November 10 2014
– British police have reduced the number of detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann despite officers getting permission to question a number of new witnesses.
Police are preparing to return to Portugal to quiz around ten potential witnesses for the first time, but two detective sergeants and four detective constables have reportedly been removed from the case in the past year.
Six extra civilian staff have been brought onto the investigation, so although the number of detectives has been cut from 29 to 23, 37 people continue to work on the case, which has so far cost £7.3million.
Britons will be quizzed as new suspects over missing Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, it was claimed today. The British nationals are among a group of seven people due to be questioned as arguidos – a Portuguese legal term roughly translating as ‘formal suspect’ +8
Scaled back: British police have reduced the number of detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann despite officers getting permission to question a number of new witnesses
A police spokesman told The Mirror: ‘Staff numbers are open to change depending on the needs of the review.’
The investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance from the holiday resort of Praia de Luz on May 3, 2007, was reopened by the Metropolitan Police in 2011 and the reduction in detectives involved could be interpreted as the probe being scaled back.
British police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine…
Trick or treat girl, seven, tells how Claudia Winkleman’s…
Smiling through, girl aged 12 who is fighting dementia:…
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
News of the numbers working on the case came as prosecutor Ines Sequeira paved the way for a new British police visit to the Algarve by approving a fifth international letter of request which had been gathering dust following her predecessor’s departure in the summer.
Officers in Faro are now scheduling the interviews, which will take place at the PJ police station in the town where four suspects were quizzed at the start of July.
Parents: Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann have continued to fight to find their daughter after she disappeared seven years ago +8
Parents: Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann have continued to fight to find their daughter after she disappeared seven years ago
Last week a new picture of three-year-old Madeleine dressed as a pumpkin was released by a campaign group +8
Three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished from the room she was sharing with her younger twin siblings in Praia Da Luz more than seven years ago +8
Missing: Last week a new picture of three-year-old Madeleine dressed as a pumpkin was released by a campaign group with the blessing of her parents. She vanished from the room she was sharing with her younger twin siblings in Praia Da Luz more than seven years ago
It was thought three of the suspects would be given a new grilling when the Operation Grange team led by DCI Andy Redwood returned to Portugal.
But Mrs Sequeira, 49, is understood to have authorised only interviews with a string of witnesses who British police have never questioned directly.
Respected Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias said Scotland Yard opted out of asking for permission to reinterview the suspects in their fifth letter of request, which state prosecutors received in August.
Around ten witnesses are expected to be quizzed, including some who were questioned by Portuguese police after Madeleine vanished from her holiday apartment in Praia da Luz more than seven years ago.
The unnamed witnesses are expected to receive police summons in the coming days. As happened during the July round of interrogations, British police will sit in on the interviews but they will be led by Portuguese officers who will ask questions on their behalf.
Lead investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood (second left) with British police and their Portuguese counterparts investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in June of this year +8
Lead investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood (second left) with British police and their Portuguese counterparts investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in June of this year
The Operation Grange team last visited Portugal three weeks ago.
A small team of three officers including DCI Andy Redwood met Policia Judiciaria bosses in Faro for an update meeting before travelling to the university city of Coimbra a five hour drive north to visit a lab where many of the DNA samples collected after Madeleine’s disappearance are held.
British police told bosses at Portugal’s Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences they wanted to retest some of the samples to try to crack the mystery of Madeleine’s disappearance.
They are yet to send a sixth international letter of request which mother-of-four Mrs Sequeira will have to authorise before Met Police forensics experts are allowed access to the lab or given permission to take samples to Britain to analyse them.
The forensic material includes hairs and pieces of the curtains that hung in apartment 5A at the Ocean Club holiday complex where Madeleine was sleeping with baby siblings Sean and Amelie, now nine, while her parents Kate and Gerry ate tapas nearby.
British police shifting through soil on an area of wasteland during a search for Madeleine McCann last June +8
British police with sniffer dogs check an area of scrubland close to where Madeleine McCann went missing +8
British police shifting through soil on an area of wasteland during a search for Madeleine McCann in June 2014
It emerged last week nearly 100 strands of hair tested during the original Madeleine McCann investigation were never DNA-matched.
Portuguese forensic experts analysed 444 hair strands they believed could hold the key to the youngster’s disappearance.
They found 432 were human and 12 non-human. They were unable to DNA-match 98 of them and only obtained partial results from 19 of them, it was reported last week.
Institute president Francisco Brizida, said after the October 14 meeting: ‘I have the certainty they went away very happy.
‘The tonic of the meeting was about the possibility of the tests on samples collected in 2007 being re-done.
‘The British police wanted clarification on the examinations the institute had carried out during the early stages of the inquiry in the areas of genetics and biology.
‘We talked about non-identified material that was collected in Madeleine’s apartment.
‘I can’t say for sure new DNA tests that didn’t yield a conclusive result in 2007 could now yield an objective result.
‘But technology nowadays allows us to go further than years ago in areas like genetic markers.
The Ocean Club in Praia Da Luz where Madeleine McCann was staying when she disappeared in May 2007 +8
The Ocean Club in Praia Da Luz where Madeleine McCann was staying when she disappeared in May 2007
‘Several possibilities are open. One could be that British police do the tests in Britain with British technology and another that the institute does them.
‘But that’s an area in which the institute does not have the last word. There’s a situation of judicial cooperation and a new international letter of request would be necessary.’
The Operation Grange inquiry is running in parallel with a new Portuguese probe, reopened in May more than five years after being shelved.
Scotland Yard detectives suspect Madeleine, three when she vanished, was killed during a bungled break-in.
They dug up waste ground and inspected sewers in Praia da Luz in June in a grim search for her body.
One of the suspects questioned in July was a former Ocean Club worker and another a 51-year-old schizophrenic drug addict. They both denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.
Portuguese police believe Madeleine was snatched by a foreigner no longer living in Portugal.
However they have not ruled out the involvement of junkie burglar Euclides Monteiro, whose widow they questioned last year.
Last month, it emerged the cost of the British police search for Madeleine will soon top £10 million – double the original amount estimated by the Home Office when the force was called in by David Cameron in 2011.
The Home Office has defending the rising cost of the probe, insisting: ‘The Government believes it is right that it does all it can to support the search for Madeleine McCann.’
– Lucy Crossley & Gerard Couzens