Mr O’Brien’s partner, Jane Tanner, told police that she had seen a man carrying a girl away from the McCanns’ apartment at 9.15pm. However, another witness has insisted that she was not in the area at that time.
A source within the PJ is quoted by 24 Horas as saying: “In face of so many contradictions and in face of the forensics results that we already hold, we have very few doubts that the girl died inside that apartment, and we only have doubts about who concealed the corpse.”
The report follows claims in the British media that although tests on samples discovered in the McCanns’ apartment and hire car do not prove that Madeleine is dead, they have strengthened the theory that her parents were involved in her disappearance.
A source at the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham, which carried out the tests on behalf of the Portuguese authorities, is reported to have said that the results showed police were right to make the couple arguidos, or official suspects.
However, the McCanns’ British law firm, Kingsley Napley, has brought in its own forensic team to explain why the samples may be totally unconnected to Madeleine’s disappearance.
The couple insist that any DNA found in the Renault Scenic hired 25 days after Madeleine’s disappearance could have been transferred innocently from their daughter’s clothing when they moved to a new apartment.
Clarence Mitchell, the couple’s spokesman, said today: “Kate and Gerry have nothing to hide at all. They are perfectly happy to answer any of this, if it comes to it. There are wholly innocent explanations for anything the police may or may not have found."
Mr Mitchell said the couple were unable to grieve for Madeleine because they did not know yet what had happened to their daughter. “They need that knowledge whether Madeleine is alive or dead - let’s face it, she might be,” he said. “They need to know, before they can move on, before they can deal with that.
“In the absence of that hard information, they are doing what they can to, one, clear their names of these dreadful smears and, two, to actually get on with the job of finding her. That is the message we want to go to police in Portugal - ‘find Madeleine’.”
The couple hope that the appointment of a new head of the investigation will refocus the inquiry on finding their daughter. Mr Rebelo was appointed last night after the demotion of the previous lead investigator, Gonçalo Amaral, who had claimed that British police were being manipulated by Madeleine’s parents.
Mr Rebelo made his career at the Central Directory for the Investigation of Drug Trafficking before being appointed one of four associate directors of the PJ. He was head of the Criminal Investigation department in Lisbon when it uncovered a notorious paedophile ring. The “Casa Pia” ring had been abusing boys at state-run children’s homes for decades before being uncovered in 2002. Those alleged to have been involved included senior politicians, a former ambassador, celebrities and wealthy businessmen.
Mr Rebelo was described by colleagues as “highly regarded internally, he has done some excellent work for the PJ, he is nice and a good communicator”. He is close to the PJ’s national director, Alípio Ribeiro.