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Police to quiz ‘Tapas Nine’ in bid to solve Madeleine mystery

PORTUGUESE police are set to fly to Britain on April 7 as part of a last-gasp attempt to solve the Madeleine McCann mystery.

Algarve investigators pinning their hopes of a breakthrough on fresh interviews with the so-called Tapas Nine, have provisionally agreed the date with British police.

But public prosecutors in Portugal have rejected police requests to call Kate and Gerry McCann in for a second round of questioning, Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias reported.

The holiday friends who were eating tapas with the McCanns when their daughter disappeared on May 3, will face fresh interrogations.

Portugal’s public prosecution service has also agreed to an application to interview the McCanns’ former spokeswoman Justine McGuinness and a psychologist who comforted Kate, 39, after Madeleine went missing, it claimed.

A source close to the case told the paper: "The Policia Judiciaria had prepared various questions it wanted Kate and Gerry to face but they were crossed off the list of priorities on the advice of public prosecutors.

"They felt it was a waste of time because the McCanns would refuse to answer the questions, a right that Portuguese law grants official suspects."

An unnamed investigator, defending the attempt to have Madeleine’s parents officially interviewed in Britain for the first time, added: "There were no guarantees they would co-operate with the Portuguese police but there are never any guarantees in a criminal investigation.

"It was necessary to test the waters."

Portuguese police indicated recently they were ready to spend more than two months in Britain to try to unravel the Madeleine McCann mystery.

They hope to wrap up the interrogations within a week but are packing their bags in anticipation of a much longer stay.

It had been reported Madeleine’s parents would be the last to face questioning after interviews with the other members of the Tapas Nine.

Portuguese police are thought to be particularly keen to re-interview David Payne, Jane Tanner and her partner Russell O’Brien.

Dr Payne, a 41-year-old cardiovascular researcher from Leicester, was the last person outside the McCann family to see Madeleine at the Ocean Club resort on May 3.

Gerry asked him to check on his wife and children while he was having a tennis lesson at about 6.30pm.

Dr O’Brien, 36, from Exeter, was away from the rest of the group for up to 45 minutes between 9.30pm until 10.15pm while he tended to his own child, who was sick in his apartment.

He told police he had changed her bed linen, but staff at the Ocean Club deny any change of sheets was requested.

Attention has also focused on Jane Tanner’s claim she saw a man carrying a girl from the McCanns’ ground floor apartment at about 9.15pm the night she disappeared — when another witness says he was outside the flat at the same time but did not see her or the mystery man.

The trio have denied previous Portuguese press reports they were intending changing their original police statements.

The McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell says the Tapas Nine are keen to help police understand their original statements.

Kate and Gerry McCann — official police suspects along with expat Robert Murat — deny any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance.

Writing on his blog after Express Newspapers had to pay out £550,000 (€700,000) in damages and apologise for more than 100 "seriously defamatory" articles following court action by the McCanns’ lawyers this week, Gerry said: "It gives us no joy that we had to take such action.

"Nevertheless we hope the events will act as a springboard to advancing the search for Madeleine."

Meanwhile, a car belonging to a key witness in the investigation was burnt out yesterday and the word "speak" sprayed on the pavement next to it.

Russian computer ace Sergey Malinka, 22, was questioned last May by police searching for the missing toddler.

Moscow-born Malinka is an associate of formal suspect Robert Murat, 33, and the pair were said to have spoken by telephone shortly after Madeleine vanished.

Source:Irish Examiner

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