In a very sad turn of events yesterday, both Madeline McCanns parents have been named as suspects in her disappearance from a Portugal Villa in May.
The police decision to name the parents as suspects brought a dramatic twist in the four-month-old case. Their ordeal has drawn attention around the world, partly because of an international campaign they have run to find their daughter.
Until Friday, suspicion had focused on a British man who lived near the hotel from which Madeleine disappeared and who was the only formal suspect. But police said new forensic tests done on evidence gathered months after the girl vanished found traces of blood in the couple’s car, according to Justine McGuinness, a spokeswoman for the family.
The new evidence — including the traces of blood missed in earlier forensic tests — was uncovered by sniffer dogs brought from Britain.
The McCanns have strenuously professed their innocence.
Kate McCann underwent two straight days of interrogation at a police station in southern Portugal on Thursday and Friday. Her husband was questioned separately afterward.
The girl’s aunt said that during the questioning of Kate McCann police suggested Madeleine might have been killed accidentally and offered the mother a plea deal if she confessed.
“They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer — ‘If you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less,”‘ Gerry McCann’s sister, Philomena, told ITV news on Friday.
A police spokesman, Olegario Sousa, confirmed to The Associated Press that police had named a new suspect, but would not say it was Mrs. McCann. He cited privacy laws in declining to comment further. He could not be reached for comment Saturday on the McCanns’ apparent desire to leave Portugal.
The McCanns said they were dining with friends in a hotel restaurant when Madeleine vanished. Their daughter was in their hotel room with her twin 2-year-old siblings, and the parents said they returned frequently to check on them.
Since then, the McCanns have toured Europe with photos of Madeleine and the child’s stuffed animals and clothing, even meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Celebrities including J.K. Rowling and David Beckham made public appeals that helped the family raise more than 1 million pounds (euro1.5 million; US$2 million).
The only formal suspect until now has been Robert Murat, who lives with his mother near the hotel from which the girl disappeared. He has always maintained his innocence. Sousa said Murat’s status as a suspect had not changed.