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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
New police chief for McCann case
Gerry and Kate McCann
Madeleine McCann has been missing for more than five months
One of Portugal's most senior officers has been appointed to lead the inquiry into Madeleine McCann's disappearance.

Paulo Rebelo, deputy national director of Portuguese police, replaces Goncalo Amaral, who was removed last week apparently for criticising UK police.

Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, of Rothley, Leics, are official suspects in the case but have not been charged.

Madeleine vanished from their apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on 3 May, days before her fourth birthday.

Mr Amaral was apparently removed after suggesting British police were working to Mr and Mrs McCann's agenda.

They hope that he will concentrate on eliminating them from the inquiry as suspects
Clarence Mitchell
Family spokesman

At the time, the McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said any suggestion that the couple were influencing the police was "ludicrous".

On Tuesday, he said he hoped the new officer would make it his priority to eliminate the McCanns from the inquiry.

He said: "Clearly this is an operational matter for the Portuguese police, but Kate and Gerry do welcome the appointment of a new officer to oversee the operation in the Algarve.

"They hope that he will concentrate on eliminating them from the inquiry as suspects and will then be in a position to refocus the efforts of his team on finding Madeleine."

Mr Rebelo, 45, is a veteran detective who for the last two years has been the deputy national director of Portugal's police force.

He has spent much of his career hunting drug traffickers, and has investigated a number of other high-profile cases.

The Madeleine McCann inquiry is by far the most widely-publicised case tackled by Mr Rebelo.

The BBC's Alison Roberts, in Portugal, said: "None has come close to having the international ramifications of the Madeleine McCann investigation."

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