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Search continues for Madeleine McCann

British 4-year-old was last seen in a Portuguese hotel room on June 4

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Break in the Madeleine McCann case?
June 14: An anonymous letter was sent to a Dutch paper with claims to know where the missing child's body may be found. NBC's Keith Miller reports.
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Clint Van Zandt

It has been six weeks since the British parents of now 4-year-old Madeleine McCann left her and her 2-year-old twin brother and sister alone to sleep in a resort hotel bedroom while the parents ate dinner in a restaurant located about the distance of a football field from the children's bedroom.  Gerry and Kate McCann, both medical doctors, have told authorities that all three children were put to bed and that they "frequently" checked on the status of their children while they, the parents, were dining.  Gerry McCann says they last checked on the three infants at 9:00 PM and when he and his wife returned to the room at 9:45 PM, the patio door to the apartment was found standing open and a window was also open.  The twins were in their bed, and young Madeleine was missing.  She has not been seen since.

Many people have commented on the inappropriateness of leaving three children ages three and younger alone in a room, especially when baby sitters were available at the resort.  Forty-five minutes between checks does not meet my definition of "frequently" checking on young children in a strange environment, and police have questioned the parents regarding any possible role they may have had in their daughter's disappearance.  This is something akin to the questioning of John and Patsy in the murder of their young daughter, Jon Benet Ramsey, over 11 years ago, although the McCanns do not currently have the so-called "cloud of suspicion" over them that the Ramseys experienced.

Portuguese police, eventually supported by UK investigators, have a number of potential theories to explain Madeleine's disappearance, including the possibility she was kidnapped by either an international pedophilia network or an illegal adoption group.  By this, police suggest their opinion that were she to have been the victim of a stranger abduction, she would likely have been targeted by a group that may have identified and stalked her as a specific victim for a sexually related crime against a child, or that she may have been targeted, and again possibly pre-selected, as someone to kidnap and sell to a family seeking a particular kind of child to "adopt."  Alleged sightings of Madeleine have led police across Portugal into Spain, Switzerland and Morocco, plus other locations where a child that looked like Madeleine was observed, or in one case, where a telephone intercept picked up individuals speaking in Arabic talking about "the little blond girl," a German man and a ferry boat.

Initially police centered their attention on another citizen of the UK, in that case 33-year-old, one-eyed Robert Murat, who lived with his mother in a villa next to the resort from which Madeleine disappeared.  Murat came to the attention of investigators due to his identifying himself to media as the chief language interpreter between Madeleine's family, the media and the police, along with his statement that he had a daughter that looked like Madeleine who was in the care of his divorced wife.  Murat's home, vehicles, cell phone and computers were subsequently searched by police and his mother, his current girlfriend and his girlfriend's former husband have also been interviewed.  One media report indicated that Murat had child pornography and images related to bestiality on his computer, and that he had telephonic contact within an hour of Madeleine's disappearance with 22-year-old Sergey Malinka, a person Murat identified as a friend and IT person.  Coincidentally Malinka has also been identified as a convicted sex offender.

The crime scene investigation inside of the room from which Madeleine disappeared has yielded unidentified DNA.  Attempts to match the DNA to Madeleine's parents or to Murat have been unsuccessful to date, but again, it is a hotel room that has been used by other resort guests in the past.  Many other local residents and known kidnappers and pedophiles have also been looked at as potential suspects, but nothing has been found to date to lead to Madeleine.  Even a multimillion dollar reward for her return and almost 100 million hits on Web sites devoted to her disappearance have failed to produce anything other than dead end leads.  

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