McCanns urged use of police sniffer dogs
Couple became suspects because of the forensic tests they had requested
Kate and Gerry McCann requested the re-examination of evidence that led directly to the Portuguese police naming the couple as official suspects in the death of their daughter because they were so concerned about the chaotic nature of the police investigation.The couple, worried that inquiries by the Policia Judiciaria were losing momentum, asked detectives last month to re-examine the apartment where their daughter went missing and also for the use of sniffer dogs to seek fresh clues.
The subsequent use of British police-trained dogs detected the 'scent of death' on Kate's clothing, a finding that was central in the decision by the Portuguese authorities to name Madeleine McCann's parents as formal suspects.
Fresh forensic tests also found new biological samples, partially matching Madeleine's DNA, in the apartment and in the parents' hire car - developments that crystallised the thesis of Portuguese police that the couple were somehow responsible for the disappearance of the four-year-old.
'The family were asking for the investigation to be more thorough,' said a source close to the McCanns.
'That is the supreme irony of the case; that it was them who were asking for the police to look harder at the evidence and re-examine all the issues. Is that the action of a guilty couple?'
Police sources close to the investigation said yesterday that, although the sniffer dogs 'reacted' to some of Kate's clothes, 'no usable evidence' could be extracted for DNA testing, meaning there was no forensic corroboration for the dogs' reaction.
Tomorrow, in an ironic reversal of the UK media invasion of Praia da Luz, a number of Portuguese journalists who have been covering the McCann case are due to arrive in Britain and make their way to Rothley for a scheduled press conference on the case.
Before the refocusing of the inquiry urged by the McCanns, Portuguese police had named only Robert Murat as an 'arguido' - official suspect - but sources close to the investigation have told The Observer there is no evidence so far that he was involved. Yesterday a Portuguese newspaper said Murat himself had been told this by police, but that he would remain a formal 'arguido' for the duration of the investigation.
Portuguese detectives appear to be moving back to the notion that Madeleine was abducted by a stranger from her bedroom.
A source close to the inquiry said yesterday that there are 'no new potential suspects' and no serious new leads in the investigation. He added that the search last week of the home of Dutchman Eef Hoos, who runs a business cremating the bodies of family pets about 30 minutes' drive from Praia da Luz, was 'merely routine'.
Police are also thought to be reappraising a reported sighting by a man from Yorkshire of Madeleine in Morocco, which appeared to corroborate that
of a sighting by a Norwegian tourist in the North African country. Although the sighting dates back to May, it remains one of the last credible sightings of Madeleine.
Last week a Portuguese judge ruled there was no need to question the McCanns after police failed to find new evidence.
However, a friend of the McCanns hinted yesterday that they may head back to Portugal even without being summoned by the police.
'They may return for social reasons, they have friends over there,' he said.