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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 May 2007, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Madeleine suspect defends himself
Robert Murat
Robert Murat has worked for the police as a translator

The life of the British suspect in the case of Madeleine McCann has "fallen apart", his cousin has told BBC News.

Sally Eveleigh, speaking in the Algarve on behalf of Robert Murat, 33, said her relative vehemently denied involvement in the four-year-old's disappearance.

Mr Murat, who had helped translate for police, was questioned for 12 hours and his mother's villa was searched.

Police have removed computer equipment from another house in Praia da Luz and taken a Russian man for questioning.

Meanwhile, a fighting fund to cover rising search costs has been launched.

Madeleine, from Rothley in Leicestershire, was taken from an apartment in Praia da Luz on 3 May.

She disappeared from her bedroom as her parents ate dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant.

A new pictures of Madeleine MacCann shown in the film

Mr Murat's estranged wife Dawn said she was "assisting police in any way she could".

Mrs Murat, of Hockering, Norfolk, said she was going through a "very difficult time" as a result of the focus on her husband.

"This is a very difficult time for my family," said Mrs Murat in a statement issued via Norfolk Police.

"I am assisting the police in any way I can."

Mrs Murat said she did not want to discuss the inquiry or her relationship with Mr Murat but she added: "I have been very concerned about the disappearance of young Madeleine and like everyone else sincerely hope the search for her ends with a positive outcome."

No arrests

Meanwhile, Ms Eveleigh said her cousin was "devastated" and in "a very bad state".

She was speaking on Mr Murat's behalf because, as police are treating him as a suspect, he is not allowed to speak directly to the media under Portuguese law.

"His whole life's fallen apart just from being over-enthusiastic trying to help people as he always does - that's his way," she said.

"People not knowing him have misunderstood it."

Mr Murat, who previously lived in Hockering, Norfolk, has recently been living with his mother Jenny, 71, at her villa, Casa Liliana.

After questioning Mr Murat, officers said they did not have the evidence to formally arrest or charge anybody.

On Wednesday night, new video clips of Madeleine were broadcast during half-time in the Uefa Cup final in Glasgow between Spanish sides Sevilla and Espanyol.

This fund will be a vehicle to help our family get our darling, wee niece back
John McCann
Madeleine's uncle

Earlier on Wednesday the fighting fund to help cover escalating costs in the search for Madeleine was launched at the Walkers Stadium in Leicester by her uncle John McCann.

Speaking at the launch, Mr McCann said: "This fund will be a vehicle to help our family get our darling, wee niece back."

It was also announced that any money raised not needed for the search for Madeleine would be used to help find missing children in the UK, Portugal and elsewhere.

Philomena McCann with MPs
Philomena McCann appealed to MPs for their help

Also at the launch, former England and Leicester rugby union captain Martin Johnson said Madeleine's disappearance had "touched everyone".

Details of how to donate to the fund - at banks, by post or via the internet - can be found at www.findmadeleine.com.

And on Wednesday morning, Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, of Glasgow, visited Parliament to lobby MPs and peers for support.

She said that, in a personal meeting, Chancellor Gordon Brown had offered support on "a practical and a personal level".

Map of Praia da Luz




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