The competition between British police and crime agencies to be involved in the search for Madeleine McCann has hampered the investigation into her disappearance, according to the findings of an unpublished Home Office report.
The report, commissioned by the former Home Secretary Alan Johnson in 2009, though yet to be released, is thought to have resulted in British authorities re-opening the investigation into the missing toddler. According to its author, Jim Gamble, so many British agencies got involved in the search that it created “frustration and resentment” among Portuguese police, even leading to warnings that British officers were acting like a “colonial power”.
The report criticised the decision of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to put Leicestershire Police in charge of the operation concluding that it was ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the investigation.
Mr Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), told Sky News the intervention of competing police chiefs has had a long term negative effect on the investigation. Within the first few weeks of the toddler’s disappearance in May 2007, the Portuguese were advised by the CEOP, the Metropolitan Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Police Improvement Agency.
The Madeleine McCann case
The Madeleine McCann case
1/25 Madeleine McCann
One of the last photos of Madeleine before her disappearance
2/25 Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann was three when she was abducted during a family holiday in 2007
3/25 Top worn by a man that detectives investigate with connection to disappearance of Madeleine McCann
A computer generated image of the distinctive burgundy long sleeve top worn by a man that detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann are looking for
4/25 Apartment in Portugal from where Madeleine went missing
An aerial view of the Ocean Club apartments and pool where Madeleine McCann went missing
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
5/25 Kate McCann
Kate McCann speaks to the press outside the court house in Lisbon on 12 September 2013 following the first audience of the McCann couple's libel proceedings against former inspector Goncalo Amaral for a book written about the case of their missing daughter
6/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
Kate McCann and Gerry McCann before the start of the 'Miles for Missing People' charity run in Regent's Park in London, 2011
7/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
Kate and Gerry McCann make an appeal at a press conference in the holiday resort of Praia da Luz, Portugal 7 May 2007
8/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
The McCann's give an interview with a Spanish television channel at their home in Rothley
9/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
Madeleine McCann was abducted in Portugal in May 2007
10/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
Preliminary forensic analysis on samples recovered from the McCanns' hire car raised the possibility of a match with Madeleine's DNA profile, according to the leaked report
11/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
Pope Benedict XVI blesses a photo of four-year-old abducted British girl Madeleine McCann, while meeting her parents Gerry and Kate McCann, after his weekly general audience at the Vatican, 2007
12/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
Gerald McCann and Kate McCann speak to the press on 4 May 2007 at the Ocean club appartement hotel in Praia de Luz in Lagos after Madeline vanished while her parents were out to dinner
13/25 Portuguese police search for Madeleine
Dozens of Portuguese police aided by dogs search for missing three-year old British girl Madelaine McCann in front of the Ocean club appartment hotel in Praia de Luz in Lagos
14/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
Gerald McCann and Kate McCann walk holding their two other children outside the Ocean club apartment hotel in Praia de Luz in May 2007
15/25 Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann pictured at the age of three, left, and as she might have looked aged nine
16/25 Kate and Gerry McCann
The parents of missing Madeleine McCann have described as "pure speculation" reports in the Portuguese press suggesting that a chief suspect in the disappearance of their daughter was killed in a tractor accident four years ago.
17/25 Tribute for missing Madeleine in Rothley, Leicesteshire
Three year old Cally prepares to add a yellow ribbon to a floral tribute for missing Madeleine McCann in Rothley in Leicesteshire, 2007
18/25 Support for the missing Madeleine
Everton captain Lee Carsley (L) leads his team onto the field, followed Mikel Arteta (C) and Manuel Fernandes (R) wearing Tshirts bearing a message of support for the missing British toddler Madeleine McCann, prior to the English Premiership match between Chelsea and Everton, at Stamford Bridge in London, 2007
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A poster appealing for information about Madeleine McCann at a Spanish railway station
20/25 BBC's Crimewatch reconstruction of Madeleine McCann's disappearance
Former porn star Mark Sloan (L) was cast in the BBC's Crimewatch reconstruction of Madeleine McCann's disappearance
21/25 Clarence Mitchell holds two artist's impression of the new suspect
McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell holds two artist's impression of the new suspect on 20 January 2008 in London. The description has come from British woman Gail Cooper, who was staying with her family close to the McCann's apartment in Portugal
22/25 Image of a woman sought in the case
Clarence Mitchell, the press spokesman for the McCann family, releases a photofit image of a woman sought in the search for missing Madeleine McCann
23/25 Suspect in disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Police released two e-fits of suspect in disappearance of Madeleine McCann
24/25 Raymond Hewlett
Convicted paedophile Raymond Hewlett, who is being sought in connection with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
25/25 A picture of a suspect
An artist's impression of a suspicious man seen by a witness apparently watching the McCann family's apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, the day before Madeleine McCann went missing
“It was unhelpful. I've no doubt relationships from the outset with the Portuguese were impacted by it and I think that had a long term negative effect on the investigation and I think to this very day the Met investigation team that's engaged now are still having to manage and massage that relationship and perhaps to be fair to the Portuguese, mend some fences that were trodden on in the early days,” he said.
Mr Gamble said that the initial Portuguese police response to Madeleine’s disappearance was “haphazard”. “There was chaos, and as it went on it was haphazard which was alien to the more structured police you would expect here in the UK. There was not a sense of order.”
One of his recommendations was the establishment of a national centre for missing children which could combine the resources of the best experts and technology. This has not yet been set up, and Mr Gamble believes could create circumstances for a similar case to occur again.
Madeleine disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on 3 May 2007, as her parents dined at a nearby restaurant. Portuguese police reopened their investigation in October last year.
The Home Office declined to comment.