DNA sample in McCanns’ car ‘has 100% match to Madeleine’
Steve Bird and David Brown in Praia da Luz
A forensic sample that has a 100 per cent match to Madeleine McCann has been discovered in the car hired by her parents five weeks after she disappeared, it was reported last night.
Portuguese detectives are said to believe the findings, reported on Sky News, are evidence that Kate and Gerry McCann had carried the child’s body in the car.
Samples sent to the Birmingham-based Forensic Science Service have been analysed and the results sent to the investigating officers. While the exact nature of the material remains unclear, it is believed to be either blood or biological fluid from Madeleine. A source linked to the investigation said: “It shows that the parents have a lot of explaining to do.”
Another sample is believed to show an 80 per cent match to the genetic profile of Madeleine, who vanished from the Algarve resort just a few days before her fourth birthday. Both samples were found under upholstery in the boot of the Renault Scenic after police seized the vehicle last month.
It was claimed that the sample could not simply have been transferred from clothing or a cuddly toy. But it remained unclear exactly what material the DNA had been retrieved from. If it was a hair or flakes of skin - the most easily transferrable form of material that yields DNA - it would not have a dramatic impact on the investigation.
However, if it was blood, one of the most easily degradable forms of DNA, or internal fluids associated with a body, it would be a breakthrough.
Technicians from the Portuguese forensic science laboratory who reportedly obtained the material from the car had expected to find a large quantity of samples linked to Madeleine because the vehicle had been used to carry all of the child’s belongings, including toys and clothing, when the family moved from the Ocean Club where she disappeared to a rented villa on the outskirts of Praia da Luz.
The two important samples were accompanied with one partial match found on the windowsill of the apartment where the McCanns had initially stayed. Traces of Madeleine’s blood were found on the floor of the apartment but another sample found on the wall was thought to have come from a male, but was too degraded to secure an exact match.
The Portuguese prosecutor, who will decide whether to charge the McCanns with killing their daughter, will today be handed a mass of police files about the case. Joao Cunha de Magalhães e Menezes, the district attorney in the Algarve, was handed accounts of the DNA and forensic evidence. The bundle also contained transcripts of the couple’s lengthy police interviews, said to include some 40 questions that they refused to answer.
The files are also believed to include details from intercepted e-mails and tapped phone calls between the McCanns and friends. The public prosecutor is also expected to approve new searches of key locations in an attempt to try to find the girl’s body.
Leicestershire police are now expected to play a more active role in the inquiry and senior officers may be called upon by their Portuguese counterparts to questions the parents.
Mrs McCann was said to have said that claims that minute bloodstains in the apartment where Madeleine stayed could have got there if she had a graze or cut or even a nosebleed.
She dismissed the suggestion that there was the scent of death on some of her clothes and the child’s soft toy by saying that any such smell found by sniffer dogs was a result of her job as a local GP where she encountered corpses, it was reported.
Police are still trying to establish whether the child died after being hit or pushed by a parent. Another theory is that she overdosed on adult medicine which had been left within her reach or that she died from oversedation. They have not ruled out the possibility that someone helped the couple to dispose of the body. Newspaper reports in Portugal claimed the public prosecutor in Portimao had considered charging the couple, both 39, before they flew back to Britain on Sunday.
But the Attorney-General, Pinto Monteiro, travelled from Lisbon to Portimao for a private meeting with the McCanns’ lawyer, Carlos Pinto de Abreu. Portuguese newspapers said some form of “deal” was struck.
Detectives were said to be livid that the meeting had meant the move towards arrests and a court hearing to establish bail conditions was abandoned. They also felt that the McCanns’ decision to leave frustrated the investigation.
New searches were due to be carried out on “specific locations” south of the Ocean Club where Madeleine disappeared from her apartment. The police would focus on an area of wasteland and a street where roadworks were being carried out. Officers are also expected to search the villa they left on Sunday.
The couple were allowed to return because they gave police their home address in Rothley, Leicestershire. They must inform police if they plan to leave home for more than five days. They can remain formal suspects without charge for eight months before investigating officers have to approach a judge to apply for an extension.
Reliability of evidence rests on size of sample
What is the DNA evidence that has supposedly been found by the Portuguese investigators?
Newspapers in Portugal have been reporting that “biological fluids” with an 80 per cent match to Madeleine’s DNA have been found underneath upholstery in the boot of the McCanns’ rented Renault Scenic. Sky News claimed last night that another DNA sample with a 100 per cent match to that of Madeleine’s profile had been found in the car.
What would this tell us?
Perhaps nothing. If it was sourced from something such as a hair follicle or skin cells then that could have been one of Madeleine’s hairs that had stuck to the clothes of a family member or her “cuddle cat” toy that her mother carries. If it was from Madeleine’s blood or corpse, that could be more significant. The most important issue is the size of the sample found. If there was a substantial amount of material it is unlikely to be from accidental contamination and would indicate that Madeleine had been in the car.
Can investigators establish if the DNA sample comes from someone who was alive or dead?
Unlikely, according to British experts. A DNA profile does not change just because someone dies. You can tell if DNA has degraded but that can happen if, for example, it had been exposed to sunshine.
Does an 80 per cent match with biological fluids indicate that Madeleine was definitely in the car?
No. The sample will have been tested against a definite sample of Madeleine’s. A 80 per cent match indicates that profilers could find only 16 of the 20 markers usually used for such analysis and suggests that the biological traces are tiny and degraded. Additionally, the twins Sean and Amelie could share a high percentage of DNA characteristics as most siblings do.
What complicates the matter further is that all three of the McCanns’ children were born through IVF and it is unknown whether the couple’s sperm and eggs were used for conception.
The Portuguese police's theory is apparently that Madeleine was killed by accident by one or both of her parents
By Gordon Rayner, Caroline Gammell and Nick Britten
3:36PM BST 12 Apr 2008
DNA samples that are a "100 per cent match" to Madeleine McCann have been found in her parents' hire car and holiday apartment, it has been claimed.
Sources close to the case said the traces - understood to be blood - were being treated by Portuguese detectives as strong evidence that Madeleine died in the apartment before her body was placed in the car.
Police in the Algarve apparently now believe they have enough evidence to charge her parents, Kate and Gerry, with "accidentally" killing the four-year-old and hiding her body. A file on the case will today be sent to a prosecutor who could order the couple to return to Portugal to face charges this week.
The McCanns, who were named last week as official suspects in the case, have claimed that they were being "framed" over their daughter's disappearance 131 days ago.
But a source close to the Portuguese investigation said that the prevailing mood among detectives was that: "The parents have a lot of explaining to do."
The source claimed that two DNA samples found in the McCanns' hire car - one apparently a full match to Madeleine and one partial - were of a type that suggested they had come directly from her body, rather than from clothes she had worn.
The development came as:
- Social workers and police met to discuss the welfare of the McCanns' two-year-old twins, who could be placed on an "at-risk" register.
- Police in Praia da Luz were preparing to search the villa where the McCanns had been staying until Sunday.
- Kate McCann faced fresh slurs in the Portuguese media, with claims that she was aggressive towards her children and sometimes "out of control".
- The McCanns were given police advice on how to deal with hate mail after a backlash against them gathered pace in Britain.
The McCanns have vowed to fight to clear their names, and hired two of the country's leading solicitors, Michael Caplan QC and Angus McBride, to advise them.
Sources close to the investigation revealed that the DNA evidence - analysed by the Forensic Science Service in Britain - was regarded by Portuguese police as crucial.
A sample that was a full match to Madeleine's DNA was allegedly found on the windowsill of the McCanns' apartment at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz. Although the nature of the sample was not disclosed, previous reports claimed that blood had been found by sniffer dogs.
One Portuguese newspaper claimed that "biological fluids" with an 80 per cent match to Madeleine were found under the carpet in the boot of the McCanns' hire car, which was rented 25 days after she disappeared.
Forensic experts in the UK have pointed out that if the samples found in the car were hair or skin they would be of little evidential value as they could have rubbed off Madeleine's toys or clothing.
But there were fresh reports claiming that both samples were blood, and one source close to the inquiry told The Daily Telegraph that the nature of the samples led police to believe that they had come from Madeleine's body being placed in the car.
The Portuguese police's theory is apparently that Madeleine was killed by accident by one or both of her parents, and that her body was hidden before being disposed of a month later using the hire car.
The McCanns have reacted with fury to the claims, accusing the police of a "stitch-up" and pointing out that they could not have moved a body when the eyes of the world were constantly upon them in the weeks after Madeleine's disappearance.
Their distress was heightened when it emerged that Leicestershire's child protection team met to discuss the welfare of their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, who could be placed on an "at-risk" register if they were considered to be vulnerable.
Social workers were expected to visit the family home in the village of Rothley this week to assess whether the children were being cared for properly and whether they had been in any way traumatised by the events of the past four months.
Child welfare experts said social services were obliged to investigate any case where parents were suspected by police of harming their children, and that placing the twins in foster care could become an option if the McCanns were charged or forced to return to Portugal for long periods.
Police in Portimao were expected to hand over a file on the case to a senior prosecutor, who would decide whether to bring charges or order further inquiries.
Officers were poised to search the villa that the McCanns had been renting for the past three months, and which they vacated on Sunday when they flew back to Britain for the first time since Madeleine's disappearance.
The couple have been subjected to constant smears in the Portuguese press, but there is also evidence that public sympathy in the UK may be on the wane.
Police confirmed an officer had discussed "security issues" with the McCanns amid fears that they would receive hate mail, and a BBC Radio 5 Live phone-in debate on the subject of "do you support the McCanns" was abandoned after a large number of messages condemning them were followed by demands from listeners that an ongoing police investigation should not be the subject of a radio phone-in.
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Gerry McCann and lawyer leaving Portimao station
By Caroline Gammell in Praia da Luz
4:34PM BST 11 Sep 2007
The police case against Kate and Gerry McCann was submitted to the public prosecutor today, amid conflicting reports about the nature of the DNA case against them.
According to police briefings given to Portuguese journalists, the samples found in the back of the McCanns' car were not blood but other "bodily fluids". These have provided an 88 per cent DNA match to Madeleine.
So much of Madeleine's hair was also found in the vehicle's boot that it must have come directly from her body, and not just been transferred from clothing or a toy, according to the briefing.
This conflicts with claims from British sources that the police's case is based on blood found in the silver Renault Scenic car hired 25 days after Madeleine disappeared.
It was claimed yesterday that the blood was a 100 per cent match, although this was played down this morning.
Ten volumes of evidence were today handed over in stages to Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses, the district attorney based in Portimao.
They outline the Portuguese police's version of events surrounding Madeleine's disappearance from Praia da Luz on May 3.
Detectives in the Algarve believe Mrs McCann might have killed her daughter by accident while her husband helped cover up the crime.
Mr Meneses will sift through a large amount of evidence, including the results from the Forensic Science Services in Birmingham.
Mr Meneses will also look at the toxicology reports and the interviews carried out with the couple last week.
A Portuguese police source said Mrs McCann's inability to sufficiently explain why traces of Madeleine's blood were found in the back of the hire car only added to the case against them.
The part-time GP was also asked why the "smell of death" was picked up on her clothes by specialist sniffer dogs.
Once he has studied the report, Mr Meneses has several options open to him.
He can order renewed police activity, such as searches of specific properties or sites.
He can upgrade the cautionary measures - or restrictions - on the couple, summoning them back to the Algarve and even placing them in custody if he felt it necessary.
If Mr Meneses decides there is enough evidence to call the McCanns before a criminal judge, he will notify the lawyers involved.
Police in Portugal are convinced that the couple are connected to their daughter's death.
A source said: "The investigation is far from finished. "Investigators are trying to demonstrate that her death in the apartment was an accident, negligence or provoked."
DNA sample found in hire car an 'exact match to Madeleine'
By Ian Herbert and Amol Rajan
Tuesday 11 September 2007
Portuguese police kept up the pressure on Gerry and Kate McCann yesterday, announcing new searches for their missing daughter Madeleine and passing details of the case to the public prosecutor, who will assess whether charges should be brought against the couple.
The mystery deepened further last night amid reports that a full DNA match to Madeleine had been found in the hire car used by the family, in addition to the partial match in traces of blood found in the boot of the vehicle.
Although the Policia Judiciara called off the search for the four-year-old months ago, it inexplicably revealed plans for another hunt in Praia da Luz, the Algarve resort where she vanished on 3 May. Last night, there were no signs of any search beginning at the rented villa vacated by the McCanns on Sunday. This would, say British police, be a priority if the couple really were prime suspects. The private agonies of the couple, now back at home in Rothley, Leicestershire, were no doubt compounded by the knowledge that British police and social workers were meeting to discuss the safety of their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie. The McCanns' decision to leave all three children unattended at their holiday apartment on the night Madeleine disappeared is likely to have been on the agenda, said child protection experts.
The Local Government Association said a lengthy assessment would precede any decision to place the children on the "in need" or "at risk" registers, although that would not necessarily mean them being removed from the family home.
While the McCanns' return to England may give them a brief respite from intense scrutiny in Portugal, many observers believe it would be in their interests for Mr McCann, at least, to return swiftly to the Algarve and defend their position. "They are going to have to take stock but I can see the McCanns going back to Portugal within a week, once they have settled the children at home," said Mark Williams-Thomas, a former Surrey detective who is now a child protection specialist. "They are going to have to strike back because the mood among some people now seems to be 'surely the Portuguese police are working on something'."
They do not plan to return to their jobs as doctors, according to Mrs McCann's uncle, Brian Kennedy, who emerged from the couple's home yesterday saying only that they had enjoyed "a decent night's sleep" and that the twins slept soundly. "They are holding up extremely well," he added. During the day, a doctor was among the visitors to the detached house, but he refused to comment on the reason for his visit.
In Portugal, meanwhile, police said they would be searching an area to the south of the Ocean Club from which Madeleine disappeared and along the coast to the nearby town of Lagos. Local newspapers described the McCanns' departure as a fuga (escape), with several claiming that officers lacked evidence to charge the couple and would be impeded by their return to Britain. Police sources were quoted in one newspaper as saying that Mrs McCann was "visibly out of control" and "hysterical" during her interview last week. Detectives are said to believe Mrs McCann may have killed Madeleine accidentally before disposing of the body and claiming she was abducted. Mr McCann is apparently thought by the PJ to have been an accessory to the crime. The couple insist the claims are "ludicrous".
* BBC Radio Five abandoned a debate about the case yesterday after it was bombarded with calls from listeners to Victoria Derbyshire's morning show, who complained the subject was inappropriate.
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