The new spokesman for the parents of missing British four-year-old Madeleine McCann said on Tuesday it was ludicrous to suggest they were guilty of harming her.
Gerry and Kate McCann are trying to clear their names after Portuguese police named them as formal suspects in the disappearance of their daughter four months ago.
Since their return to England last Sunday, the McCanns have faced intense media speculation about their role in the case.
“To suggest that they somehow harmed Madeleine accidentally or otherwise is as ludicrous as it is nonsensical,” Clarence Mitchell, referring to accusations in British and Portuguese media, told reporters outside the McCanns’ house.
“The focus must now return to Madeleine and move away from the rampant, unfounded and inaccurate speculation of recent days,” said Mitchell, who resigned his job as a government official to represent the McCanns.
He declined to answer questions from journalists at the time but later told Sky television the McCanns had no plans to return to Portugal in the near future.
Not being paid
He also said he was not being paid either by the McCanns or their support fund but that expenses were being met by one of the couple’s “generous financial backers.”
The couple have denied any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance on holiday in southern Portugal on May 3 and say they are convinced she is still alive.
The McCanns, both 39-year-old doctors, have hired lawyers in Portugal and England to defend them in case they are charged.
Mitchell said he spent nearly a month with the McCanns for up to 14 hours a day when he was representing the Foreign Office over the case.
“During that time, I saw or heard nothing that gave me cause for concern or any suspicion,” he said.
Portuguese authorities, who have been criticized for not providing enough information about the case, said on Tuesday they had decided to brief the public from time to time.
The briefings will take place through Portugal’s Superior Magistrates’ Council -- which supervises the judge overlooking the Madeleine case -- but only when necessary and in accordance to the country’s strict “secrecy of justice” law.
“Due to communication insufficiencies that persist in our courts, this Council ... will provide (necessary) clarification and information within the strict limits of the law,” the Magistrates’ Council said in a statement.
The move came after the judge examining the Madeleine case, Pedro Miguel Frias, made an unprecedented appeal to speak publicly about the investigation.
Portugal’s public prosecutor passed the case against the McCanns last week to a criminal judge who is expected to decide on a series of requests by the public prosecutor that would allow police to dig deeper into Madeleine’s disappearance.