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Madeleine McCann prosecutor: no charges without a body

Original Source: TIMES: 24 SEPTEMBER 2007
From The Times David Brown in Praia da Luz and Patrick Foster
September 24, 2007
The police case against Kate and Gerry McCann for killing their daughter appeared to be crumbling today after a senior prosecutor said that Madeleine’s body must be found to secure a conviction.

The development came as the McCann family said that they expected to spend a year fighting to clear their names and that they would rather Madeleine was found dead than be left in the “awful limbo” position of not knowing what fate had befallen her. It is also thought that former military personnel are engaged in a series of searches to find the missing four-year-old.

António Cluny, president of the Portuguese public prosecutors’ service, said that it appeared that there was insufficient forensic evidence to prove that Madeline was killed by her parents.

His comments follow increasing reports in Portugal that samples taken from the McCanns’ apartment and hire car are inconclusive. Last week a judge said police had failed to gather new evidence to justify reinterviewing Madeleine’s parents.

Mr and Mrs McCann have insisted that any samples from Madeleine found in the Renault Scenic hired 25 days after her disappearance could have come from her clothes or belongings which were carried in the car.

Mr Cluny told the 24 Horas newspaper: “Without the little girl’s body everything is extremely complicated. There have been cases where it has been possible to obtain a conviction without there being a victim, but there were confessions.

“One cannot accuse a person of homicide without there being very strong evidence. In the Maddie case there is no confession and according to what has been made public the evidence gathered up until now keeps all leads open, from abduction to homicide or at least to a simple accident.”

He later added: “If we have a body our work is done for us, if we don’t we have to dig deeper and work harder.”

When asked if it would be possible to secure a conviction, he said: “It is highly possible it is just harder. It will take longer and take more work.” His comments will be a severe blow to senior officers in the Polícia Judiciária (PJ) who have briefed Portuguese journalists that they have compelling evidence that the McCanns accidentally killed their daughter before disposing of her body.

The PJ is reported to have been ordered by the public prosecutor to find Madeleine’s body or accept that Mr and Mrs McCann will not be charged. A Police source told 24 Horas: “It is currently our great priority and operations in that sense are being developed, although without results finding the body is fundamental to solving the case.” The source said that the case against the McCanns, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was “hanging by a thread”.

A source close to the McCanns’ legal team said today that they expected to remain arguidos for months to come. Portuguese law allows for the status of formal suspect to be extended for up to a year.

The source said: “The mood is that they’re in this for the long haul. They’re not going to be cleared next week, let’s put it that way. They’re assuming that this could go the full year. This is a long, drawn-out legal process.”

The McCanns fear a “worst case scenario” of Madeleine’s body never being found, a friend said. “If there is no body found and they are not charged and their arguido status falls away, then they’ll have this hanging over their heads.

“But that’s unacceptable because they are innocent. Why should they have this stain on their characters? It would be the worst case scenario because nobody, least of all them, will ever know what’s happened.

“Of course Madeleine being found dead would be a trauma of dreadful proportions for the family. But nevertheless at least it would give them a sense of being able to understand what has happened and why, and to use that horrible American word, closure.”

It is thought that former armed forces personnel are involved in the search for Madeleine in a number of countries. A source said that Control Risks Group, the private investigations firm, had been helping the McCanns since May in a pro bono advisory capacity, but did not have employees “on the ground”.

The source said: “Who’s to say that those helping are a formal group? Offers are there all the time. You wouldn’t want to tangle with some of them. They’re not pastry chefs, let’s put it that way.”

Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ spokesman, today gave a press conference in Rothley. He said: “They are a family facing possible bereavement. They hope desperately that the next phone call is ’We have found her and she’s OK’. I am not naive but that is still a possibility.

“All I can say is that they are positive and they are working hard to find Madeleine and, secondly, to clearing their name. They know they are innocent, I know they are innocent. They did not harm, let alone kill, her.

“If you spent any time with them as a family you would know on a human level for one thing they haven’t done it.

“The house is full of love for the children; they have not harmed Madeleine let alone killed her, let alone disposed of her. It is just laughable and time will prove me and everyone else who has supported them right, I assure you.”

Inconclusive proof

What forensic evidence has been collected?

Dozens of samples were recovered from apartments used by the McCanns and another family at the Ocean Club resort. Police have also searched the McCanns’ hire car. The material has been examined by the Forensic Science Service (FSS) in Birmingham

Is there enough evidence to convict Kate and Gerry McCann?

Portuguese detectives have been briefing the media since the middle of August that there was compelling evidence from hair, bodily fluids and blood. But in the past ten days the briefings have been more doubtful. A police source told 24 Horas newspaper yesterday: “There is no element which can definitively state that the body of the little girl was transported in that vehicle”

What does the FSS say about its results?

The laboratory was reported yesterday to have sent an e-mail to Portuguese police complaining that its findings had been “widely misused”. The Mail on Sunday said that the FSS had criticised detectives for overplaying the results and leaking information – most of it inaccurate – to the Portuguese media

What do the British authorities say?

Leicestershire police say they are bound by the Portuguese laws of judicial secrecy and that releasing any information on the case could jeopardise their delicate working relationship with colleagues in Portugal

The rich list bankrolling the McCanns

Brian Kennedy Made £250 million from double glazing and home improvements and now owns Latium Group plastics and Sale Sharks rugby union team. Offered Latium’s in-house lawyer and is paying the McCanns’ new official spokesman, Clarence Mitchell

Sir Richard Branson Contributed to rewards totalling £2.5 million after Madeleine’s disappearance. Has spoken to the McCanns several times and this month donated £100,000 to a fund for their legal costs. “I trust them implicitly,” he said. Is trying to encourage other wealthy people to contribute to the legal fund

Sir Philip Green The billionaire owner of TopShop and BHS lent the McCanns his private jet for their visit to meet the Pope. Known to have been annoyed when news of his involvement emerged and has refused to comment on his current involvement

John Geraghty A 68-year-old businessman from Leicestershire who now lives on the outskirts of Praia da Luz. Offered to store the McCanns’ hire car so that they could commission independent forensic tests


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