Missing intern: 'Blood in Condit's home'

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The Independent US

Federal authorities have started a criminal investigation into the married US congressman at the centre of the mystery over the missing Washington intern Chandra Levy.

Prosecutors from the US Attorney's office are investigating whether Gary Condit obstructed justice or encouraged perjury in the investigation into the missing 24-year-old, with whom he was having an affair.

In a separate development, it was reported that police who searched Mr Condit's apartment in Washington took samples from a drop of blood found in his bathroom as well from specks detected with special equipment in the living room. One source said the apartment seemed to have been "cleaned all over and was pretty neat".

Meanwhile, in a twist that has added to the frenzy in Washington, a Pentecostal minister claimed his daughter had an affair with Mr Condit when she was 18. When they broke up he apparently asked her to keep the relationship secret.

The criminal inquiry into Mr Condit, 53, centres on allegations made by an airline hostess, Anne Marie Smith, who has claimed she was also having an affair with the Democratic Representative from California. Ms Smith, who was interviewed by FBI officials for the second time yesterday, says Mr Condit asked her to sign an affidavit denying that they had a 10-month affair. Mr Condit denies doing so.

A law enforcement official involved in the inquiry said: "It is in the preliminary stages, talking to witnesses and trying to determine if we should proceed further. What is on the plate is perjury and obstructing justice, and we must decide if these allegations have merit."

Media interest in the case of the missing intern – who was last seen 10 weeks ago – has become increasingly aggressive, focusing more on Mr Condit's private life than the search for a missing person. The congressman's lawyers and public relations staff have accused some of America's most respected titles of "tabloid tactics".

Meanwhile the actual search for Ms Levy proceeded on several fronts yesterday, including a search of abandoned buildings. "We have to explore the possibility that she may be dead," said Terrance Gainer, the city's deputy police chief.

Police are also still negotiating with Mr Condit's lawyer, Abe Lowell, about conditions under which the congressman would take a lie detector test. Police said they would only proceed with the test if Mr Condit will agree to answer a full range of questions.