The coverage: Theories and smears

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The Independent Online

A key piece of – undisclosed – evidence has in the past few weeks led senior detectives to favour the theory that Madeleine McCann died accidentally in the family apartment on the night she disappeared. They say all leads suggesting she was abducted have been exhausted.

The McCanns have branded the accidental death theory "ludicrous". From early on in the investigation, they have pointed to the discovery of her favourite cuddly toy on a ledge out of her reach and sightings near the apartment of a man who appeared to be carrying a child, as evidence that she was kidnapped.

Portuguese police claim that more than one person was likely to have been involved in the girl's disappearance, and that officers decided a month ago that she was probably dead. Sniffer dogs detected the scent of a dead body in the apartment and found specks of blood, although police say they were not Madeleine's.

Officers investigated claims that Madeleine may have been abducted by burglars, after members of the Ocean Club staff, British tourists and expats reported a number of recent opportunistic break-ins at the holiday complex.

Early in the investigation, police believed Madeleine may have been smuggled into North Africa or another European country. And a tip-off in a Dutch newspaper prompted police to search near Praia da Luz, but it was a hoax. On Friday the Portuguese tabloid 'Tal & Qual' claimed police believed the McCanns had killed their own daughter.

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