Revealed: Gerry McCann's last dance with little MadeleineLast updated at 18:26 19 September 2007
A restaurant owner who is one of the last people to have seen Madeleine McCann yesterday told how she danced with her father on the seafront just hours before she vanished.
Miguel Matias, who has never spoken before, said the McCanns seemed a perfectly normal family and there was nothing to hint at the tragedy to come.
Kate and Gerry McCann, the children and their holiday friends spent an hour at restaurant Paraiso on the beach of Praia da Luz, where the youngsters ate their dinner.
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The last picture of Madeleine taken with Gerry and Amelie by the pool
Read more...Mr McCann played with his eldest daughter in the sand in front of the balcony and pushed her on a swing before calling her to the table for food and an ice-cream.
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Mr Matias said: "It was a perfectly normal, relaxed, happy, family scene. The little girl was even dancing on the esplanade with her dad to the sound of music that was playing. "We couldn't believe it when we found out what had happened because nothing we saw gave any sign of what was coming.
"We didn't see anyone suspicious looking at the girl or the people on the other tables. Nor did we see anything out of the ordinary between the families and the children.'
Mr Matias's evidence confirms Madeleine was alive and well at 6pm, when the family left the restaurant.
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Hoping to turn the tide of suspicion: Kate McCann yesterdayPreviously 2.29pm has been the latest time known to the general public, when the last photograph of her was taken as she played in the pool with her father and sister Amelie.
Mr Matias handed over CCTV footage of the McCanns to police a few days after Madeleine's disappearance. It is not clear whether detectives were given the CCTV hard-drive or copies of the images.
The news comes as experts carrying out DNA tests that could hold the key to the Madeleine McCann investigation have hit back at claims the evidence they are analysing is 'pathetic'.
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Missing: Madeleine disappeared from the family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3British sources at the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Birmingham say they're confident about the material that was gathered and that they will get accurate results.
They insisted "very few people" know what forensic material has been gathered and say many of those criticising the investigation are basing their arguments on false assumptions.
The experts point, for example, to a claim by the McCanns' supporters that toxicology tests could not have been carried out on hair samples from the couple's hire car because the root was missing. This claim is factually incorrect.
Lawyers for Kate and Gerry McCann have drawn up a dossier which they claim demolishes the so-called case against them.
And a source close to the family said there were only two pieces of evidence - both of which he described as "pathetic".
Doubts were cast yesterday over samples found in the family's hire car.
It was this material that caused Portuguese police to officially name parents Kate and Gerry McCann as suspects.
But British sources stressed today that despite the failure of officers to seal off the McCanns' apartment, or to secure the car the couple hired three weeks after Madeleine vanished, the scientists working on the case have taken the risks of contamination into account.
They are also said to be fully aware of the similarities in the DNA of Madeleine and her siblings, who were carried in the Renault Scenic along with several other blood relatives.
"The work that has gone on is very thorough and involves a very painstaking process of testing, checking and re-checking," said one person involved in the investigation.
"These people are some of the world's leading forensic scientists and they do not reach their conclusions lightly."
It was revealed today that the new tests are looking for traces of the girl's DNA from material gathered around Praia da Luz, including alleged blood samples found in an apartment close to the one from where she disappeared on 3 May.
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Secrecy laws: The McCanns have had to keep silent because of Portuguese procedures since they were named as suspects following questioning over their daughter's disappearanceThe current forensic testing follows the submission of a first batch of results to Portugal two weeks ago by the British experts, which turned the police spotlight on the McCanns.
There has been no official comment on what these forensic results contained, although it is believed the evidence includes samples of Madeleine's bodily fluids and hair from the hire car. Yesterday a source close to the McCanns said DNA could have been transferred there from sweat on the girl's sandals which were transported in the boot.
The McCanns have been forced to remain silent because of strict Portuguese secrecy laws since they were named as suspects over their daughter Madeleine's disappearance.
But the former Government official named as their new spokesman spoke of his belief in them and claimed they were "the innocent victims of a heinous crime".
At the same time, Portuguese sources said detectives were preparing to fly to Britain to hand-deliver a letter asking for fresh action against the McCanns by Leicestershire police.
This is thought to be a request for the couple and their holiday friends to be reinterviewed.
One unconfirmed report claimed that three detectives were already on their way.
In their investigation, Portuguese police are said to be relying on DNA traces found in the McCanns' hire car and the reaction of dogs which allegedly recognised the scent of a corpse.
The DNA traces were described as being between "78 and 99 per cent accurate" and were said to have been found in bodily fluids in the Renault Scenic which the McCanns rented 25 days after Madeleine disappeared on May 3 from the resort of Praia da Luz.
One of the traces was discovered in the car's spare-tyre well - prompting speculation that someone transported Madeleine's body in the car.
Doubts have been raised over the DNA samples found in the car, but experts at the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Birmingham are confident that they will get accurate results. This is despite the failure of the Portugese police to protect this evidence in the weeks after Madeleine went missing
The forensic experts are also fully aware of the similarities in the DNA of Madeleine and her siblings who were carried in the Renault Scenic along with several other blood relatives.
"These people are some of the world's leading forensic scientists and they do not reach their conclusions lightly or without being aware of the possible problems with the material they are testing," said one person involved in the investigation.
However the source close to the McCann family claimed the bodily fluids could have come from one of two places.
He said they could either have come a pair of Madeleine's sweaty flip flops or from the soiled nappies of the two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.
"About two months after Madeleine disappeared the McCanns moved house to a villa on the outside of Praia da Luz. Who is to say what happened when they moved?
"The seats were taken out and everything including Madeleine's sandals and the twins' nappies were dumped in the car - which would have included traces of skin, sweat and bodily fluids.
"Bags and bags of stuff was thrown in there - anything could have found its way into the car. DNA could easily have been transferred in such circumstances.
"Also it could have come from a pair of Madeleine's dirty pyjamas which were in the car."
The source said that any DNA evidence found in the hire car is bound to have become contaminated in the two months that the family drove it before it was checked by police.
"I can immediately think of over 30 people that travelled in that car. There were friends, relatives, campaign workers.
"They all would have put their hands on the car, on the doors, boot and inside it. There would be sweat, hair and skin flakes all over the place."
The family source went on to ridicule the evidence that two British police dogs supposedly detected the scent of a corpse on Kate McCann's clothing, Madeleine's soft toy Cuddle Cat, the family's holiday apartment and the hire car.
Similar evidence was recently dismissed as unreliable in a U.S. murder trial.
"There is good legal work being done on the inaccuracy of these dogs. The British police have advised us that the dogs should be used for intelligence gathering and not used evidentially.
"The dogs are not the superb detectives they are cracked up to be."
It can also be revealed that Kate McCann considered the Portuguese evidence to be so flimsy that despite being interviewed for 13 hours by police, it did not occur to her that she could be charged with her daughter's murder.
A friend of the family said: "It hit home when Gerry said, 'What if we are charged?' Kate said, 'What?' Until then she had no idea or realisation of the seriousness of the situation."
The revelations came as the McCanns' new spokesman Clarence Mitchell stood beside the 39-year-old doctors outside their home in Rothley, Leicestershire.
He said: "I spent nearly a full month with Kate and Gerry in Portugal whilst representing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between May and June - sometimes I was with them for up to 14 hours a day.
"During that time I never saw or heard anything that gave me cause for concern or suspicion.
"All I witnessed was a loving family plunged into the most dreadful situation, and two parents trying to cope amidst their loss.
"To suggest that they somehow harmed Madeleine, accidentally or otherwise, would be laughable if it wasn't so serious."
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