McCanns are asked to return to Portugal

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The Independent Online

Portuguese police have asked the parents of missing Madeleine McCann if they would consider taking part in a reconstruction of the night she disappeared, sources said today.

The news comes as British officers began questioning members of the Tapas Seven - friends of the McCanns who dined with the couple when Madeleine vanished.

Three Portuguese detectives, led by Paulo Rebelo, are sitting in on the interviews, believed to be with friends Jane Tanner and her partner Russell O'Brien, at Leicestershire Constabulary's headquarters in Enderby.

Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' spokesman, has said the couple will not return to Portugal on 3 May - the anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance - if they remain arguidos.

Mr Mitchell said: "Any requests made by Portuguese police via Kate and Gerry's lawyers are covered by Portuguese judicial secrecy and as a result I am not at liberty to discuss any details of any such proposals.

"However, Kate and Gerry would very much welcome a Crimewatch-style reconstruction which is properly broadcast for millions of people to see and could generate important new leads and fresh information.

"It's untrue to say that Kate and Gerry have been called back or summoned back. Their lawyers are very much continuing discussions with the Portuguese police and if any such decision is taken to take part, an announcement will be made at the appropriate time."

It is understood Crimewatch had requested to do a reconstruction within a month of Madeleine disappearing but due to the secrecy of Portuguese law, it was not possible for the couple to take part in such a reconstruction at the time.

Portuguese officers arrived at East Midlands Airport yesterday at midday before attending a three hour meeting with officers from Leicestershire Constabulary.

A force spokesman confirmed this morning that witnesses and police officers had arrived at their Enderby headquarters for the re-interviewing process to start.

According to the McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, it is thought the questions will focus on clearing up inconsistencies Portuguese officers have in their own timeline of events immediately following the disappearance of four-year-old Madeleine on May 3 last year.

None of the friends will have lawyers present and all are being interviewed as witnesses. Mr Mitchell said no property will be searched or seized.

The interviews with the Tapas Seven are expected to finish on Friday but there will be more interviews with witnesses, many of whom have been put forward by the McCanns on a list of more than 50 people they would like officers to speak to.

Tomorrow, the couple travel to Brussels to lobby MEPs to sign their written declaration for a dedicated child alert system.

Kate, 40, and 39-year-old Gerry, from Rothley, recently visited the USA to see how the "Amber" alert system worked. The system allows officers to flash news alerts on to the radio, television and digital road signs once they deem a child to be in imminent danger.

The McCanns hope their written declaration will be signed by a majority of 390 MEPs in the next three months. This will allow it to be submitted to the European Commission for its consideration.