Although Portuguese police were always blamed byKateand Gerry McCannfor suggesting they were somehow involved in a cover-up over the disappearance of their daughter,Madeleine McCann, it now transpires thatBritish police helped their opposite numbers on the Algarve build the case against the couple. .
In the months following Madeleine's disappearance in May 2007, the Portuguese police were branded "imbeciles" by furious relatives of the McCanns, who later threatened to take legal action against the force after they were cleared.
The revelation that police in Britain "developed the evidence" that led to the McCanns being treated as formal suspect – or arguidos - comes with the latest leak of US embassy cables by WikiLeaks.
A cable detailing a meeting between the British ambassador to Lisbon,Alexander Wykeham Ellis, and US ambassadorAl Hoffman, two weeksafterthe couple were declared arguidos in September 2007, is published today by the Guardian.
"Without delving into the details of the case, Ellis admitted that the British police had developed the current evidence against the McCann parents, and he stressed that authorities from both countries were working cooperatively," Hoffman said in the confidential report back to Washington. Ellis also urged Hoffman to keep any comments regarding the case "behind closed doors".
The cable sheds new light on the fraught months following the disappearance of Madeleine from a holiday apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz. At the time, the McCanns claimed that Portuguese police were turning their focus on them to protect the region's tourism and deflect attention away from their failure to find the three-year-old.
The couple were monitored and questioned by investigators, who believed that they had discovered sufficient forensic evidence to suggest that Maddy had died in their apartment, before being stowed away in a hire car.
The case against the parents was finally dropped in July 2008 and their daughter's disappearance remains a mystery.
A spokesman for the McCanns played down the significance of the WikiLeaks revelations, telling the Guardian: "This is an entirely historic note that is more than three years old... Subsequently, Kate and Gerry had their arguido status lifted, with the Portuguese authorities making it perfectly clear that there was absolutely no evidence to implicate them in Madeleine's disappearance whatsoever."
Dozens of British police officers and forensic specialists were drafted in after Maddy's disappearance, but it is still not clear exactly what role they played. A spokesman for the Leicester police, in the McCanns' home county, told the Guardian they simply coordinated the Portuguese investigation on a local level.