An Italian man and a Portuguese woman were arrested Thursday on suspicion of links to the case of Madeleine McCann, the 4-year-old British girl who vanished nearly two months ago during a vacation in Portugal, police said.
Spanish authorities told Italian diplomats that the man had no connection with the girl’s disappearance, said Italian Foreign Ministry officials who spoke on condition of anonymity according to ministry rules. They did not say why the man was detained.
Spanish police did not say if the man was suspected of a role in the girl’s disappearance, but Spanish television news reports said he may have tried to extort money from McCann’s parents, offering them information about the whereabouts of their daughter.
The man was detained in the town of Sotogrande in the southern province of Cadiz on an international arrest warrant originating in France, a police spokeswoman said.
She said the warrant had nothing to do with the McCann case, but would not elaborate. The woman was detained because of her association with the man, and there was no warrant for her arrest, the spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with police rules, did not identify either suspect or say how they were located.
Members of the McCann family in Britain said they were withholding comment until more information was known.
“We have no comment to make, because we know no more than we have seen on the news,” said John McCann, brother of Madeleine’s father, Gerry.
Madeleine’s great uncle, Brian Kennedy, said he did not know any details about the man’s detention. “We are trying not to get our hopes up too much because they so frequently get dashed,” he told Sky News.
First two arrests in case
Madeleine disappeared on May 3 after her parents left her and her brother and sister, 2-year-old twins, alone in their room while they went to a restaurant inside their hotel complex in Praia da Luz, a tiny resort town in Portugal’s Algarve region.
Police have identified just one suspect in the case, but made no arrests before Thursday.
Portuguese police said a month ago that they were searching for a white man between 35 and 40 years old in connection with the girl’s disappearance. They said the suspect had been wearing a dark jacket and beige trousers on the day the girl disappeared, and was spotted possibly carrying the girl near to where she had vanished.
Police have received countless tips in the last two months, and the girl’s parents have launched an international campaign to find her, enlisting the aid of celebrities such as soccer star David Beckham and J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books.