Madeleine McCann's parents are "utterly" innocent and the focus of the police investigation must return to the hunt to find her, the family spokesman has declared.

Clarence Mitchell, who quit his Civil Service job to help Gerry and Kate McCann, said "rampant" speculation about possible charges against the couple had to end.

Both parents, who stood beside Mr Mitchell, have been questioned by Portuguese police over Madeleine's alleged death, sparking "intense media attention".

Mr Mitchell insisted: "The focus must now move away from the rampant, unfounded and inaccurate speculation of recent days, to return to the child at the very centre of this, Madeleine."

Urging people to keep looking for the girl, he added that suggestions the couple somehow harmed Madeleine accidentally or otherwise "was as ludicrous as it is nonsensical".

The statement comes as the tide of suspicion against the parents appears to be turning.

The Portuguese newspapers had been speculating that police in the country may have "gone out on a limb" by accusing the couple.

A judge in the town has also refused to order Mrs McCann to return to Portugal for questioning.

The Portuguese press had said Madeleine's mother could be called back to the country in the next few days.

But the judge in the case, Pedro Daniel dos Anjos Frias, has now rejected the prosecutors' request, according to the Correio Da Manha newspaper. Instead, the couple may be interviewed again this week by British police acting on behalf of the Portuguese authorities.

It is now 138 days since Madeleine went missing from her family's holiday apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.