A British couple holidaying in Portugal who were due in court today after allegedly getting so drunk that they passed out while in charge of their three young children are believed to have left the country, the Foreign Office said.
Eamon McGuckin, 34, and his wife Antoinette, 32, from Maghera, Northern Ireland, were due to attend a hearing at the Family and Minors Court in Faro this afternoon but failed to appear.
The Foreign Office said: "We understand that they have left Portugal and are en route to the UK. They are either en route or have already returned.
"There were no legal restrictions on them having to stay and there was no obligation for them to be in court."
Hotel staff in Vilamoura in the Algarve called police after the couple collapsed on Friday night.
They were taken to a health centre in nearby Loule while their children Adam, one, Amy, two, and Aaron, six, were temporarily taken into care at the Refugio Aboim Ascensao children's home in Faro.
The youngsters arrived at the home at 5am on Saturday and remained there until their parents came to collect them at midday after the on-duty public attorney ruled they should be returned.
The incident happened just 45 miles from Praia da Luz, where Madeleine McCann went missing from her family's holiday apartment while her parents dined nearby.
The parents and their children arrived at the Aparthotel Mourabel in Vilamoura on Friday for a one-week holiday.
After going out for dinner at about 8pm, they returned to the hotel two hours later where the father passed out on the sofa in reception and could not be woken up.
The hotel's manager said Mrs McGuckin was struggling with the pushchair.
He said: "We put her and the children inside the bar. She was sitting on a chair and fell asleep and never woke up.
"We tried to wake her, we tried to put some water on her face and head but she was very, very bad. She started to be sick every minute."
The parents apparently discharged themselves from the health centre in Loule and returned to the hotel at about 7am on Saturday unaware of what happened.
Last night police officers from Portugal's Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) spent 45 minutes at the couple's hotel apartment.
The McGuckins were due to attend court this afternoon although that did not necessarily mean they would face any charges of neglecting their three young children.
Mrs McGuckin has said she drank only three beers and reportedly requested details of hospital blood tests taken from her because she was "very surprised" at her reaction, a source close to the couple said.
The source said the reaction could have been because the couple were very tired after waking at 4am to travel to Portugal, and they had been affected by the heat.
Dr Luis Villas-Boas, director of the home where the three McGuckin children were taken, said it was a "pity" if the family had left the country before the court hearing.
He said: "If they flew before (the hearing), it's not a good symptom. It's a pity. It signals another level of guilt that I myself understood they did not have.
"I've followed this incident with pitiful feelings.
"I don't think they should be prosecuted but just blamed and given words of reprimand."
He said the children should have stayed at the home for the weekend, with the parents, because when they arrived they were exhausted.
He continued: "This is a 'could have been' incident. What it was was an ugly event with a happy ending.
"I was sympathetic to the parents and I understood they felt ashamed although I did blame them for what happened.
"This is an incident not to be repeated."