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Original Source: EXPRESS: MONDAY 12-SEPTEMBER 2007
Wednesday September 12,2007
By Padraic Flanagan in Praia da Luz
A MASS of Madeleine McCann’s hair found in the boot of her parents’ hire car could only have come from the little girl’s body, police confirmed yesterday.

In a sensational development, Portuguese police said the “surprising amount” of hair was found in the spare wheel storage well under the boot floor of the Renault Scenic hired by Kate and Gerry McCann 25 days after Madeleine disappeared.

The dramatic disclosure heaps more pressure on the parents who yesterday continued to deny they had any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance.

At the same time, a public prosecutor in Portugal decided police have found sufficient evidence to pass a file to a judge.

The McCanns could face charges within days. Prosecutors yesterday handed over 10 volumes of evidence amassed by the police, including damning DNA evidence.

The judge could order more search warrants or change the status of the McCanns as official suspects, known as “arguidos” in Portugal.

It had been thought the prosecutor would take longer to study the huge number of files. The judge, Silvia Bidarra, has 10 days to make a decision on the files’ contents.

The latest twist in the case was the first time Portuguese police sources indicated the nature and the scale of the samples from which they collected DNA profiles of Madeleine.

It was these findings – obtained by forensic experts in a British laboratory – which led the police inquiry to focus on the parents.

The Portuguese police source said: “Some of the samples of DNA were taken from hair which match Madeleine’s DNA.

“There was so much hair it could not be from DNA transference but from the body being in the boot.”

The source added that a second DNA sample obtained from the McCanns’ Renault Scenic had not come from blood but bodily fluid – suggesting the presence of a decomposing corpse.

Police admitted they expected some traces of Madeleine’s DNA in the family’s hire car because it had been used to carry some of her belongings.

But the amount of hair came as a surprise, the source said, showing that it could not have been transferred from a blanket or clothes but must have come directly from her body.

Last night Portugal’s top legal official, Fernando Jose Pinto Monterio, appointed a second public prosecutor, Luis Bilro Verao, to work with Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses.

It is thought the move reflects the seriousness the Portuguese authorities are giving to the investigation.

Yesterday’s sudden developments came hours after Gerry McCann – in his first words since arriving home in Rothley, Leicestershire – spoke of the “unending nightmare” he and wife Kate were enduring.

In an emotional entry on his website blog, Gerry wrote: “We always hoped that we would not have to return without Madeleine and could never have imagined the possibility that we would do so as suspects in our own daughter’s disappearance.

“The pain and turmoil we have experienced in this last week is totally beyond description. Kate and I are totally 100 per cent confident in each other’s innocence, and our family and friends have rallied round unflinchingly to support us.

“We have absolute confidence that, when all of the facts are presented together, we will be able to demonstrate that we played absolutely no part in Madeleine’s abduction.”

But Mr Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses concluded the evidence against them was strong enough to apply for a prosecution.

The case, which has been complicated by a vicious campaign of slurs, lies and contradictions, means the McCanns could face an agonising wait before learning whether they are to be charged.

Judge Bidarra, an instructional judge who rules on whether to bring charges in cases under investigation, has 10 days to consider whether to charge one or both parents, placing them under house arrest in the Algarve, ordering further interrogations and further searches.

Legal experts in Portugal said charges against the couple were possible, but were concerned about the length of time since the McCanns were made official suspects.

Policia Judiciaria officers decided to submit the file to the public prosecutor despite awaiting more results from the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham.

The samples were collected by British and Portuguese investigators but a source close to the inquiry said most of the important results had already been handed to Leicestershire police and forwarded to their counterparts on the Algarve.

“The bulk of the evidence has been sent on. The evidence is assessed on what is most important,” the source said. “We have reached the tail end now.”


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