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Madeleine: 'Now they are trying to frame me' says mother quizzed by police

Original Source: THIS IS LONDON: 05 SEPTEMBER 2007
The mother of Madeleine McCann was dramatically reinterviewed by police yesterday - and is terrified they are trying to frame her.

Kate McCann was questioned at police headquarters in Portimao, 30 miles from Praia da Luz for over eleven hours.

It is the first time she has been formally interviewed since May 4, the day after her daughter vanished from her bed in the Mark Warner holiday complex.

Mrs McCann, 39, had a lawyer present, something that has not happened in any previous meetings with the Portuguese police.

Friends said she was extremely nervous about being "set up" and fears detectives were attempting to crack the case by pinning the blame for Madeleine's disappearance on her.

A Portuguese newspaper stoked her fears yesterday with hurtful slurs about a "scent of death" allegedly detected on her clothing.

Although police made clear the McCanns are witnesses and not suspects, it is understood that inquiries are concentrating on alleged discrepancies in their accounts of the night Madeleine disappeared.

A British source with knowledge of the investigation claimed: "Forensic tests have opened new lines of inquiry which undermines their version of events."

Mr McCann will be interviewed separately today.

Their answers will be compared and police will decide whether or not to change their status to "arguido", the Portuguese term for suspect.

Under Portuguese law, an arguido is someone who is under ongoing questioning. Arrests can be made only once someone is an arguido.

Friends said Mrs McCann had absolutely nothing to hide and had chosen to walk through the police station front door with her head held high.

Neither she nor her husband are under arrest, they are not suspects, and they were not being interviewed under oath.

But a friend of the couple said: "Kate is terrified that she is being set up. This has been the worst week since Madeleine vanished, and we're not through it yet.

"They have no idea why they have been called back.

"Police have refused to tell them. They fear that they might be suspects."

The extraordinary development blows apart the couple's plans to return home to Rothley, Leicestershire, which they had been arranging to do this coming Sunday.

Now their departure is on hold while the latest drama unfolds.

And it came a day after a forensics breakthrough when police took delivery of "significant" results on samples of blood, hair and fibres found in Madeleine's bedroom and elsewhere.

Scientists in Birmingham spent a month analysing the traces, which were found during a review of the case by British forensic experts.

It raised the prospect that an arrest could be imminent, although police refused to speculate.

It is 127 days since Madeleine went missing, just before her fourth birthday, while her parents ate with friends at a tapas restaurant 50 yards from the holiday apartment.

The police investigation has been beset with blunders and, in recent weeks, the McCanns have been dogged by hurtful allegations in the Portuguese media that police believe they could have had something to do with Madeleine's disappearance.

Yesterday morning the couple prayed together at the church in Praia da Luz.

Then at 1.55pm, Mrs McCann braved a scrum of photographers and walked into Portimao police station, clutching Madeleine's favourite Cuddle Cat soft toy.

She had been driven there by her husband, who gave her a supportive kiss before returning to Praia da Luz.

Mrs McCann was kept waiting an hour and 15 minutes before the interview began, and she had to choose an interpreter from a list.

Police interviews are not tape-recorded in Portugal and, in the McCanns' case, every sentence has to be translated and written down in full, so the process can take several hours.

Portuguese newspapers appear to be in no doubt that detectives' attention has been focused very much on the McCanns lately.

Yesterday the barrage of smears continued as national daily paper Correio de Manha ran the astonishing claim that a sniffer dog had detected the "scent of death" on Cuddle Cat and on Mrs McCann's clothing.

The paper alleged that a dog specifically trained to sniff out a corpse had reacted positively when presented with the cuddly toy and also Mrs McCann's blouse and a pair of her jeans.

Friends of the couple dismissed the lurid accusations as "complete fabrication".


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