Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 16:55 UK

McCann friend criticises 'leaks'

By Steve Kingstone
BBC News

Kate and Gerry McCann
Kate and Gerry McCann deny any wrongdoing

A friend of Madeleine McCann's parents has publicly criticised the Portuguese police for leaking information about the inquiry into the missing child.

Rachael Oldfield, who was with Kate and Gerry McCann, of Rothley, Leics, when their daughter disappeared last May, said there had been "double standards".

Witnesses had to remain silent, while Portuguese newspapers carried stories sourced to police, she told the BBC.

The McCanns remain arguidos - suspects - but deny any wrongdoing.

Mrs Oldfield is a member of the so-called "Tapas Seven" - friends of the McCanns who dined with them in a tapas restaurant on the night their three-year-old daughter disappeared during a family holiday on the Algarve.

In her first interview since Madeleine went missing, she said: "We were made to understand we could face two years in prison for speaking out, so as a group we've not said anything from day one.

"And there have been all these rumours flying around and leaks from sources close to the PJ [the Policia Judiciaria - Portuguese police]."

We've always said we want to leave no stone unturned and to do that we need to know which stones have already been overturned
Gerry McCann
Asked to characterise police actions, she replied: "Well, double standards. They leaked information and these rumours which have flown around for the past year...

"We would have loved to have put the record straight."

'No communication'

Mrs Oldfield said it had been "agonising" to watch the McCanns' reaction when Madeleine went missing from a ground floor apartment in Praia da Luz on 3 May 2007.

"Anyone with an ounce of common sense would be able to see they couldn't have done it," she said.

She added that lifting the arguido status on Mr and Mrs McCann would "enable the investigation to move forward and certainly it would enable [them] to work more closely with the PJ".

Madeleine McCann
It is almost a year since Madeleine McCann's disappearance

"Currently they don't really have any communication with the PJ which, when they're investigating the disappearance of their daughter, is quite astounding."

Mr McCann told BBC Radio 4 that he and his wife received so little information, that they were unsure Portuguese police were still searching for their daughter.

He added: "We would like to know what is being done to find Madeleine.

"We'd like to know who has been eliminated from the inquiry and on what grounds and what leads are still being followed.

"We've always said we want to leave no stone unturned and to do that we need to know which stones have already been overturned."

Secret files

The Tapas Seven are regarded by Portuguese police as important witnesses in the Madeleine investigation. None of them has been made a formal suspect and all have co-operated willingly and voluntarily with the investigation.

Separately, a senior figure in Portugal with direct knowledge of the investigation has told a BBC Radio 4 documentary there is only a slim chance of murder or manslaughter charges being filed against Kate and Gerry McCann or Robert Murat, the third arguido.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, insisted all lines of inquiry remain open, including the original theory that Madeleine was abducted.

Mr Murat was made a suspect after Mrs Oldfield and two other members of the Tapas Seven - Russell O'Brien and Fiona Payne - said they saw him in the Praia da Luz complex during the evening Madeleine disappeared.

Mr Murat denies he was there, and maintains he was at home with his mother all night.

Portuguese police are now coming under pressure to make public the case files which, under judicial secrecy laws, currently remain closed.

The President of the Portuguese Order of Lawyers, Antonio Marinho e Pinto, told the BBC: "There are strong reasons to fear that judicial secrecy is being used... to conceal the fact that the police have gone down a blind alley and don't have a way out."


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