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Parents of Missing British Girl Madeleine McCann Want to Leave Portugal

Original Source: FOX NEWS: 08 SEPTEMBER 2010
Saturday, September 08, 2007
PRAIA DA LUZ, Portugal The parents of missing 4-year-old Madeleine McCann are keen to leave Portugal as soon as possible and return to Britain to clear their names after Portuguese police named them as suspects in their daughter's disappearance, a family friend said Saturday.

Clarence Mitchell said father Gerry McCann told him that he and his wife expected clarification of their legal status within 48 hours. Their lawyer said late Friday that police had declared the parents suspects in the May 3 disappearance.

"They are in broad agreement that they should get out as soon as they can," Mitchell told The Associated Press by telephone from Britain. Whether Portuguese police will allow them to leave is unclear, though their passports are not believed to have been seized up until now.

Mitchell said Kate and Gerry McCann had previously intended to leave southern Portugal, where they have stayed since their daughter vanished from a hotel room during a family vacation, on Sunday night.

"They are determined to prove this is a travesty ... and clear their names," Mitchell said of the police allegations about their possible involvement.

The police decision to name the parents as suspects brought a dramatic twist in the four-month-old case. Their ordeal has drawn attention around the world, partly because of an international campaign they have run to find their daughter.

Mitchell said the McCanns, both doctors from central England, were considering hiring lawyers in Britain where they would also have support from family and friends.

The McCanns' Portuguese lawyer, Carlos Pinto Abreu, said police have not brought charges against them and that the investigation was continuing.

British media quoted unnamed friends of the McCanns as saying the couple were keen to return to Britain but would remain in Portugal for the time being. The couple had made no comment Saturday

The McCanns have strenuously professed their innocence, and relatives said police should reveal what, if any, evidence there is against them.

"If this is what it takes to speed up the process of absolutely exonerating Gerry and Kate, let's get on with it," Gerry's brother John McCann told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "I hope the police can move quickly, bring whatever evidence they have got and discuss with Gerry and Kate why they think what they think."

Until Friday, suspicion had focused on a British man who lived near the hotel from which Madeleine disappeared and who was the only formal suspect. But police said new forensic tests done on evidence gathered months after the girl vanished found traces of blood in the couple's car, according to Justine McGuinness, a spokeswoman for the family.

The new evidence -- including the traces of blood missed in earlier forensic tests -- was uncovered by sniffer dogs brought from Britain.

The McCanns have strenuously professed their innocence.

Kate McCann underwent two straight days of interrogation at a police station in southern Portugal on Thursday and Friday. Her husband was questioned separately afterward.

The girl's aunt said that during the questioning of Kate McCann police suggested Madeleine might have been killed accidentally and offered the mother a plea deal if she confessed.

"They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer -- 'If you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less,"' Gerry McCann's sister, Philomena, told ITV news on Friday.

A police spokesman, Olegario Sousa, confirmed to The Associated Press that police had named a new suspect, but would not say it was Mrs. McCann. He cited privacy laws in declining to comment further. He could not be reached for comment Saturday on the McCanns' apparent desire to leave Portugal.

The McCanns said they were dining with friends in a hotel restaurant when Madeleine vanished. Their daughter was in their hotel room with her twin 2-year-old siblings, and the parents said they returned frequently to check on them.

Since then, the McCanns have toured Europe with photos of Madeleine and the child's stuffed animals and clothing, even meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Celebrities including J.K. Rowling and David Beckham made public appeals that helped the family raise more than 1 million pounds (euro1.5 million; US$2 million).

The only formal suspect until now has been Robert Murat, who lives with his mother near the hotel from which the girl disappeared. He has always maintained his innocence. Sousa said Murat's status as a suspect had not changed.


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