PRAIA DA LUZ, Portugal – In a shocking twist, the British parents who have run an international campaign to find their missing toddler were declared suspects in the case Friday, their lawyer said, after traces of blood were found in their rental car.
Kate McCann was named a suspect in the morning when she went to a police station in southern Portugal for her second straight day of interrogation, lawyer Carlos Pinto Abreu said. Her husband, Gerry, who later spent more than seven hours at the same police station, was also declared a suspect, Pinto Abreu told reporters.
“They have not been charged, and the investigation continues,” he said without elaborating.
The girl’s aunt said police suggested Madeleine McCann might have been killed accidentally and offered the mother a plea deal if she confessed.
“They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer – ‘If you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less,’ ” Gerry McCann’s sister, Philomena, told ITV news.
Gerry McCann followed his wife into the police station surrounded by journalists and watched by dozens of onlookers.
The couple strenuously professed their innocence Friday.
The day’s developments marked a dramatic turn in a case that has pulled at the world’s heartstrings for months, ever since Kate McCann ran screaming from a hotel room saying her daughter had disappeared. The McCanns, both doctors from central England, said they were dining at the time in a hotel restaurant, but returned frequently to check on Madeleine and her twin 2-year-old siblings.
Until Friday, suspicion had focused on a British man who lived near the hotel from which Madeleine disappeared and who was the only formal suspect. But police said new forensic tests done on evidence gathered months after the girl vanished found traces of blood in the couple’s car, according to Justine McGuinness, a spokeswoman for the family.
The new evidence was uncovered by sniffer dogs brought from Britain.
McGuinness said the police allegations against Kate McCann didn’t add up, since the rental car had not been acquired until 25 days after Madeleine’s May 3 disappearance. Gerry McCann called the allegations against his wife “ludicrous.”