British police ready to question 'Tapas Seven' over Madeleine disappearance
British police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann are to interview more than 30 people who could help to prove that her parents were not involved in her abduction.
The interviews will begin next Tuesday with the first of the seven British friends who were on holiday with the McCanns when Madeleine was reported missing in Portugal. A different couple will be interviewed each day in the presence of Portuguese detectives at the headquarters of Leicestershire Police.
The officers will concentrate on alleged inconsistencies in the timelines of events on May 3. None of the witnesses will be made arguidos (official suspects under Portuguese law) and detectives will not seize evidence or search homes.
Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, both doctors from Rothley, Leicestershire, have offered to be reinterviewed but will not be questioned.
British officers will then begin interviews with more than two dozen other people who were at the Ocean Club resort in Praia Da Luz on May 3 last year or who were later connected to the case.
The witnesses include other holidaymakers, nannies at the Ocean Club, people who claim to have seen Madeleine being abducted, the psychologist who comforted Kate McCann and the McCanns' official spokesmen, Clarence Mitchell and Justine McGuinness.
The list of people to be interviewed has been provided by Kate and Gerry McCann as part of their rights as arguidos to demand that police speak to people who could prove their innocence.
Paulo Rebelo, the chief investigator in the Polícia Judiciária investigation into Madeleine's disappearance, will fly to Britain with two other detectives on Monday. They will stay until Friday to watch the interviews with the so-called “Tapas Seven” who were at a restaurant on the Ocean Club with Mr and Mrs McCann when Madeleine went missing.
Jane Tanner, 36, claimed she saw a man carrying a girl from the McCanns' apartment at about 9.15pm - when another witness says he was outside the flat at the same time but did not see her or the mystery man. Her partner, Dr Russell O'Brien, 36, from Exeter, was away from the group for up to 45 minutes in the period that Madeleine was taken from her bed.
Dr Matthew Oldfield, 37, a hospital consultant from London, and his wife Rachel, 36, a recruitment consultant, were also at the tapas restaurant.
David Payne, 41, a cardiovascular researcher from Leicester, was the last person outside the McCann family to see Madeleine. His wife, Fiona, 34, and her mother, Diane Webster, will also be interviewed.
The McCanns' Portuguese lawyers have requested the police case against them be made made public on the eight-month anniversary of the day they were made official suspects. However, detectives can request a three-month extension, as granted in the case of the other official suspect, Robert Murat, in January.
Because of the change in Portuguese law, the court could rule that the eight-month limit actually started in September last year. And the evidence could remain sealed indefinitely if police rule that the case is a major crime, such as international child trafficking.
Mr Murat, 34, has recently returned to Britain to see his five-year-old daughter, Sofia, for the first time since he was made an official suspect in Madeleine's disappearance. Mr Murat, who lives with his mother in a villa about 100 yards from the McCanns' holiday apartment, has strenuously denied any involvement.
Police last month returned computers and clothing they had seized during the search of his home in an indication that they no longer believed he was a suspect.
Source: The Times
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