September 7, 2007 / 7:56 AM / 12 years ago

Mother of missing British girl to be declared suspect

PRAIA DA LUZ, Portugal (Reuters) - The mother of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in Portugal four months ago, will formally be declared a suspect on Friday, a spokeswoman for the family said.

Kate McCann, mother of missing British girl Madeleine, is accompanied by an unidentified person as she arrives at the criminal police headquarters in Portimao, southern Portugal September 7, 2007. REUTERS/Carlos Brito - F32

Kate McCann entered the police station in the city of Portimao on Friday at around 6 a.m. EDT to be interviewed for the second time in 24 hours.

“She will formally be declared a suspect,” said Justine McGuinness, a spokeswoman for the McCanns. “Kate knows it’s possible that she could get arrested.”

But Portuguese police spokesman Olegario de Sousa said she was still only a witness in the case, adding that somebody could be a declared a suspect at any point in the investigation.

“That possibility always exists but we are talking about a real case and at this point I cannot say whether she has been declared a suspect or not,” Sousa told Reuters.

Police interviewed McCann for 11 hours on Thursday after they received forensic evidence from various sites including the holiday apartment in the Algarve where four-year-old Madeleine vanished on May 3.

McGuinness said McCann had told her that police found blood in a car hired by her and her husband, Gerry, but there was no confirmation it was Madeleine’s blood. The car had been hired 25 days after Madeleine disappeared.

“They believe they have evidence to show in some way that she is involved in the death of her daughter, which of course is completely ludicrous,” McGuinness told BBC television.


Since her disappearance, Madeleine’s parents have campaigned relentlessly to draw attention to the case and won sympathy around Europe. Their efforts led to a meeting with Pope Benedict in Rome who blessed a picture of their daughter.

Kate has been going to church almost daily to pray for her daughter’s safe return.

Under Portuguese law, declaring her a suspect would indicate that police think she may have been involved in the crime but it would not necessarily mean that she would be detained.

It could mean that she would be barred from leaving Portugal but she would also have more legal protection than as a witness, including the right not to answer questions. She would be more closely monitored by police.

The only other suspect, a Briton living in Praia da Luz, has not been arrested even though he was declared a suspect soon after Madeleine disappeared. His house has been searched twice.

A friend of the McCanns who spoke to Kate on Friday said she was stunned at being declared a suspect.

“I did speak to Kate in the early hours of this morning and clearly she is stunned and disappointed. Disappointed, not only to be at this stage a suspect, but I think (at) the realization that they are not actually looking for Madeleine,” the family friend told the BBC.

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“She sounded disappointed, calm, disappointed, tired.”

British business tycoons and celebrities ranging from “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling to soccer stars have contributed to a reward for her return.

Additional reporting by Avril Ormsby and Henrique Almeida

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