Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Parents of Madeleine named suspects

ACCIDENTAL DEATH?Relatives of the UK couple said Portuguese police believed Kate McCann killed Madeleine by accident, a charge which Gerry McCann called `ludicrous'

AFP , PRAIA DA LUZ, PORTUGAL

The parents of British toddler Madeleine McCann placed themselves firmly in the media spotlight in a bid to find the missing girl, but now face attention of a less welcome kind after being named as suspects.

Kate McCann has said she blames herself every day for leaving Madeleine unattended, but now finds that police are pointing the finger at her, with relatives saying that police believe she killed Madeleine accidentally.

Portuguese police on Friday named Kate and her husband Gerry, both doctors, as formal suspects in the case.

The headlines of British papers, which have regularly carried appeals for help since Madeleine disappeared from a Portuguese seaside resort on May 3, have turned more ominous.

"Mother, victim ... suspect: police target Kate McCann" was the headline of Guardian's top story yesterday.

The couple say they left Madeleine, who would now be aged four, and her two-year-old twin siblings in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on the evening of May 3 as they had a meal with friends nearby.

They and their friends checked on the children regularly, they add, although Kate McCann has said she is now wracked with guilt over the arrangement.

"Every hour now, I still question, `Why did I think that was safe?'" she has said.

Her comments came amid the exhaustive round of interviews and photocalls which the couple conducted after Madeleine vanished in the hope that heavy media exposure would jog the memory of someone who may have seen her.

Gerry McCann's sister Philomena told CNN in an interview yesterday that the ordeal "has been incredibly exhausting for them."

She said that being named as suspects "has sapped their morale in the most horrendous way ... because it has taken that hope that they are out there looking for Madeleine away."

Even before the couple were named as arguidos, or formal suspects, the 39-year-old mother seemed to have all the world's problems weighing on her shoulders as she regularly faced journalists to tell of her anguish.

The stress seems etched on the face of the mother, a devout Roman Catholic who has become a regular at the local church in Praia da Luz, where she and her husband and two other children have stayed since the disappearance.

Blonde and elegant, Kate McCann says her faith and a determination that Madeleine is still alive have kept her going.

The family come from Rothley in the central English county of Leicestershire. Kate McCann is a part-time doctor, was originally from Liverpool, and her husband, a cardiologist, is Scottish.

Virtually the day after the disappearance, the parents launched an international campaign to find Madeleine.

The couple fiercely deny any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance, and Gerry McCann has called the new allegations against his wife "ludicrous."

"Anyone who knows anything about the 3rd May knows that Kate is completely innocent. We will fight this all the way and we will not stop looking for Madeleine," he said on Thursday.

During questioning, Portuguese police asked Kate McCann about blood found in a hire car, family spokeswoman Justine McGuinness told British media.

"There's a ludicrous suggestion, that blood was found in their car that they hired 25 days after Madeleine was taken, and that has been put to Kate," McGuinness told Sky News.

"It's been suggested that she is in some way connected to the death of her daughter, which is clearly ridiculous," McGuinness said.

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