McCanns will not use Madeleine fund for legal fight

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The Independent Online

The parents of missing Madeleine McCann will not seek to use money raised for the fund to find her to pay for their legal defence, a spokesman said today.

Kate and Gerry McCann have appointed top lawyers in Portugal and Britain after being named as formal suspects in their daughter's disappearance.

Speaking from the McCanns' home village of Rothley in Leicestershire, family spokesman David Hughes said: "They have decided not to seek to use those funds for their legal support."

Donations totalling £1,036,104.17 have so far been received for Madeleine's

Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned, according to the official campaign website.

The fund - which for legal reasons is not a charity - has four objectives, one of which is "to provide support, including financial assistance, to Madeleine's family".

There was controversy about whether or not Mr and Mrs McCann would use money from the fund to pay their legal costs after it became clear police suspected them of involvement in her disappearance.

On Friday a family friend said the fund was looking into whether it could by law pay for the couple's defence.

But today Mr Hughes confirmed that they would not apply for money from the fund.

He said: "Gerry and Kate's view is that if they take money from the fund it might be that 90% of people who made donations aren't bothered about it.

"But if 10% of people are bothered about it, they don't want to upset them. They want to take the controversy out of the situation."

It could take a Portuguese judge weeks to go through the 4,000-page dossier of evidence against the McCanns, a family friend said today.

Jose Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses, a public prosecutor based in Portimao in the Algarve, yesterday ordered the 10 lever-arch police files in the case to go before a criminal instructional judge.

This could mean that he is recommending charging the couple over their daughter's disappearance, although a Portuguese lawyer said this would be unusual.

A friend of the McCanns, citing a number of legal sources, said the family has been advised that the prosecutor is probably either seeking further guidance from the judge or applying for the authority to carry out more searches.

The prosecutor has applied for the judge to validate retrospectively the seizure of diaries and correspondence belonging to the McCanns, a Portuguese newspaper reported today.

Although the documents are already in the hands of the authorities, it is the judge's duty to ensure that the investigation "respects the rights, freedoms and guarantees of the arguidos, avoiding abusive interference in their private lives", according to the Jornal de Noticias.

The paper did not specify whose diaries they were, but Mrs McCann has frequently been seen writing her diary since Madeleine went missing.

Police intend to seize some of Madeleine's toys for analysis, another paper reported today.

Among them will be the little girl's favourite stuffed animal, Cuddle Cat, which Mrs McCann has been seen clutching almost continuously since her daughter went missing, the Diario de Noticias said.

Mr Hughes could not confirm either of these claims, but said he believed Cuddle Cat had already undergone forensic testing.

Referring to the decision to pass files to the judge, the family friend said: "It's hardly surprising for the prosecutor to want to push a hot potato upwards.

"If you were in their shoes, you would want to get those papers away as quickly as possible.

"Our understanding is there's no filtering process whatsoever - everything is in there.

"The judge has had the kitchen sink thrown at him."

It is likely it will take the judge some time to read the lengthy dossier, the friend said, adding: "It might not be just days.

"If they're expecting the judge to go through every sheet of those 10 lever arch files, he's not going to be able to do that in a day - particularly if it happens to be something like 4,000 pages."

If the prosecutor makes a request - for example, to bring charges or impose stricter bail conditions on the McCanns - the judge has 10 days to decide whether to agree to it.

There is widespread speculation about the contents of the lengthy dossier of evidence the Policia Judiciaria - Portugal's CID - formally passed to the prosecutor yesterday.

Intense attention has focused on what police found in the hire car rented by Madeleine's parents 25 days after she went missing.

Detectives denied reports that forensic tests on a sample taken from the vehicle, a silver Renault Scenic, had revealed a "100% match" with the missing girl's DNA.

But senior sources linked to the investigation told Portuguese journalists that they discovered "bodily fluids" - not blood - with an 88% match to Madeleine's genetic profile in the car's boot.

Police also found so much of the girl's hair in the car that it could not have been transferred from a blanket or clothes, and must have come directly from her body, one of the sources said.

Portuguese police could not be contacted for comment.

Mr and Mrs McCann were declared "arguidos", or formal suspects, in the case during police questioning in Portimao on Friday.

At present they are only subject to the minimum TIR - "term of identity and residence" - restrictions.

These are automatically applied to an arguido under Portuguese law, and require them to give police their address and notify officers if they are away from home for more than five days.

This is why the McCanns were able to return home to Rothley with their two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, on Sunday.

Mr McCann's sister, Philomena McCann, said the handing of the files to the judge changed nothing as far as her family was concerned.

She added: "If they bring charges against Kate and Gerry, that will give them a chance to clear their name.

"It will give us a chance to end all this speculation."

Mr McCann used his blog on the official Find Madeleine website to assert yesterday that he was "100% confident" his wife was innocent and to speak of the "unending nightmare" of the past week.

He wrote in an emotionally-charged entry: "We always hoped that we would not have to return without Madeleine and could never have imagined the possibility that we would do so as suspects in our own daughter's disappearance.

"The pain and turmoil we have experienced in this last week is totally beyond description.

"Kate and I are totally 100% confident in each other's innocence, and our family and friends have rallied round unflinchingly to support us."

Portuguese detectives appear to be working on a theory that Mrs McCann killed her daughter by accident and covered up the death by claiming she was abducted.

Test results received from the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham in recent weeks have reportedly boosted this hypothesis.

Portuguese newspapers have suggested she could face charges of homicide by negligence and concealing Madeleine's corpse.

Mr McCann's alleged role is not clear, but sources said police believe he might have been an accessory to the killing.

Police are planning fresh searches in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, where Madeleine went missing 132 days ago, including digging around the village church of Nossa Senhora da Luz, according to the Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias.

Mr Sousa refused to confirm or deny the report, and there was no sign of searches at the church today.

Portuguese attorney general Fernando Jose Pinto Monterio announced last night that he was appointing a second public prosecutor to the case, Portugal's Lusa news agency reported.

Luis Bilro Verao, from the Evora district in central Portugal, will work with Mr Cunha de Magalhaes e Meneses.

The McCanns' spokesman David Hughes left the household about half an hour after the family returned from the park.

He faced cameras but refused to answer any questions about developments in the investigation.

He said: "I can confirm we are not seeking support from the fund. There is nothing else today. They will not be coming out today."

When asked how Mr and Mrs McCann were feeling, Mr Hughes replied: " They've had a nice day out."

Mr Hughes fought his way through cameras as he left The Crescent.

Mr McCann's sister, Philomena McCann, said the possibility that police might seize Cuddle Cat was a "disgrace".

"It would be extremely distressing for Kate because she has seen it as a symbol of her daughter since she went missing," she added.

Ms McCann went on: "Why on earth do they ask for the toys now? Why didn't they think of this before?

"Everything with the Portuguese police is an afterthought.

"Everything they have done has been too little, too late. It is a disgrace they even asked for Cuddle Cat."

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