Page last updated at 19:45 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 20:45 UK

Profile: Robert Murat

Robert Murat
Robert Murat has consistently maintained his innocence

Robert Murat was the first person to be named as an official suspect in the inquiry into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

More than a year later, the investigation has been shelved, his status has been lifted and he has won a substantial libel payout from several British newspapers.

Madeleine McCann went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on 3 May 2007. She was three at the time.

Mr Murat, 34, lives with his mother Jenny, 71, in a nearby house in the Algarve village.

He had previously lived in Hockering, Norfolk, and has an estranged wife, Dawn, and a daughter. At the time of Madeleine's disappearance he had a girlfriend, Michaela Walczuch, who also won a libel settlement from British newspapers.

During the police search, the former property developer became well known to journalists and told them he had been helping police with translation work.

Police searched the Murats' villa after Sunday Mirror journalist Lori Campbell spoke to the British Embassy and the police about Mr Murat.

Mr Murat was questioned by police 11 days after Madeleine went missing, and was then made a formal suspect - or arguido.

A subsequent two-day search of his home was carried out by police in August 2007.

'Scapegoat'

The British expatriate, who describes himself as half-Portuguese, consistently stated his innocence.

And his mother always maintained she had been with him at home on the night of Madeleine's disappearance.

I just didn't know how to deal with any of it
Robert Murat on being linked to Madeleine's disappearance
When he was first identified as a suspect, Mr Murat said he had been made a "scapegoat" for something he had not done.

He said he had received a lot of hate mail when he was first made a suspect.

In a recent BBC interview, Mr Murat said it had been "completely devastating" to both him and his family to have been named as a suspect.

"I just didn't know how to deal with any of it," he said.

"I've never been in a situation like this. I've never had any problems with the police, I've never had any problems in any way, shape or form and to be dragged into the biggest case in Europe... there was an incredible amount of pressure."

Campaign

Mr Murat had for some time campaigned to clear his name. The campaign stepped up in January 2008 when his mother said it was time for her son's status to be reviewed.

In a BBC interview, Jenny Murat said police had not contacted him for six months and they wanted to get back on with their lives.


I do think the case should continue - I do think they should carry on to find that child
Robert Murat
In March it emerged that the Briton had had computers and other possessions seized by Portuguese police returned to him.

Mr Murat said at the time that the move was a "very positive sign" for him.

He said he was happy to have the computers back, "and I hope I will have my arguido status dropped very shortly".

The following month his lawyers, Simons Muirhead & Burton, revealed that their client planned to sue 11 leading British newspapers and Sky TV over allegedly libellous stories.

An out-of-court libel settlement was reached with the Sun, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Mail, London Evening Standard, Metro, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, News of the World and the Scotsman in early July.

Mr Murat received £600,000 and an apology.

In March, Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry McCann, who had also been named as suspects, won £550,000 and an apology from Express Newspapers for suggesting they were involved in their daughter's disappearance.

'To hell and back'

On Monday, the Portuguese attorney-general said the investigation had been shelved and the three suspects would have their status lifted.

In a BBC interview after he won his libel damages but before he was officially cleared, Mr Murat said he had been "to hell and back without doing anything wrong" - but still felt he had a future.

"I wish it had not happened, (but) it has happened and I have to deal with it every day. I have to live my life knowing that I was linked to the situation."

He added: "I want to carry on with my life. But it doesn't necessarily mean I want the case to be shelved in Portugal.

"I do think the case should continue - I do think they should carry on to find that child."



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