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Madeleine McCann police fury over private hunt

Original Source: TELEGRAPH: 26 SEPTEMBER 2007
By Caroline Gammell in Praia da Luz
Last Updated: 2:40am BST 26/09/2007
Kate and Gerry McCann provoked the fury of the Portuguese authorities after it was revealed they had hired private investigators to help find their daughter Madeleine.

The couple were accused by police of employing "diversion tactics".

A senior judge said their actions could prompt charges of obstruction of justice in the hunt for the missing four-year-old who has not been seen since May 3.

Under Portuguese law, it is illegal to carry out independent inquiries into a case while a police investigation is ongoing. But it emerged this week that Mr and Mrs McCann hired investigators from Control Risks Group - who specialise in kidnap, hostage and crisis management - at the end of May.

A source close to the couple's legal team insisted they were only working in an advisory role and were not on the ground in Portugal.

But the company which employs ex-SAS and military personnel is thought to be focusing on Spain and Morocco, where three sightings of a little blonde girl have now been reported.

In Portugal, figures from both the police and judicial arenas vented their anger about the move.

Antonio Martins, president of the National Association of Portuguese Judges, told the newspaper 24 Horas: "It is still up to the state to carry out criminal investigation. That kind of activity has no legal standing.

"Anything that results from private investigation has no substance."

Mr Martins said the private detectives and even the McCanns themselves could be accused of "obstruction of justice".

Carlos Anjos, the head of Portugal's criminal police federation, added: "This can only be another diversion tactic from the McCanns. It is nothing but folklore.

"Portugal does not have legislation in this area. Private detectives who intervene in criminal cases cannot exist.

"The law only tolerates private detectives who gather information and only about matters of the private lives of certain people like extramarital relationships."

A separate police source warned that the involvement of investigators may not only be illegal but could have a detrimental effect on the inquiry.

The high ranking official told newspaper Correio da Manha: "If private investigators come here they will be running a serious risk of being arrested."


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