Robert Murat's girlfriend Michaela Walczuch was today dramatically named as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann disappearance.
The Portuguese newspaper 24 Horas claimed the mother-of-one was an 'arguida', or formal suspect, and said Mr Murat's lawyer had named her as the fourth person to be accused by police in the case.
But lawyer Francisco Pagarete angrily denied the report and insisted he was misquoted by the tabloid.
He said he told the newspaper he believed that Miss Walczuch, 34, was unfairly perceived to be a suspect, but denied he ever said she had been formally named as an arguida.
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Michaela Walczuch and official suspect Robert MuratFriends of the German-born woman also refuted claims she was a police suspect. The police refused to confirm or deny the report.
Newspaper 24 Horas ran a front page headline announcing Miss Walczuch had become the latest suspect in the case.
It said Mr Pagarete had revealed that she was initially interviewed as a witness and later made a suspect in November, six months after Mr Murat was made an arguido.
The lawyer was said to have told the newspaper: "Both were initially notified as witnesses and when they showed up of their own free will to the interrogations they were made arguidos."
He added: "In the eyes of public opinion they both became arguidos of a crime they never committed.
"But nobody frees them of suspicions, with all the collateral and psychological damage that a dramatic situation like this implies. Somebody will have to pay for this."
Madeleine: Missing since MayMiss Walczuch was questioned as a witness in May, when the apartment she shares with her estranged husband Luis Antonio and their daughter was searched and some of her personal belongings seized, including her diary.
Those have since been returned to her but 24 Horas reported that she was interviewed again in November, after questions were raised about her alibi, and subsequently named as a suspect.
Miss Walczuch has always denied any involvement and said such suggestions were "ridiculous".
Mr Pagarete said: "I never said Michaela was a defendant in this case. I said she might be a suspect in the public's eyes but I never said she was a suspect from a legal point of view.
"To suggest otherwise is absolutely ridiculous. Everyone knows who the arguidos are - the McCanns and Robert Murat.
"The police have said publicly they are the only official suspects in this case."
The named suspects in the case, Mr Murat, 34, and Kate and Gerry McCann, both 39, have always denied any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance.
But today a second Portuguese newspaper, Correio da Manha, claimed blood found in the McCanns' holiday apartment and hire car had been proved to be Madeleine's.
It reported that tests carried out by the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham had proved conclusively that microscopic traces of blood found behind a sofa in the apartment had come from the girl.
And it said samples of bodily fluids found in the Renault Scenic, hired by the McCanns 25 days after their daughter went missing, were also definitely from Madeleine and could not have come from the two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie.
Portuguese police believe the findings support their theory that Madeleine died in an accident in her parents' care and that they hid her body and faked her abduction to cover up her death.
It was previously believed that forensic tests had proved inconclusive, but more samples were sent for testing last month and the laboratory has also been using the controversial Low Copy Number technique to study microscopic samples.
Use of the technique in British legal cases was suspended last year after a judge criticised its use in the trial of the Omagh bomb suspect Sean Hoey.
The couple's spokesman Clarence Mitchell called for the police to end their "distressing" leaks to the Portuguese media and said Mr and Mrs McCann wanted to be re-interviewed and cleared as suspects.
He said: "It is ridiculous to suggest that Madeleine's blood was in the hire car, because she was never in it. It was hired over 20 days after she went missing which means it was impossible for her to ever have been in it.
"Kate and Gerry were in no way involved in her death. Nor were they involved in disposing of her body. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous."
Portuguese police have prepared legal documents asking their British counterparts to re-interview the McCanns' seven friends who dined with them on the night of May 3.
Detectives want to question alleged contradictions in the statements of the group and anxious to speak to Russell O'Brien and Jane Tanner following claims that the pair want to change their statements. They have denied any suggestion they want to alter their accounts of the night of May 3.
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