By Mike Sullivan and Antonella Lazzer
The veteran investigators have been hired by missing Maddie’s desperate parents Gerry and Kate.
The 12 crack former Scotland Yard detectives and MI5 and MI6 agents have been secretly on the ground in Portugal for weeks chasing any new leads which may help to find her.
The group was recruited over the past few months after Portuguese cops announced they had shelved their inquiry into Maddie’s disappearance.
They are thought to have been assembled by a London-based private security firm run by a former intelligence officer.
Multi-millionaire businessman Bryan Kennedy, who has supported the McCanns since three-year-old Maddie vanished in May 2007, is thought to be funding them.
A source close to the investigators said yesterday: “The team in Portugal comprises some of the most experienced officers in the police and security services.
“They feel there is still a great deal of stuff to be gone over and new leads to be found.”
The team has used files released by Portuguese cops last summer to compile a database of evidence and information known about the abduction of Maddie.
They are also using a HOLMES type computer software system to index the information.
The Home Office Large Enquiry System [HOLMES] was developed after the Yorkshire Ripper investigation and is still regarded as the most advanced in the world.
The team is carrying out background checks on possible suspects, including their movements before and after Maddie went missing. A list of paedophiles in the area is also being analysed.
Gerry and Kate, both 40, of Rothley, Leics, have vowed that they will never give up searching for Maddie, who vanished from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.
Yesterday their spokesman Clarence Mitchell refused to confirm that the team was in Portugal, saying: “We never comment on operational detail.”
The Spanish private eyes Kate and Gerry first hired were a complete failure.
Barcelona-based Metodo 3 cost the Finding Madeleine Fund more than £300,000.
Meanwhile, Gerry McCann flew back to Portugal yesterday for the first time since returning to Britain 16 months ago — and said he still hopes to find Maddie alive.
The doctor, who flies home today, said: “We think there is still a very good chance Maddie could be found alive, and that’s why we want the search to continue.
“The purpose of this visit was to look at what can still be done in the search.
“We want to be looking forward because we want to find our daughter.”
Gerry was met in the Algarve by British Embassy representatives and then went to the capital Lisbon to see Portuguese authorities.
He also met his lawyer Rogerio Alves “to explore steps that have yet to be taken and that could make a difference”.
It is the first time he has returned since he and wife Kate were named “arguidos” — or formal suspects — in the investigation in September 2007.
He added: “I hope it’s the first of many (visits) over the coming months.”
Source: Obviously from The Tabloid Sun
HOLMES for a better understanding
The main aims of HOLMES or Home Office Large Enquiry System may be summarised as:
1. to collect and manage vast amounts of information and intelligence data
2. to process and prioritise information to assist in the identification of suitable lines of enquiry
3. to manage the allocation and progress of tasks assigned to investigating officers
4. to analyse information through graphical representation
5. to produce documentation suitable for presentation in court