Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm Madeleine scapegoat, man says











The man being treated as a suspect in the search for missing Madeleine McCann says he has been made "a scapegoat for something I did not do".

Briton Robert Murat, 33, told Sky News the situation had "ruined" his life.

Police have searched his mother's Algarve villa, which is close to where four-year-old Madeleine of Rothley, Leicestershire, was last seen on 3 May.

However officers said they did not have the evidence to formally arrest or charge anybody.

Mr Murat, who previously lived in Hockering, Norfolk, has recently been living with his mother Jenny, 71, in Praia da Luz.

Speaking off camera after it emerged he was being treated as a suspect, Mr Murat told Sky News: "This has ruined my life and made my life very difficult for my family here and in Britain.

"The only way I will survive this is if they catch Madeleine's abductor."


We are hopeful that this case will be over in the near future
Chief Inspector Olegario de Sousa

Members of Mr Murat's family have insisted he had nothing to do with Madeleine's disappearance and say he was having dinner with his mother on the night it happened.

On Tuesday, Chief Inspector Olegario de Sousa told a news conference he could not confirm whether Madeleine was alive or dead.

He said police had searched five houses on Monday and seized "various materials" from the properties which were being subjected to forensic tests.

Two other people - a German woman and a Portuguese man - have been questioned as witnesses.



The suspect, who has not been formally named by police, has signed an identity and residence statement which prevents him from moving house or leaving Portugal, and requires him to regularly report to police.

Mr Sousa confirmed the suspect had assisted police in the early stages of the investigation by working as a translator.

Being declared a suspect, or "arguido", means Mr Murat has additional legal rights under Portuguese law.

He may have been named as an arguido by police or could have chosen to take the status himself to gain those protections.


ARGUIDO STATUS
Officially a suspect
Bestowed by police or requested by individual
Right to remain silent
Right to a lawyer
Must report to police every five days

An arrest can be made once someone is an arguido, but only if there is sufficient evidence.

"When you work, you work to get results, but this doesn't always happen at once," Mr Sousa said.

"Let's wait and see. We are hopeful that this case will be over in the near future."

Mr Murat, a former property developer, had become well known to journalists during the search for Madeleine.

The search of his mother's property, known as Casa Liliana, began on Monday after Sunday Mirror journalist Lori Campbell had spoken to the British Embassy and the police about Mr Murat.

It is believed police have examined two cars used by the Murats, as well as taking away computers, mobile phones and several video tapes

Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann disappeared on 3 May

His mother is a former nurse who has lived in Portugal for 40 years and brought Mr Murat and his sister up in the country.

Mr Murat's uncle, Ralph Eveleigh, who runs a bed and breakfast in the nearby village of Burgau, said his nephew had been at home with his mother on the night Madeleine went missing.

"Robert is so sweet and good-natured. He was just trying to help," he added.

Madeleine disappeared from her bedroom 13 days ago as her parents ate dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant.

On Wednesday, Madeleine's uncle and aunt, John and Philomena McCann, from Glasgow, are to visit the House of Commons in a bid to keep the search in the public eye.

Glasgow MP Mohammed Salwar, who will accompany the couple, said the McCann family had "the full support of the British government".

The international number for Crimestoppers is +44 1883 731 336. People with information about Madeleine can call anonymously.