3:05pm UK, Friday May 13, 2011
Adam Arnold, Sky News Online
David Cameron's decision to ask British police to investigate Madeleine McCann's disappearance has been criticised as being "like a PR exercise".
Madeleine McCann went missing in 2007
Speaking to Sky News Online, public relations consultant Max Clifford questioned the timing of the Prime Minister's announcement, coming in the same week that the child's parents launched their new book.
Mr Clifford also suggested other families with missing children will now be wondering what the PM can do for them.
Mr Cameron has instructed officers from the Metropolitan Police to review the Madeleine case evidence after her father Gerry McCann asked him for help.
Why didn't he do it before. The timing makes you more suspicious of the intent. It's like David Cameron comes to the rescue.
But Mr Clifford said of the PM announcement: "To me, it's like a public relations exercise.
"He's (Cameron) doing something right now. Why didn't he do it before.
"The timing makes you more suspicious of the intent. It's like David Cameron comes to the rescue."
He added: "What about other families who have got missing children. What is he is going to do for them."
Mr Clifford also said the PM's announcement "could backfire" but he hoped there would be a "happy ending" in the Madeleine case and the little girl would be found safe and well.
The review will be directly funded by the Home Office and will not come from the Met budget.
The PM's spokesman said: "There has been a huge amount of public interest in this case since it began, Madeleine McCann has been missing for a long time, there is the international dimension.
"The Prime Minister has been clear that he wants to do everything he can to support the family."
Meanwhile, Madeleine's parents will find it increasingly difficult to keep their missing daughter's case in the public eye, despite UK police now investigating, another top PR expert has told Sky News.
Mark Borkowski said it was "extraordinary" for a case to be "as big four years down the line".
But he believed it would be "pretty difficult to maintain this momentum over the next two or three years".
Portuguese detectives, helped by Leicestershire Police, carried out an inquiry into Madeleine's disappearance from her family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on May 3 2007.
But the official investigation was formally shelved in July 2008 and since then no police force has been actively looking for the missing child.
Mr Borkowski told Sky News Online that despite the British police now casting their eye over the Portuguese investigation, the McCanns and their spokesman Clarence Mitchell will ensure they will try to control the story.
Mr Borkowski said it was "a mark of brilliance" that Mr Mitchell has managed to keep the story in the public consciousness for the four years since Madeleine went missing aged three.
He said publicists have an understanding of how to shape a story, engage the audience and keep the media interest going.
In recent times, the level of press coverage had waned as the search for the girl was scaled down.
Madeleine's eighth birthday this week, which came just days after the fourth anniversary of her disappearance, was marked by Kate and husband Gerry publicising her new book about the case, extracts which have been published in a national newspaper.
"The book was the hook", he added.
We've seen some abrupt U-turns by this Prime Minister. But David Cameron's about turn on Madeleine McCann has been particularly swift.
Read blog by Sky's Jon Craig
The couple had tried to get the UK Government involved in the case for a while and wrote to Mr Cameron asking for his help, having met him 18 months ago when he was opposition leader.
The couple said they had "tried in vain" to secure a formal inquiry and added that it was "not right that a young, vulnerable British citizen has essentially been given up on".
Home Secretary Theresa May said the Metropolitan Police would use its "particular expertise" to review the case and that the Home Office would provide "the necessary financial support".
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We can confirm that the Metropolitan Police Service has agreed, at the request of the Home Secretary, to bring its particular expertise to the Madeleine McCann case.
"The Portuguese authorities retain the lead and we are not prepared to discuss it further at this time."