Evidence: the Renault Scenic hire car used by the McCanns in Portugal. Police say they found substantial amounts of Madeleine’s hair in the trunk
Daily Mail | Sep 12, 2007
By SAM GREENHILL, PAUL HARRIS and MICHAEL SEAMARK
. . .
• Ten-volume dossier of ‘evidence’ handed to Portuguese judge
• ‘There was so much hair it could not be from DNA transference but from the body being in the boot’
• Police theory that body was hidden in village in first few weeks
• Bodily fluids found in the car match Madeleine’s DNA
• Parents could be summoned to Portugal and placed under house arrest
. . .
Kate and Gerry McCann’s hopes of lifting the cloud of suspicion over them has suffered a major setback.
It has been claimed that “substantial” quantities of their daughter Madeleine’s hair were found in the boot of the car they hired 25 days after she disappeared.
Portuguese detectives told the public prosecutor that the only explanation was that the hair came either from her body or from something used to wrap it.
Sources also insisted that bodily fluids found in the car – not necessarily blood – matched the four-year-old’s DNA.
The claims came as detectives handed a ten-volume dossier on the case of Madeleine’s disappearance to the public prosecutor.
Less than three hours later it was announced that the file had been passed to a judge to investigate – the clearest indication yet that the couple are believed to have a case to answer.
This takes the McCanns a step nearer learning if they are to be charged with killing their missing daughter.
But they must still wait to find out if the judge thinks the case is strong enough to bring them back to Portugal for trial.
Yesterday, Mr McCann updated his internet blog for the first time since Thursday and insisted he and his wife were “100 per cent confident” in each other’s innocence.
The developments in Portugal further dashed the couple’s hopes for a speedy end for what they have described as a campaign of “smears and stitch-ups” being waged against them.
Detectives allege that Mrs McCann was involved in the deliberate or accidental death of Madeleine, and that her husband disposed of the body.
Their evidence for those claims was detailed in the hefty dossier handed to public prosecutor Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses at lunchtime yesterday.
Although the file was quickly passed on to the judge to investigate, this in itself does not mean that charges are certain to be brought.
Under the Portuguese justice system, the prosecutor needs a judge’s authorisation even to execute search warrants, to order more searches, or to change the status of the McCanns as formal suspects who have been allowed to leave the country.
Legal experts told the Daily Mail that the couple’s status could be changed at any time to allow them to be summoned back and placed under house arrest.
But indications last night were that police are convinced they already have enough evidence, even if they are ordered to conduct more searches, tests or interviews.
Having passed the file to the judge, any request for search warrants or other investigations must now be made within ten days.
However Portuguese journalists with contacts in the police said they expected action far sooner.
They suggested police are itching for permission to search certain specific locations – which they have identified from secretly monitoring the McCanns’ phones.
It is understood they need a judge’s permission before acting on information obtained from a phone tap, and that one of the requests made by the prosecutor to the judge is “urgent” and has to be answered in 24 hours.
Portuguese sources believe this request to be either a search warrant or an order to seize an “object”.
The sample of bodily fluid allegedly found in the McCanns’ hired Renault Scenic was taken from the boot, where the spare tyre is kept, and had an 88 per cent match with the missing four-year-old’s DNA, sources said.
The claims further intensify pressure on the two 39-year-old doctors, who quit Portugal on Sunday with their twins Sean and Amelie to return home to Rothley, Leicestershire.
Friends of the couple believe they are being “fitted up” in a sinister campaign by the Portuguese to pressure them into making a confession.
Apart from forensic results, the police case against the McCanns contains details of bugged phone conversations between the couple and their friends.
Both the McCanns were declared official suspects by detectives in the case last Friday, and family friends have said they fear they will be charged.
Detectives believe there is enough evidence to charge Mrs McCann with accidentally killing Madeleine in the living room and her husband with helping dispose of the body.
Last night Mr McCann’s sister Philomena defiantly insisted: “If they bring charges against Kate and Gerry that will give them a chance to clear their name. It will give us a chance to end all this speculation.”
Family friend and godfather to the twins, Jon Corner, told BBC2’s Newsnight the couple were taking the news of the latest developments “surprisingly well”.
Asked about the possibility that Kate and Gerry could face charges he said: “I am not so sure of that.
“It is ten volumes, I believe, ten huge ringbinders of information have gone to the Portuguese judiciary and that is an opportunity for some measured calm. That is an awful lot of information to go through.
“Over the last few days we have had some unusual interpretations of that information and a lot of irrationalities as well.”
Asked about newspaper reports that Madeleine’s hair was found in the boot of the hire car he said: “Well I can’t comment on that, nobody knows what the police evidence is.”
However, the couple’s anguish could only have deepened with the claims that “substantial” quantities of Madeleine’s hair were found in the boot of their hire car.
A police source said: “Some of the samples of DNA were taken from hair which matches Madeleine’s DNA.
“There was so much hair it could not be from DNA transference but from the body being in the boot.”
Dr Michael Bade, chief forensic pathologist for New York State Police and former chief medical examiner of the city, said a decaying body would produce a “mass of material” unless it was tightly wrapped.
“If the hair shows signs of decomposition that means it was in the scalp as the body was decomposing and that would be particularly significant.
“Hair which is pulled from the scalp or cut while the person is alive does not decompose.”
The decomposition marks the hair with a dark band at the scalp which can easily be seen under a microscope.
British scientists remain fully confident about the accuracy of their findings, which triggered last week’s dramatic shift of focus by the Portuguese police on to Madeleine’s parents.
The revelations about the DNA evidence appear to give a further indication of the reasons behind the Portuguese decision to name the McCann as formal suspects – or arguidos.
Initially, the Portuguese police refused to comment on the new forensic claims, but later the country’s national police chief Alipio Ribeiro sought to play down the alleged findings by saying that they were not conclusive.
“We can’t say with certainty whether it was the blood of person A or person B,” he said.
“They help guide us in our investigation but not with the mathematical precision some people are saying.”
Other police sources said Madeleine’s body would not necessarily need to have been in the boot for the evidence still to show she was dead. For example, a blanket used to wrap her body could have been put in car, and yield crucial DNA.
Police said they did not know where the body was hidden, but their theory is that in the first weeks it was hidden “in the south area of the village” and later transported to another place.
They are ready to begin a new wave of searches in the hunt for clues to Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3.
They have earmarked specific sites for investigation in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz and at a neighbouring beach.
Officers working on the assumption that she is dead will use dogs to follow any trail in the hope it might lead to her body, or to traces of where it might have been.
If the search leads to Madeleine’s body, it could even allow experts to pinpoint when, where and how she might have died.
Dogs will be brought in to check inside and outside Our Lady of the Light, the seaside chapel in Praia da Luz where the McCanns prayed for Madeleine’s return. The priest gave them keys and free access to the church.
The road beside the church was being excavated on May 3 and for weeks afterwards.
It was riddled with deep pits of loose sand and gravel, which were gradually filled in by mechanical diggers and shovels before the whole area was resurfaced with cobbles.
It need not be necessary to re-excavate the entire area – dogs might still be able to pick up a scent while heat-seeking cameras could detect a body.
• More than 17,000 internet users have signed a petition urging Leicestershire Social Services to investigate the McCanns for “neglecting” Madeleine and her brother and sister by leaving them “unattended in an unlocked ground floor hotel room”.
Many of the signatories added abusive remarks about the McCanns, typically claiming that they have been given an easy ride because they are middle-class.