Page last updated at 05:05 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 06:05 UK

Madeleine interviews set to begin

Kate and Gerry McCann
Kate and Gerry McCann have continued their search for Madeleine

UK police are to begin reinterviewing seven friends of Madeleine McCann's parents who were with them on the night of her disappearance.

Portuguese officers investigating the case have travelled to the UK to attend the interviews, to be carried out by Leicestershire Police.

Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from a holiday apartment in the Algarve on 3 May last year.

Her parents, who deny any wrongdoing, remain arguidos or formal suspects.

They are not facing fresh questioning on Tuesday.

Indirect contact

The McCann's spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said the interviews were intended to eliminate inconsistencies in the Portuguese police's timeline of events.

BBC correspondent Steve Kingstone says Kate and Gerry McCann are hoping this phase of the investigation could lead to the lifting of their arguido status.

Matthew Oldfield
Rachael Oldfield (married to Matthew)
Russell O'Brien
Jane Tanner (partner of Russell O'Brien)
David Payne
Fiona Payne (married to David)
Diane Webster (Fiona Payne's mother)

The questioning is expected to start at Leicestershire Police's force headquarters in Enderby.

The Portuguese police, led by Paulo Rebelo, a senior detective from Lisbon who took over control of the case in October, will sit in on the interviews but will not question the witnesses directly.

They have submitted questions in advance through the Home Office - which will be put by detectives from Leicestershire Police.

None of the so-called "Tapas Seven" will have lawyers with them as they are being interviewed only as witnesses, not suspects.

Further interviews

It is thought the first to be questioned will be Jane Tanner, 37, who has already told the police she saw a man that evening carrying a child close to the family's apartment.

The interviews are expected to be completed by the end of the week.

Madeleine was last seen days before her fourth birthday, during a family holiday in the resort of Praia da Luz.

Police interviews are also planned with relatives and advisers who were with the McCanns during the early days of the investigation.

Separately, lawyers for the couple have requested that two dozen other witnesses be interviewed, including staff from the Ocean Club complex and several British holidaymakers.

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