Gerry McCann and Kate McCann Remain Prime Suspects

Gerry and Kate McCann's hope of being cleared over their daughter's disappearance appeared crushed today after they were reportedly named as prime suspects in a new police dossier.

There had been hopes that the couple's status as official suspects could be lifted in coming days. But they may now remain under suspicion for years, after Portuguese detectives submitted an interim report to prosecutors.
Police are keeping to their theory that the McCanns could have accidentally killed three-year-old Madeleine and then disposed of her body.

Under new Portuguese laws - still largely untested - there had been a suggestion that files on the case could be made public today on the eight month anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance. The deadline prompted hopes the official suspects - or arguido - status could then be removed.

Robert Murat

Robert Murat's lawyer has said it would be 'cruelty' if he is not cleared over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

But according to Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha, the Policia Judiciaria will hand over an interim report in which the McCanns remain at the centre of inquiries.

The dossier will also include the possibility Madeleine was abducted from the holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on 3 May - adding to confusion in the case and reinforcing the view that Portuguese police have no real idea what actually happened to the girl.

The insistence on naming the parents comes despite growing concern that forensic evidence from their apartment and hire car is flawed. Portuguese police sources had suggested the evidence was far from conclusive. The McCanns, both 39, maintain their innocence.

The only other official suspect, Robert Murat, had also hoped he would be cleared in the next few days, but this hope appeared to be dashed by the report's contention that Madeleine might have been abducted.

Correio da Manha added that the police report would contain a request to reinterview the McCanns and their friends - known as the Tapas Nine - in Britain in coming weeks. After those interviews the McCanns' lawyers are expected to apply for arguido status to be removed.

The dossier has been dismissed by the McCanns' advisers as "pure speculation".

Edward Smethurst, the lawyer conducting the McCanns' defence, said: "We have received no information to suggest that the court file is going to be opened today and indeed we believe it's likely that it will be some time before the court file is made available."

Referring to media coverage of the police dossier, he added: "Any report about the leaked document we believe is completely without substance. We think it arises out of pure speculation on the part of the Portuguese press."

The McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said: "If this interim police report exists it appears to say nothing new. It apparently maintains the position that Kate and Gerry remain arguidos. I also note that it says the exact same thing about Mr Murat.

"More importantly it says that abduction is a possibility as well, as we have maintained all along.

"All we will say is that this appears to be nothing new and the police appear to be restating their current position.

"We hope that once the police realise there is no case against Kate and Gerry that they will lift their arguido status."

Mr Murat's lawyer, Francisco Pagarete, said he had not received notification today of the court file's publication.

He said: "I have had no letter from the public prosecutor. I don't know if they are going to ask for a postponement of the secrecy law or not.

"When the prosecutor arrives at a decision, he writes it down and sends me a letter telling me of the decision. The postman has been and left me no letter."

The McCanns have been told by their lawyers they may have to go to the European Court of Human Rights to have their arguido status lifted.

The prospect of the case dragging on for years was reinforced today by the president of the National Union of Portuguese Judges.

Antonio Martins said: "The problem is that no-one knows what type of crime was committed. If it was homicide the investigation can only be shelved after 20 years, if it was kidnap 15 years."

It emerged today the McCanns have hired a detective who investigated a 7/7 suicide bomber. Noel Hogan is conductinga "cold case" review.

The former Met detective superintendent, who runs the agency Hogan International, in Farnham said: "I have been reinterviewing witnesses that were out in Portugal at the time."

It is understood these include friends of the McCanns.

Hogan International was investigating Jermaine Lindsay in the run-up to the 7 July attacks in London in 2005 after a bank became alarmed by his spending patterns.

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