Wednesday 10 March 2010 | Madeleine McCann feed


Home Office launches secret review into Madeleine McCann's disappearance

The Home Office has secretly begun a review that could lead to a fresh police inquiry into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Home Office launches secret review into Madeleine McCann's disappearance
Missing Madeleine McCann Photo: PA

The move follows the release of 2,000 pages of evidence last week which Portuguese detectives are accused of having failed to fully investigate.

According to sources close to the McCanns, Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, has ordered officials to examine the 'feasibility' of British or Portuguese detectives looking afresh at all the evidence.

Kate and Gerry McCann met with Mr Johnson last year to plead for help in their search for Madeleine, who vanished without trace in May 2007 from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

The couple have also met with John Yates, the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner, who has headed up a number of high profile inquiries in recent years.

He is said to be "sympathetic" and to have made "general offers of assistance".

The source said: "The latest we have heard from the Home Office is officials are undertaking a 'scoping exercise' to look into the possibility of a review of the case.

"They are looking at all the options. It is basically a feasibility study.

"Kate and Gerry met with Alan Johnson to request a review is done. Hopefully any political intervention can unlock obstructions that might be in the way."

Pressure is now being put on Portuguese authorities to agree in the first instance to a three-day review of the case that could be held at Interpol's headquarters in Lyon in France.

The McCanns will hope the Home Office can persuade their Portuguese counterparts to co-operate in a case review.

The review – were it to go ahead – would involve British police working with Portuguese counterparts as well as experts in child abduction across other European forces.

The Portuguese police have been heavily criticised for their handling of the case which led to detectives naming the McCanns, both doctors from Leicestershire, as arguidos – or suspects – in the case and accusing them of involvement in her disappearance.

Their arguido status was subsequently lifted and the police investigation shelved.

But with the senior officer in charge Goncalo Amaral now widely discredited and facing financial ruin after being sued for libel by the McCanns over a book he wrote, it may become harder for the Portuguese to refuse the request for a thorough review.

The revelation that possible leads – many passed to Portuguese police by the McCanns' own private detectives – had apparently been ignored will add to the clamour.

Last week, details emerged of a series of possible sightings of Madeleine, who was just three when she vanished.

Guilhermino Encarnacao, who was in charge of the Policia Judiciaria in the Algarve, died two weeks ago from stomach cancer.

Mr Encarnacao was convinced Madeleine had died in her parents' apartment and was a major source of a series of off the record briefings to journalists against the McCanns.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that the Home Secretary had a private meeting with Kate and Gerry McCann.

"Leicestershire Police stand ready to co-ordinate and complete enquiries if further information comes to light in the UK; or if requested to do so by the Portuguese authorities, who continue to lead on the overall investigation."

The spokesman refused to discuss what talks took place at the meeting or whether there was the chance of a review of the evidence at Interpol.

The spokesman added: "We are not going to comment on the outcome of any private meeting with the McCanns."

Mr Yates was unavailable for comment. He led the cash for honours investigation and was also involved in a new inquiry into the murder of Julie Ward, who was murdered in Kenya in 1988.

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