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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 20:39 GMT
McCann friends may face new quiz
Madeleine McCann pictured at Christmas 2006
Madeleine was last seen on 3 May in a resort in the Algarve
Portuguese prosecutors have begun moves to reinterview witnesses in the case of missing Madeleine McCann.

It is believed that they may want British police to speak to seven friends who dined with Madeleine's parents on the night she was last seen.

Kate and Gerry McCann, both 39, are official suspects in the case along with British expat Robert Murat, 33.

Madeleine, four, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was last seen in Praia da Luz in Portugal on 3 May last year.

The McCanns dined with their friends at a tapas restaurant as they left Madeleine and their two other children asleep in their nearby apartment.

In November, one of the group, Jane Tanner, told the BBC she saw a man carrying a child through the resort at about 2115 on 3 May.

It's about time that the police came to reinterview anyone they need to
Clarence Mitchell
Spokesman for the McCanns

At the time she said she thought nothing of it, but realised the potential significance after she learned of Madeleine's disappearance at about 2200.

The BBC's Alison Roberts, in Portugal, said that for months there had been speculation that prosecutors would seek to reinterview people involved in the case and now they have said that process has begun.

The spokesman for the McCanns, Clarence Mitchell, told BBC News 24 that if the reports were correct the family would welcome them.

"We have been saying for a long time now that, frankly, it's about time that the police came to reinterview anyone they need to reinterview," he said.

"We feel that any inconsistencies the police are concerned about in any original statements from Gerry and Kate's friends can easily be cleared up through these reinterviews.

"And the sooner it happens the better, because we believe it will lead the police to realise there is no case against Gerry and Kate and it will lead to them being eliminated and their arguido [suspect] status lifted."

Initial request

Much of the police investigation has focused on the timeline of events on that night, and the group of friends - the so-called Tapas Nine - have been key to piecing it together.

As well as the McCanns and Ms Tanner, they included Matthew and Rachael Oldfield, Russell O'Brien and Fiona Payne.

Our correspondent said prosecutors in Portugal had made contact with Eurojust, the European Union's judicial cooperation unit, which deals with requests to allow police in one country to interview someone previously questioned in another.

She said that if the request was granted Portuguese detectives would be expected to travel to the UK as observers, but not to participate in any new questioning.

Earlier, on Tuesday the McCanns' spokesman confirmed that the couple were considering allowing a documentary film crew to follow the continuing search for their daughter.

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