Police on Tuesday handed the results of their investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann to a prosecutor, who will decide whether to bring charges against the parents of the missing British girl, an official said.
“We’re now in possession of it,” an official at the attorney general’s office, which oversees public prosecutors, told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department rules.
Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, were named as suspects Friday but were allowed to return to Britain pending further investigation. The couple say they were not involved in the May 3 disappearance of their 4-year-old daughter from a resort hotel room in southern Portugal.
The case file amounted to more than 1,000 pages of evidence, police spokesman Olegario Sousa said. Neither official would give details of the evidence, citing the secrecy laws covering ongoing investigations.
The public prosecutor’s office said in a brief statement the case was being placed in the hands of an investigating judge within the office, which is usual procedure. The judge has up to eight months to decide whether to charge a formal suspect.
Sousa said he expected the prosecutor to “quickly decide” on a course of action in a case that has placed Portuguese authorities under intense scrutiny.
Until Friday, the only formal suspect was Robert Murat, a British man who lived near the hotel from which Madeleine vanished. He has not been charged, and he has said he is innocent.
Madeleine’s disappearance, and her parents’ publicity campaign to find her, have attracted worldwide attention.
For 16 weeks, police centered their attention on an apparent case of abduction, but they switched their focus last week after forensic tests conducted at a government laboratory in Britain found evidence indicating that DNA from Madeleine was in the trunk of a car the McCanns rented more than three weeks after her disappearance, a family spokeswoman said.
Forensic tests inconclusive
However, Portugal’s national police chief, Alipio Ribeiro, said Monday night that the forensic tests were not conclusive.
“We can’t say with certainty whether it was the blood of person ‘A’ or person ‘B,”’ Ribeiro told Portuguese state broadcaster RTP.
Ribeiro said police have followed up hundreds of reported sightings of Madeleine, many from abroad, but have found no trace of her.
The McCanns, with their 2-year-old twins Sean and Amelie, returned Sunday to their home in central England. Gerry McCann released a statement on his Web site dismissing suspicions he and his wife were involved.
“We have absolute confidence that, when all of the facts are presented together, we will be able to demonstrate that we played absolutely no part in Madeleine’s abduction,” Gerry McCann wrote Monday in a blog on .
Although police allowed the McCanns, both doctors, to return to Britain, officials say they may want to question them again. The McCanns have to inform Portuguese authorities if they intend to be away from home longer than five consecutive days.
Asked about the possibility of imposing further restrictions on the movements of the McCanns, such as forcing them to return and remain in Portugal, Ribeiro said: “I don’t think that’s probable. I don’t see any need for changing the current restrictions.”
The McCanns have hired a high-profile legal team that includes Michael Caplan, who represented former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet when Spain tried to extradite him from Britain in 1999.
'Unending nightmare' for the parents
The McCanns face further anguish as local social service and medical officials gauge whether any action should be taken over the care of their other children.
Officials would consider the safety of children whose parents faced criminal investigations, said a spokeswoman for Britain’s Local Government Association, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.
Gerry McCann described the events of the past week as an “unending nightmare”.
The administrators of a $2 million fund set up to help find Madeleine were investigating whether some of the money could be used to help pay the McCanns’ legal bills, Britain’s Press Association quoted an unidentified family friend as saying.