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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Russian denies links to Madeleine
Portuguese police taking away computers
Police took computer equipment away from Mr Malinka's home
A Russian man questioned in Portugal over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has denied any involvement.

IT expert Sergey Malinka, 22, was taken to a police station in Portimao and computer equipment was removed from his flat in Praia da Luz, Algarve.

He says he is "completely" innocent and that his life had "fallen apart".

Briton Robert Murat, 33, is the only formal suspect in the case of four-year-old Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, who vanished on 3 May.

Police have not officially confirmed the man they have questioned is Mr Malinka. But they said the man had been questioned as a witness.

They stressed there had been no arrests and no charges as yet in their investigation into Madeleine's disappearance.

Mr Malinka is believed to have designed a website for Mr Murat's property business. He is said to have contacted detectives himself after reading reports police were probing connections between Mr Murat and a Russian.

Following his release, Mr Malinka said he was interviewed as a witness and not a suspect, and that he did not have a criminal record in any country.

He said: "I've invested seven years of my life in this country trying to succeed, and suddenly in one hour it's all fallen apart."

Robert Murat
Robert Murat has worked for the police as a translator

After spending two hours at his apartment, plain clothes officers carried out two hard drives, a laptop and a black bin bag.

Joao Marques, a local businessman who uses Mr Malinka's IT services, described him as an "honest, normal young man".

He had spoken to Mr Malinka, who said he was "very sad and upset with the whole situation because his relationship with Robert Murat is completely professional", he added.

Earlier, Sally Eveleigh, speaking in the Algarve on behalf of Mr Murat, 33, told the BBC that her cousin vehemently denied involvement in Madeleine's disappearance.

"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.

Mr Murat, who had helped police with translation work, was questioned by detectives for 12 hours and his mother's villa was searched.

He was later given "arguido" status by police, which means he is officially a suspect - although he can request this status himself.

Officers later released Mr Murat, saying they did not have the evidence to formally arrest or charge anybody.

Mr Murat, who previously was based with his ex-wife in Hockering, Norfolk, has recently been living with his mother Jenny, 71, at her villa, Casa Liliana, in Praia da Luz.

Huge reward

The hunt for Madeleine began in the resort town on 3 May after she was taken from the apartment where she was staying.

Madeleine McCann

She disappeared from her bedroom as her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, ate dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant.

The couple have said they will not return to the UK until they have found her.

Rewards of 2.5m have been offered to anyone with information leading to the four-year-old's safe return.

England's cricketers have become the latest sport stars to lend their support to the search for Madeleine.

At the Test match against the West Indies at Lord's, the team were all wearing yellow ribbons in support of the efforts.

On Wednesday, Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, visited Parliament to lobby MPs and peers and a fighting fund to help cover the cost of the search was launched.

Any money raised not needed for the search for Madeleine would be used to help find missing children in the UK, Portugal and elsewhere.

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

Plan of Praia da Luz




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