NEWS / SHOWBIZ
MADDY'S PARENTS TO FACE INQUIRY
PARENTS: Gerry and Kate with a poster of their missing daughter
By Matt Drake in Praia da Luz
THE parents of Madeleine McCann face an inquiry over the way they left their three children alone in a holiday apartment on the night she vanished.
Crown Prosecution Service lawyers are having “informal discussions” to see whether any offence was committed.
And in Portugal a campaign has begun in an attempt to see the couple jailed for neglect.
Gerry and Kate McCann have said they checked on the children regularly while with friends in a nearby tapas bar.
The development comes as Portuguese police prepare to question prime suspect Robert Murat for a third time.
They will quiz him this week over reports of messages discovered on his home computer discussing a mobile phone
picture of a “small British girl”.
The Sunday Express has learnt that sinister rumours on the internet and malicious allegations in the Portuguese press about the McCanns’ private life have provoked complaints to British police demanding that the couple be arrested.
Senior detectives in Portugal have been accused of leaking details about the investigation to the local media in an attempt to blacken the McCanns’ name.
Despite the country’s strict prejudice law, forbidding police to talk to the public, vital details in the inquiry have found there way on to internet chat rooms.
Yesterday Mr McCann said he and his wife were outraged by the cruel slurs which have forced him to take legal advice in case the CPS decides to prosecute.
An article last week in Portugal’s Sol magazine accused the McCanns and the other families in their holiday group of hiding behind a “pact of silence”. It said the McCanns’ friends had constantly altered their version of events and that they were a “very strange group that never stayed with their children”.
The accusations have triggered “high-level informal talks” among CPS lawyers about the conduct of Madeleine’s parents, who are both well-respected doctors.
Senior lawyers are considering whether an offence was committed under the 1933 Young Persons Act, which deals with ill-treatment, cruelty, neglect and abandonment of children under 16.
If charges were brought and the McCanns found guilty, they could face up to two years in jail.
The family’s spokeswoman, Justine McGuinness, said: “If they could turn back time there are things that they might have done differently, with the benefit of hindsight. But it is impossible to say whether, had there been an adult in the apartment at the time of the abduction, it would have stopped a predator.
“There are, sadly, several cases of children being taken by an adult with criminal intention while they have been very close by their parents.”
Despite overwhelming support for the couple since four-year-old Madeleine vanished 80 days ago, the CPS has received complaints from members of the public blaming the toddler’s parents for “abandoning” her when they went out for a meal with friends in the evening.
Lawyers are also keen to establish why the McCanns did not leave anyone to babysit Madeleine and two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie despite the resort offering a free childminding service.
A CPS source said: “There are a number of aspects that need to be considered.”
Last night Mr McCann, who today arrives in America to discuss child protection issues with US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, said: “Kate and I find this type of criticism deeply hurtful and unhelpful. As each hour passes our pain and anguish increases.
“Anyone who knows us knows we love our children. We have always taken our responsibilities as parents with the utmost seriousness. The authorities have assured us they regard the criticisms as without foundation."