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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
Madeleine police 'inexperienced'
Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann has been missing for a week
The grandmother of Madeleine McCann has said Portuguese police made mistakes at the start of the hunt for her, possibly because they were "inexperienced".

Susan Healy, from Liverpool, said the three-year-old's parents had found it hard to communicate to police early on.

Meanwhile, Crimestoppers, which has set up a hotline, says it has been given four "useful" pieces of intelligence.

Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from an apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, a week ago.

Mrs Healy, of Mossley Hill, told Sky News that the McCanns, who are Catholic, were drawing strength from each other, as well as prayers, support, sympathy and kindness.

"They can pull it together when they have to, but obviously there are times when they are very distraught," she said.

Mrs Healy added that the inexperience of the Portuguese police possibly led to mistakes initially, but added that debating what went wrong "doesn't achieve anything".

However, the British ambassador to Portugal, John Buck, said earlier this week he had been assured by Portuguese authorities that "everything possible" was being done to ensure the little girl's safe return.

And the Portuguese ambassador in London Antonio Santana Carlos asked people to trust the police who, under Portuguese law, can disclose very little information.

On Thursday, Crimestoppers said its appeal for information from English-speaking people in Portugal has yielded "four pieces of useful intelligence".

They have been passed onto Leicester police, the lead force in the UK.

Meanwhile, Madeleine's uncle, John McCann, from Glasgow, has countered criticism from those who say the couple were wrong to leave their children alone in the holiday apartment while they ate dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Madeleine's family have created a poster appealing for people with information to call Crimestoppers
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"If you look at the layout of that place, it was entirely safe. The issue at stake here was, that the flat was broken into, and wee Madeleine was abducted," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

On Wednesday, Madeleine's parents, Gerry and Kate, issued a statement thanking those involved in the search for their daughter.

"At present we are channelling all of our emotions and all of our efforts into the steps that are being taken to secure Madeleine's safe return."

Police have handed out CCTV footage showing a woman with a girl fitting Madeleine's description at a service station just a few miles from where she was abducted.

Gerry and Kate McCann

The woman was said to be urging the girl to say "thank you" to staff, but the youngster had appeared reluctant.

They have also asked locals if they recognise an image of a possible suspect, described by one shopkeeper as looking like "an egg with hair".

British child abduction experts have been in Portugal to assist the investigation.

Superintendent Graham Hill of Surrey police, who investigated the disappearance and murder of Surrey schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, is among them.

Madeleine is believed to have been taken from her bed last Thursday evening while her parents were eating at a nearby restaurant.

They had been regularly checking on her and their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.

An online appeal to help find Madeleine has also been set up.

The appeal by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the Virtual Global Taskforce is available in English, Portuguese and Spanish on www.ceop.gov.uk.

Crimestoppers have also set up an international number - +44 1883 731 336 - which people with information can call anonymously.

Map of Luz Ocean complex
The complex where Madeleine disappeared

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