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If the McCanns' hire car is vital evidence why are they still driving it?

Original Source: MAIL: SUNDAY 09 SEPTEMBER 2007
Last updated at 02:03am on 9th September 2007
The hire car at the centre of the case against Madeleine's parents is still being driven around by the McCanns, raising questions over the professionalism of the police investigation.

The four-seat silver Renault Scenic was dismantled, stripped and swabbed for forensic analysis at the beginning of August but returned to the McCann family just two-and-a-half days later to allow them to continue to run their campaign to find their daughter.

Swabs from the car were sent to the Birmingham forensic laboratory after British sniffer dogs detected a scent in the boot during the brief time that it was in police possession.

And since the car was handed back to the family, results from the laboratory have indicated that a trace of Madeleine's blood had been left in the boot.

The trace has proved to be a key part of the police case against the McCanns, with Kate being repeatedly asked to explain the forensic results during her 16 hours of questioning on Thursday and Friday.

The decision to not impound what is proving to be a pivotal piece of evidence could even undermine the police case, according to experts.

Lord MacKenzie, a former head of the Superintendents' Association, expressed astonishment over the Portuguese police's failure to protect their evidence.

"It is very strange," he said. "You would certainly expect in a case of this importance for such a piece of evidence to be kept.

"There are cases where photos of the evidence would be acceptable where the evidence really needs to be given back, but certainly not in a case of murder or abduction.

"If you have some possible evidence, which obviously they thought they might have, given that they sent the forensics to the UK, then you would keep the car.

"And if the results are positive then it is pretty vital to have kept it."

The revelation came as a friend of the McCanns raised further questions over the credibility of the police's evidence against Kate.

The friend said the car, believed to have been rented from Eurocar at Faro airport, had been hired on May 28 --25 days after Madeleine vanished.

And she revealed that "a variety of other named drivers" had access to it over the 72 days before it was taken in to be swabbed on August 7.

The revelation suggests that any traces of blood in the car could not be directly linked to Madeleine's parents.

The friend said: "The car was hired 25 days after Madeleine disappeared and a variety of people, family included, used the car.

"Then police took the car in around 100 days after Madeleine disappeared before giving it back to Kate and Gerry."

The family friend was also able to give an explanation for the timing of the rental which it is believed had caused interest among detectives.

The car was hired the day before the McCanns travelled to Rome to be blessed by the Pope, at a time when they would not personally need a vehicle.

But the family friend explained that the car was always intended for use by a number of people around the couple in Praia da Luz, especially while the McCanns were away on their tour to gain publicity for the Find Maddie campaign.

Mrs McCann has vehemently denied that she was responsible for the trace of blood, swearing at officers because she was so angry and saying: "There is no way."

Kate's mother said any evidence against her daughter must have been "planted".

Last week family spokesman Justine McGuinness described the allegations over the hire car as "mad and ridiculous".

However she was unable to comment yesterday on who had picked up the car from Faro and who, other than Gerry and Kate, had access to it.


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