Social workers visit McCanns as details of diary are revealed

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Police have obtained a diary started by Kate McCann after her daughter Madeleine disappeared and appear to consider it of significance to their investigation, it emerged yesterday.

The diary appears to reveal nothing which directly incriminates Mrs McCann or her husband Gerry, but passages leaked by police to Portuguese newspapers, and possibly part of the case against her, suggest police may use Mrs McCann's words about her life as a mother against her

The respected Publico newspaper claimed that the black, spiral-bound diary shows the part-time GP's worries about her children's behaviour and her difficulties disciplining them. According to the Correio da Manha newspaper, Mrs McCann describes how her children were "hysterical" and Madeleine's "excess activity" was exhausting. It also reported that she wrote about how Gerry didn't help with chores and left her to deal with the younger children on her own. The paper said she was encouraged to start the diary by her sister-in-law and her family are appalled by the police's apparent intent to use it.

Photocopied passages from the diary are believed to form part of the 4,000-page prosecution case, which a judge is considering. It is unclear whether the evidence would be admissible. A computer used by Gerry McCann has also been examined by police.

The McCanns attempted to demonstrate to Leicestershire social services yesterday that their status as arguidos (suspects) in the inquiry does not mean that their other children, two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie, are at risk. The couple met with social services at Mrs McCann's behest.

A case conference is standard practice whenever parents are suspects in a foreign country and it is understood the McCanns were keen to meet officials and took the option of doing so at home. Police and representatives from the council met on Monday to discuss the case. The decision to interview suspects depends on the degree and nature of the evidence available. Mrs McCann seemed distraught when she drove away from her home in Rothley, Leicestershire, to collect the twins.

In Portugal, there are also reports that the police have not completed their work on a Renault Scenic hired 25 days after Madeleine's disappearance by the McCanns. It was reported that "more detailed searches" were to be carried out and that the car's interior may be dismantled. There were unconfirmed reports from the France-Soir newspaper last night that analysis of a "liquid" in the boot of the car had revealed the presence of sleeping tablets.

The McCanns also want to undertake their own forensic examination of the car, but that would be highly unusual and not straightforward, according to legal experts in Portugal. Any act considered to interfere with a police inquiry in Portugal would be illegal.

Artur Rego, a Portuguese solicitor, said there was a stage of the investigation called "the contradictory" in which the defence can ask for work to be redone but that the work would be undertaken by the police. Mr Rego said it was a mystery why the car was not impounded in the first place and that the police had still not done so after the McCanns indicated they might submit it to re-examination. Sources in Portugal have suggested that "bodily fluids" with an 80 per cent match for Madeleine have been found in the car, along with so much of the girl's hair that it must have come directly from her body.

It seems increasingly likely that the police have asked for permission to re-interview Mrs McCann. Speaking in Scotland yesterday, Portugal's ambassador to the UK said he hoped relations between the countries would not be damaged by the investigation.

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