Portuguese detectives investigating Madeleine McCann's disappearance could conclude their inquiry as soon as January 3, the lawyer for the first suspect in the case said yesterday.
Francisco Pagarete said a public prosecutor would decide early in the New Year whether to charge his client, Robert Murat, or the young girl's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.
Under Portuguese law, at that point the evidence-gathering process will end and the prosecutor will either formally accuse one or more of the three - all "arguidos" or official suspects - or shelve the case, he said.
Mr Pagarete predicted this was most likely to happen on January 3, exactly eight months after Madeleine vanished from her parents' holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.
The other possible date is January 14, eight months to the day after Mr Murat was named the first arguido in the child's disappearance, he said.
Mr Pagarete said: "On that day we will know what is going to be the public prosecutor's choice.
"He either accuses according to the evidence they have already gathered, or according to the same evidence he files the case against my client."
He went on: "It is the end of the inquiry for all of the defendants - the inquiry has to finish at the same time for everyone.
"At that time we will see all the decisions for all the defendants. I'm certain it will be either the 3rd or the 14th."
The lawyer said he believed it was "not possible" for Algarve-based prosecutor Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses to request additional time to gather evidence.
"I think there is no legal way to go around the situation and say we need more time," he said.
Mr Pagarete said Mr Murat was "not afraid of the result of the inquiry" because there was "nothing against" him.
Mr Murat and the McCanns strenuously deny having any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance on May 3.Reuse content