Last updated at 22:45 27 October 2007
Analysed: Kate McCann wipes away a tear on Spanish TVThe mother of Kate McCann has made a desperate and heartfelt appeal for the public to be 'kinder' to her daughter.
Susan Healy, 61, argued her Kate wasn't at breaking point but called for the public attacks on her daughter to stop: "I want people to start being kinder to Kate, she has enough to cope with.
"Yes, she is distressed at times and she can't smile that often at the moment. But she is very strong and she is going to fight on to get Madeleine back.
"People are saying she's at breaking point but she's not going to have a nervous breakdown."
Her mother's defence comes as Kate was left reeling after her tearful breakdown was savaged as 'a circus act' by critics who claimed it showed she had 'psychiatric problems'
Friends of Mrs McCann and her husband Gerry said they were stunned by the "vile criticism" about their behaviour during a television interview.
They are considering taking legal action against a Spanish psychiatrist who made the worst of the slurs.
Jose Cabrera analysed the couple's television interview on Wednesday for the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha, who described him as a forensic psychiatrist and facial expression specialist.
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'Staged': Kate, sitting next to husband Gerry, breaks down during the interview
Read more...He said: "When people cry they move the muscles in their face and she (Kate) did not move one single muscle, just like poker players. That is very significant."
"It brings us the certainty that she is hiding something."
He described the interview, with Spanish broadcaster Antena 3, as "staged" and "nothing but big theatre", and said he thought Mrs McCann "has had psychiatric problems for a long time" before saying: "Now they've got worse."
He added: "Any Englishman is cold but she has something else - her personality is not normal - and he (Mr McCann) causes an impression because all he worries about is her answers."
Mrs McCann, 39, has faced criticism about her apparent "coolness" and her seeming control over her emotions in public.
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'Be kind to Kate': Brian and Susan Healy's plea to the publicMrs Healy, of Allerton, Merseyside, added: "Kate was speaking for herself in that interview - there were no restraints on her at all. Yes, she was very distressed at times but she can't be blamed for that."
A friend of the McCanns said Kate had been schooled not to show emotion because psychologists warned Madeleine's abductor could get kicks from watching her emotional response.
He said: "It is devastating for Kate and Gerry to be criticised in this way. Some of what has been said is beyond belief.
"The same people who criticised Kate when she managed to hold herself together are now attacking her because she couldn't.
"The fact she cried during a TV interview proves nothing except the fact that Kate is running on high emotions, as you would expect any mother whose child has gone missing would be.
Madeleine McCann: Missing since May 3"Kate and Gerry are philosophical about the media coverage but they cannot let this level of vile criticism go. They are absolutely shocked and stunned.
"When the time is right they will be taking action against anyone who they feel has overstepped the mark. It is good that Correio printed the name of the Spanish psychologist whose opinions they published. He is one more person on the list of people to sue."
The couple have already threatened legal action against the Portuguese weekly newspaper Tal e Qual, which accused them of killing their daughter, and the daily tabloid 24 Horas, which claimed Mr McCann was not Madeleine's biological father.
Mr Cabrera, 50, did not restrict his comments to Mrs McCann. The Madrid-based psychiatrist - who has never met the couple - said Mr McCann's only concern during the interview was to "control" his wife.
He said: "All he worried about was controlling her. It's extraordinary. Whenever she opened her mouth to talk he squeezed her hand - and all this because the key to this mystery is definitely with her."
He added: "It is he who dominates the whole situation. He is aware of everything and knows he has to control her and her problematic personality so that she does not go too far in front of the cameras and speak too much."
Mr McCann, also 39, did whisper a warning to his wife at the end of the interview, telling her not to speak until her microphone was taken off, but friends said that was because they had just been asked a question which their lawyers had told them not to answer.
The couple were said to be horrified by the response to the interview, which was given to appeal for help in finding Madeleine and to launch a 24-hour information hotline.
Mr Cabrera was not their only critic. Portuguese criminologist Moita Flores, a former detective with the Policia Judiciaria, said: "The interview was a circus act.
"The most curious thing is that before this interview was agreed to, everybody already knew she was going to cry, which is what happened, and she even managed to play the part quite well."
He told Correio da Manha: "It was an act which nobody believes. After their theory of abduction they now insist on their innocence, and those who are innocent don't need this."
McCann spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "A few days ago Kate was criticised for not showing enough emotion and then when she does cry she is criticised too.
"Everything Kate and Gerry said on that interview was totally genuine. They have nothing to hide.
"Our lawyers are watching the media coverage very carefully in both Portugal and Britain and action will be taken against anything we feel has gone too far."
The 24-hour hotline was said to have attracted a huge number of calls in its first day of operation. It was set up on the advice of private investigators working for the McCanns, who will follow up potential sightings and leads.
• Murat feels 'forgotten' and 'desperate'
Robert Murat: 'Forgotten suspect'The first official suspect in the Madeleine investigation feels he has been 'forgotten' in the furore over Kate and Gerry McCann.
Robert Murat is so desperate to clear his name that he is willing to submit to further police interviews and searches of the villa he shares with his mother in Praia da Luz.
His lawyer Francisco Pagarete said: "Mr Murat has been living with this for a long time now and it is time the police admit they have no evidence against him. He is desperate to get his life back.
"If the inspectors want another interview, we are willing. Mr Murat is very keen to see the case against him finished."
Mr Murat, 33, was named as a suspect on May 14 and his villa was searched. The British ex-pat property consultant has always insisted he had nothing to do with Madeleine's disappearance.
• Doubts raised over DNA evidenceQuestions have been raised over the DNA technique which led to Kate and Gerry McCann being made suspects.
Experts at the Forensic Science Service in Birmingham used a method called "low copy number" profiling to analyse material found in the couple's hire car.
They claim that LCN profiling can obtain an accurate "genetic fingerprint" from just a single human cell.
But other experts have warned that the Portuguese police have placed too much significance on the DNA results, which link Madeleine to the car hired weeks after her disappearance.
The technique, pioneered by the FSS in 1999, differs from standard DNA testing in that it does not rely on the presence of bodily fluids or significant amounts of skin or hair.
Instead, just a single cell of sweat or skin, left by a mere touch, is all that is needed. The tiny DNA fragment is then copied many times over to provide a big enough sample to match with other profiles.
The FSS claims the technique is just as reliable as standard DNA testing.
But some experts suggest the copying process can be prone to errors, and that because such small samples can be transferred from place to place by touch alone, finding someone's DNA at a crime scene does not necessarily mean they were ever there in person.
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