arrived at Faro Airport and handed back the keys of the hired car.


By 8.30am the McCanns had cleared security for the 9.30am Easyjet flight to East Midlands Airport.


Kate and Gerry played with the excited twins in the VIP lounge and were then the first passengers to board.

Kate, wearing a lapel badge showing Madeleine’s face, held Amelie. Gerry put Cuddle Cat on his shoulder for Sean.


The first two rows of the aircraft were reserved for them. It took off a few minutes late. Kate wept.


Gerry remained calm throughout the three-hour flight but as the plane neared the UK became more pensive and chewed his nails.


“We didn’t imagine coming home like this,” he said. “I can’t describe it.”


The McCanns were last off the jet, which touched down just after noon. Each parent carried a twin in their arms as they descended the steps and set foot back in Britain for the first time as a family since late April. A family, but missing one child.


They were collected by police in a people carrier with blacked-out windows.


Just under half an hour later it pulled into the driveway of their Rothley home, which was guarded by more police.


Kate led the way inside, carrying one of the twins. Gerry was a few steps behind with the other.


There to greet them with a hug and a kiss were Madeleine’s great uncle Brian Kennedy and his wife Janet. Brian told reporters: “I am just here to give them a meal, here to support them.


“I have spoken to them. Their mood is not buoyant but quite steady and they are very, very glad to be coming home. It is not going to be easy.


“This is the first time Kate has returned to the house since they left on holiday, although Gerry has been back for a short time.


“They’ve come back now primarily for the children, to get back to something like a stable environment.”


Gerry and Kate walked together into Madeleine’s bedroom. It was just as she had left it four months earlier when they set off for what was meant to be a blissful week in the Portuguese sunshine.


They sat side by side on Madeleine’s bed and prayed.


A friend said: “They spent some time in prayer together.

“It was a very emotional moment. But it was also very comforting to be surrounded by all her belongings. It helped Kate and Gerry feel close to her.


“Madeleine’s bedroom is as it was, ready for her to come home. It is obviously an emotional step for the family — particularly for Kate. But it’s home and they very much want to be in their own home, surrounded by familiar things.


“They are still very focused on the belief Madeleine is alive and will be home with them soon.”


Brian, a former headmaster, said: “If they are asked to go back to Portugal they will, but they don’t expect that to be soon.


“It’s lovely to have them home. Inevitably people in Portugal will say they are running away but they are not.


“They are willing to go back whenever required. The search for Madeleine will go on. The support they will receive here in the village is just what they need.”


Gerry’s sister Philomena said: “He is relieved to be home and glad to be among family and friends. But they’re desperately sad to leave Portugal because that is the last place they were with their daughter.”


A family friend said: “The ball is now in the court of the Portuguese police. Kate and Gerry have nothing to hide.”


The McCanns had secretly hired experts to do independent forensic examinations because they were so convinced the police’s evidence was flawed.


A friend said: “They were very fearful they will be charged, but actually now the family and Kate and Gerry are quite upbeat and buoyed. They know they’re innocent and the truth will come out.”


But the following day brought more bad news. British forensic scientists were reported to have discovered that blood found in their hire car was a perfect DNA match to Madeleine. Blood on the window-sill of the McCanns’ apartment was also a 20/20 match, it was said.


It also emerged that police had bugged their phones and intercepted their emails.


The McCanns explained that they used the car to move belongings, including Madeleine’s, when they left their holiday apartment. A friend said: “It’s to be expected that specks of her DNA would transfer on to the interior of the car.”


A day later, police claimed “substantial” quantities of Madeleine’s hair were found in the hire car’s boot.


Ten boxes of paperwork on the case were handed to the public prosecutor, and then on to a judge.


Gerry hit back, calling the allegations “ludicrous”. A friend said: “There are large craters in every one of these theories.”


The police’s suspicions also fell on the McCanns’ tapas bar friends. There were reports they might become suspects too. The absurd new theory was that they helped the McCanns dispose of Madeleine’s body and cover their tracks.


September 17 saw some light at the end of the tunnel. The Portuguese judge presiding over the investigation said the evidence was too thin even to bring the McCanns back for further questioning. That included the alleged findings from DNA samples and hair in the hire car. Instead the couple were to be questioned by British police.

Gerry phoned Gordon Brown to reassure him that the case against them was flawed.

Madeleine’s DNA could have come from her unwashed pyjamas, thrown in the boot of the hire car when they moved from the holiday apartment, the McCanns said.


It could also have come from a bag of the twins’ soiled nappies, which would have left DNA traces almost identical to their sister’s.


In their first interview since arriving home Kate and Gerry revealed how they spoke to the twins about missing Madeleine “all the time”.


Gerry said: “It’s not a hidden subject. We answer their questions if people mention her. The twins are also surrounded by all of her toys, her belongings, and there are lots of pictures of her in the house.

“There is no attempt to shield them from Madeleine.”


Kate described how she had been to church the previous Sunday.


“I found it very uplifting,” she said. “It was nice to see everybody from the local community. They were very supportive. That meant a lot.


“Of course there are constant reminders of Madeleine, but nevertheless we can still see that Sean and Amelie are happy to be home. It was uplifting to realise they were back in their own environment.” Gerry added: “We have brief uplifting moments, then there’s a report, or something happens which damages that sense. It’s a mixture of emotions.


“The only thing which will make us truly happy is that we find Madeleine or what happened to her.”


By now the family had hired a new spokesman in Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC reporter who, while working for the Foreign Office in Portugal, spent a month with the family.


He said: “I never saw or heard anything that gave me cause for concern or suspicion.


“All I witnessed was a loving family that had been plunged into the most dreadful situation, and two parents trying to cope amidst their loss.”


But now that the McCanns were back in Britain, the Portuguese police’s claims against them grew ever more outlandish. Here is how the story unfolded:


September 27: Police claim Kate and Gerry buried Madeleine during a “missing two hours” while putting up appeal posters in Spain. A friend of the couple said: “Kate and Gerry have had enough of these horrible accusations. There are sightings of Madeleine which they want properly investigated.”


September 28: The sickest slur yet. Police allege the McCanns kept Madeleine’s body in a FRIDGE before dumping her. They are still holding to the theory that Kate killed her and Gerry helped cover it up.


September 30: The theory changes. Now police are “100 per cent certain” Madeleine died from a bang on the head falling downstairs at their flat.


October 2: The officer in charge, Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, is sacked for telling a Portuguese newspaper the McCanns were duping British police. Portugal’s Justice Minister Alberto Costa was outraged.


October 11: Gerry is forced to make a statement rebutting claims in a Portuguese paper that he was not the father of Madeleine, conceived by IVF.


October 18: Kate and Gerry demand to be cleared by police after a new leak from detectives reveals they have no evidence. A high-ranking police source admits: “Nothing which allows us to make a definite accusation against the McCanns has emerged.”


Gordon Brown asks Portuguese PM Jose Socrates to assure him local cops are up to the job.


October 19: Forensic tests on the hair of Sean and Amelie reveal they were not sedated, further denting the theory that they and Madeleine were given drugs to get them to sleep, and that Madeleine was accidentally given an overdose.


October 24: Kate and Gerry hire Metodo 3, one of Spain’s best-known firms of private investigators, to hunt for Madeleine.


October 25: An artist’s impression of the man Kate and Gerry believe abducted Madeleine is released. It is based on Jane Tanner’s description of the man she saw carrying a child away and is drawn by a female forensic artist commissioned by the McCanns.


Although Tanner gave Portuguese cops a detailed description, they never released an e-fit.


October 30: A nanny tells investigators she saw a man lurking in bushes outside the holiday apartment where Madeleine disappeared several months before the McCanns stayed there. Her description appears to match the man seen by Tanner. The McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell says: “This evidence backs up what we have always said, that Maddie was taken from her bed by an abductor.”


November 1: Gerry returns to work as a cardiologist at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital, where he is greeted by a bunch of yellow ribbons and Madeleine’s photo. He says he is pleased to be back to a “degree of normality”.


Kate says she may never work again. Spokesman Mitchell says: “All Kate wants to concentrate on now is being a stay-at-home mother for Amelie and Sean. She wants to be as close to them as she can be.”


November 3: Kate collapses in tears at a service to mark six months since Madeleine disappeared. With green and yellow ribbons in her hair and Cuddle Cat hanging limply from her hand, Kate weeps uncontrollably in a female friend’s arms at the church in Rothley, whispering: “I just want her back, I just want her back.”



About 250 people are at the service. One says: “Some have accused Kate of faking tears in a TV interview. There was nothing fake about the tears here. It was unbearable to watch.”



Published: 29 Apr 2008

November 6: A new rant from the Portuguese police, claiming people are sick of having the Find Madeleine campaign “rammed down their throats”. One officer tells The Sun: “People used to look at her picture and well up with tears. Now it gets no reaction. It’s time to stop.”


Clarence Mitchell says: “We have done our absolute best to make people aware Madeleine is out there.”

November 18: Sensational allegations are made against Michaela Walczuch, girlfriend of Robert Murat.


Metodo 3, the detective agency hired by the McCanns, has a witness who claims they saw a child handed over in central Portugal on May 5. Three adults were involved. Gerry and Kate insist the information was made public by Metodo 3, not them.


November 25: Murat’s friends accuse the McCann camp of being behind a “smear campaign” against him and his girlfriend.


One says: “These continuous unfounded attacks are taking the focus away from the areas that should be investigated. I would think someone from the McCann camp would want to put a stop to it.”


The alibi of Murat’s girlfriend, that she was at a Jehovah’s Witness meeting at the time, is apparently undermined by revelations that she was not at a meeting in Lagos. A friend clears it up: “She belongs to a church in Portimao, not Lagos.”


November 26: A “root and branch” re-investigation by a team headed by top Portuguese cop Paulo Rebelo reveals a radical “new” theory: A pervert sneaked into the McCanns’ apartment and killed Madeleine to shut her up when she screamed. The astonishing U-turn means Kate and Gerry may not now be suspects.


November 27: It emerges that forensic experts found NO blood, hair or body fluids from Madeleine in her parents’ hire car, despite the claims of Portuguese detectives.


Scientists hired by Kate and Gerry say there is no evidence Madeleine’s body was in the Renault Scenic.


November 29: DNA “evidence” against Kate and Gerry collapses. British forensic experts tell Portuguese police at a meeting in Birmingham that tests have shown nothing conclusive.


December 2: It emerges that three witnesses claim they saw Murat outside the McCanns’ holiday apartment the night Madeleine vanished, apparently contradicting his alibi. He insists he was not there.


December 11: Locals strip Praia da Luz of posters of Madeleine — an indication that they want life to return to normal and that support for the McCanns has dwindled since they became suspects and went home.

December 12: The town’s mayor Domingues Borba accuses Gerry and Kate of “extreme negligence” over Madeleine’s disappearance.


December 13: An incredible claim by Metodo 3 that Madeleine is alive and could be home by Christmas. Boss Francisco Marco claims to know who snatched her and predicts she will be rescued in North Africa or the Iberian Peninsula.


December 21: Kate and Gerry send a Christmas TV message to Madeleine. Kate says: “Madeleine, it’s Mummy and Daddy here. Just know how much we love you, Madeleine. We miss you so much. Sean and Amelie talk about you all the time every day. We’re doing everything we can, Madeleine, to find you and there are so many good and very kind people helping us. Be brave, sweetheart.” Meanwhile the McCanns are furious with Metodo 3 for claiming Madeleine might be home for Christmas. A source says: “They want their private detectives private.”


December 23: A TV documentary claims a missing blue tennis bag belonging to Gerry and big enough to hold a child could be the key to Madeleine’s disappearance.


It is claimed Portuguese police have been hunting for the hold-all, which disappeared at the same time as Madeleine. Clarence Mitchell denies Gerry ever owned one.


December 25: Kate and Gerry’s Christmas TV plea pulls in 347 calls after being shown around the world.


December 26: The McCanns launch a publicity blitz across Morocco involving 11,500 letters and posters after reports that Madeleine has been spotted in the region.


December 31: A sixth witness, this time a barrister, appears to challenge Murat’s alibi by claiming he saw a man resembling him near Kate and Gerry’s flat the night Madeleine vanished. Murat has always insisted he was at his mother’s all evening.


Metodo 3 claim to be following up “significant” new leads in Morocco.

January 10, 2008: A storm erupts as it is revealed that a London-based “doubles” agency is hoping to make millions hiring out a three-year-old girl with a remarkable resemblance to Madeleine. Agency chief Shona Adams reckons the girl could earn £9million starring in a feature film about Madeleine — and she’ll take 20 per cent.


She says: “It’s not sinister — it’s entertainment. If the McCanns are upset, there’s nothing they can do . . . it’s a democracy.”


January 15: A girl of five, Mari Luz Cortes, goes missing in southern Spain, 90 minutes’ drive from Praia da Luz. Her dad, and police, say it may be linked to Madeleine’s disappearance.


January 20: A new sketch of a suspect — drawn by an FBI-trained artist and based on a description from British tourist Gail Cooper — is released. He was seen three times near the McCanns’ holiday flat a month before they stayed there. He was 38-45 and long-haired, with a handlebar moustache and big teeth. He may have been North African.


The sketch brings a flood of new calls. Metodo 3 say they are chasing dozens of new leads.


January 23: The man suspected of seizing Madeleine may have had an accomplice, it is reported. A second prowler was seen at the McCanns’ resort using the same bogus cover story as the scruffy man shown in the sketch released by the family.


Meanwhile it is revealed that Robert Murat has a lookalike who sells property in the apartment complex where Madeleine went missing.


The Sun publishes photos showing that Murat and the estate agent could easily be confused. The agent confirms he was in the resort last May 3. He is not suspected of any wrongdoing.


January 25: Pig farmer Joaquim Jose Marques, who was quizzed after the release of the sketch of a suspect, is revealed as having served time for raping a British teenager. He has already been eliminated from the probe by police, however.


February 3: Portugal’s top cop Alipio Ribeiro lands in hot water for admitting that the decision to make Kate and Gerry suspects was “hasty”.

February 19: Kate’s mum claims her daughter is being “crucified” over Madeleine’s disappearance. Susan Healy says: “Kate and Gerry know they shouldn’t have left the children, but they certainly don’t deserve what has happened to them. It’s like being crucified day by day.”


March 20: Express Newspapers pays the McCanns £550,000 damages for falsely suggesting they killed Madeleine. The couple put the cash in the Find Madeleine fund.


March 27: A convicted paedophile is arrested in Spain for the murder of Mari Luz Cortes, who vanished in January, 90 minutes’ drive from Praia da Luz. Kate and Gerry demand to know where Spaniard Santiago del Valle Garcia was last May 3.


April 9: Portuguese police want the McCanns to return to the Algarve for a harrowing, Crimewatch-style reconstruction of the night their daughter went missing.

April 10: Kate and Gerry lobby MEPs in Brussels for a new Europe-wide “Amber Alert” system to track snatched children and deter would-be abductors.


April 13: The McCanns urge the Government to seek an international investigation into the Portuguese police’s botched probe.


Almost every day after May 3, 2007, it seemed police had a wild new theory about who took Madeleine. Publicly, the detectives were saying nothing — but each new whim was leaked to the Portuguese Press and reported in Britain.


The Sun’s Jane Moore, in her column of October 3, superbly summed up the fickle and directionless nature of the probe. She wrote:


The Madeleine McCann “investigation” so far: “She’s wandered off on her own and may have drowned. Oops, bit late now, but maybe she’s been abducted. Ah, it might have been that bloke down the road so let’s dig his house up. Er, maybe not.


“Perhaps the parents did it? That’s it! She was crying a lot so one of them slapped her too hard and killed her.


“No, wait, they sedated her too much and she died, or she may have fallen down some steps and banged her head. Either way, they hid her body in a mini-fridge then disposed of it 25 days later. Or maybe they didn’t kill her but the abductor was in the flat when the father last checked her, in which case he’s a negligent parent.”


Here is a selection of the leaked police theories, the wild goose chases, the dead ends and the baseless and ridiculous public pronouncements as the probe unfolded:


  • Madeleine was taken by a Briton. Apparently the “meticulous planning” of the abduction suggests a Brit — the implication being that Portuguese paedophile child-snatchers are inherently less well organised.


  • Some 130 British paedophiles who could have taken Madeleine are in the frame. British police send over a list of convicted perverts known to have travelled to Portugal.


  • CCTV footage from a petrol station near Praia shows a little girl with three adults, thought to be Brits. Police get the car registration number and announce it is British.


  • Police try to trace a mystery man spotted secretly taking pictures of Madeleine and other little girls on a Portuguese beach. The suspect drove off in a grey Renault Clio with British plates and was identified on the petrol station’s CCTV footage.
  • Despite these many early theories, police admit they do not have a single genuine lead nor suspect.


  • Robert Murat is questioned. He is given the status of “arguido”, or official suspect, but insists he is innocent. He is never charged.


  • Murat’s Russian pal Sergey Malinka is also quizzed and quickly ruled out.


  • Norwegian holidaymaker Mari Pollard is 99.9 per cent certain a little girl she saw in Morocco was Madeleine. Pollard became suspicious when the “lost-looking” tot asked a man in a petrol station in Marrakech on May 9: “Can I see Mummy soon?” She calls Leicestershire Police, who pass the information to Portuguese police. Nothing comes of it.


  • Police find a stranger’s DNA in the McCanns’ holiday apartment. It could belong to Maddie’s abductor, they say. It turns out to belong to another guest who cut himself shaving while staying in the flat.


  • A mystery caller, making a “credible” call to police using an unregistered mobile phone, claims to know where Madeleine is. The line is cut and police try in vain to re-establish contact. They have no idea whether it was genuine or a hoax. A police source insists it “remains an important new lead”.

    PAGE 4

    Published: 29 Apr 2008
  • A Spanish investigative journalist is “100 per cent certain” Madeleine was snatched by a shadowy paedophile kingpin dubbed The Frenchman. Antonio Toscano claims he has tipped off police but has still not been quizzed. He refuses to give the Frenchman’s identity but claims the man has stolen children before. It’s another dead end.


  • A letter and map sent to police claims to pinpoint a spot nine miles from Praia da Luz where Madeleine is buried in a shallow grave. It was sent anonymously to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, and was almost identical to one in 2006 which successfully led cops to the bodies of two missing girls. An investigation at the site comes to nothing. The McCanns are upset “that the credibility of this letter had not been examined”.


  • Holidaymaker Andre van Wyk reports seeing a fair-skinned little blonde girl in the back of a horse-drawn gipsy cart three weeks earlier in Portimao. A woman in the cart quickly covered the sleeping youngster’s face with a shawl.

    “It’s been playing on my mind ever since. The little girl looked so out of place,” he says. He is also suspicious about an encounter with a gipsy woman at Faro airport who told him no one would find blonde Madeleine because her hair had been dyed black and cut short.


  • There are five alleged sightings of Madeleine in one week in Malta. Every cop in the country has her photo.

    British tourist Ray Roberts says he saw a child resembling Madeleine and heard an Arab-looking man tell her in English: “Get up, little girl.” He says she had on a jet black wig.


  • Soon there have been 14 “sightings” in Malta. Police there are searching high and low for her.


  • Swiss cops scour Geneva airport, Switzerland, after two sightings of a child resembling Madeleine.


  • The Maltese trail goes cold. Detectives now reckon she was never there. The 20 “sightings” differed wildly.
  • A “highly credible” sighting at a café in Tongeren, Belgium. A witness sees a nervous British girl with an English-speaking woman and a Dutch man. Tongeren police have a description of the couple and their car, including its number plate.

    A DNA test is carried out on a bottle used by the girl. The witness is 100 per cent sure she was Madeleine.

    Cops say the DNA does not match Madeleine’s. The girl turns out to be Sjanneke Hofstede, four, who was playing her dad Ed up because she was meeting his girlfriend for the first time.


  • Police say tiny traces of blood were found in Madeleine’s holiday bedroom by a sniffer dog that stopped dead and barked at the wall. It seems to support the theory in the Portuguese press that Madeleine died in the flat, possibly by accident.


  • A new police leak reveals that the “accidental death” theory is now their favourite. It leaves the door wide open to wild speculation that the McCanns or their friends know what happened to the youngster.
  • Kate becomes a suspect. So does Gerry. Both are questioned for hours by police.


  • A bombshell claim — that blood found in the McCanns’ car, hired 25 days after the toddler disappeared, is a perfect DNA match to Madeleine. Cops have also been bugging their phones and intercepting their emails. The DNA claim proves false.


  • The wildest theory yet: Police intend to dig up roadworks outside the Portuguese church where Madeleine’s parents prayed for her safe return.


    They believe she was temporarily buried there, after being killed by the McCanns, before being moved in the hired Renault to her final resting place.

    Police also claim there are significant findings from toxicology tests carried out on samples of Madeleine’s hair allegedly found in the car. They believe the child died of an accidental overdose.


    The world’s media begin to swallow the police line and some turn on the McCanns.


  • Detectives plan to seize Cuddle Cat for forensic tests.


    Cops believe Kate either slapped Madeleine, or she banged her head and died, or she had a reaction to sedatives dispensed by her GP mum to help her sleep or even took an overdose of medicine left lying around the apartment.


    They say the McCanns feared going to prison in a foreign country, having their other children taken away and losing their livelihoods so they concocted an elaborate cover-up story, possibly involving friends.

  • Madeleine was dumped in the sea in a weighted sack thrown from a British-owned yacht, police now say.


    They appear to be resorting to this theory because they haven’t found Madeleine on land. And most of the yachts moored nearby are British-registered.


  • The DNA in the hire car turns out to have been from the twins, not Maddie.


  • A sensational picture emerges of a fair-haired girl being carried along among a group of dark-haired adults in Morocco. The photo is blurred — but it could be Madeleine. Hope is dashed the next day. She is Moroccan farmer’s daughter Bouchra Benaissa, three.
  • Police claim Kate and Gerry buried Madeleine during a “missing two hours” while they put up posters in Spain. The McCanns are furious.


  • The craziest notion of all — Madeleine’s body was kept in a fridge before being dumped by her parents. Detectives are “locating apartments with fridges”.


  • Police say six other kids were with Madeleine the night she disappeared. The McCanns’ spokesman says: “If you put seven children together you are going to have a far harder time getting them to sleep than three.”


  • Gerry is not Madeleine’s natural dad, police sources claim. Gerry insists he is.


  • Police plan to drag the desolate Barragem da Bravura lake — dubbed the “Reservoir Of The Wilderness” — looking for Madeleine’s body. It is 15 miles from the resort.


  • A huge swoop on dozens of Portuguese paedophiles draws a blank.


  • Madeleine was left alone for up to three hours a night by her parents, a waiter at their holiday tapas bar claims, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.


  • A British nanny tells investigators she saw a man lurking in bushes outside the holiday apartment where Madeleine disappeared months before the McCanns stayed there. Her description matches the snatcher in the artist’s impression.


  • Investigator Francisco Marco, of Barcelona’s Metodo 3 detective agency hired by Madeleine’s parents, vows: “I’ll find her in five months.” He doesn’t.


  • A child matching Madeleine’s description, spotted being “bundled” screaming into a car in Bosnia, turns out to be hyperactive three-year-old Tea Dedic.


  • A trucker tells Metodo 3 he saw Madeleine being handed over by her kidnappers to a gang in Silves, Portugal, 25 miles from Praia da Luz. He says he saw a blonde woman pass a child wrapped in a blanket to a man in a rental car on May 5.


  • Forensic experts admit they found no trace of Madeleine’s DNA in her parents’ hire car.


  • British witnesses claim they saw Murat outside the McCanns’ holiday flat the night Madeleine vanished. He denies it was him. His alibi — that he spent the evening at his mother’s house nearby — never changes and he is never charged.


  • A girl matching Madeleine’s description, including her distinctive eye defect, is seen in a motorway service station cafe in Montpellier, France. It is described as the most significant sighting yet. But it proves another false trail.


  • A Portuguese cabbie ludicrously claims he took Madeleine on a trip with Murat the night she disappeared.


    The McCanns dismiss the story. Spokesman Clarence Mitchell says: “The timings are entirely wrong.”










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