Sunday, May 1, 2011

"The only thing to investigate is how the body disappeared."

Kate and Gerry McCann yesterday marked the 150th day since daughter Madeleine vanished clinging to the belief she is alive and praying for her safe return.

Throughout their harrowing ordeal the brave couple have refused to give in to their worst fears, taking strength from their abiding Christian faith.

Yesterday they were battered by further ludicrous claims - this time that their precious daughter died from cracking her head after falling down steps.

Undaunted, they tried to shrug the smear off and attended church near their home.

There, clasping two-year-old twins Sean and Amelie and accompanied by Kate's parents Brian and Susan Healey, they joined in an emotional rosary prayer for Madeleine.

Outside the Catholic Sacred Heart Church in Rothley, Leics, heart specialist Gerry, 39, said: "We continue to hope and pray that our lovely little girl will be back with us soon." Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell added: "Kate and Gerry are devoted Catholics.

"They take great comfort in their faith and during these difficult times find solace in their church visits.

"The only thing that will make them happy is the safe return of their daughter."

As the McCanns prayed, Portugal's 24 Horas publication claimed police had "strong suspicions" that Madeleine died after falling down steps leading to the family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.

Detectives, who were said to have received a final forensic report from British police, were allegedly "100 per cent" certain that Madeleine died in the apartment.

Afraid of being accused of manslaughter, it was claimed, the McCanns asked friends to help cover up the death and move the body.

The report said it was "highly possible" some of the friends could be made formal suspects and be re-interviewed by British police.

One police source was quoted as saying: "The only thing to investigate is how the body disappeared."

Mr Mitchell moved swiftly to quash the slur which followed outrageous claims that Madeleine was killed and her body stored in a fridge.

He said: "It's ludicrous and hurtful - all these reports are unsubstantiated. Kate and Gerry have nothing to hide. They did not harm their daughter, even accidentally.

"They continue to want to cooperate with the Portuguese authorities at every stage and hope their efforts are entirely concentrated on finding Madeleine."

Family friends also rubbished the claim that the report from the Forensic Science Service, in Birmingham, conclusively proved Madeleine died inside the apartment.

One said the tests carried out were simply to clarify "fine detail" surrounding samples collected from the McCanns' hire car.

The friend also ridiculed the suggestion that Madeleine sustained fatal head injuries in a fall.

Our source declared: "How can you tell what anyone died of without a body? It flies in the face of reason."

Last night police were probing a new tip-off that Madeleine was kidnapped by a maid sacked from the Mark Warner complex in Praia da Luz.

A source close to the McCanns' legal team said: "There is a disgruntled maid, either a Portuguese or Spanish woman, whose name checks out. But whether this bad odour extends to a kidnap threat, we just don't know.

"Kate and Gerry have not been informed by police of these latest inquiries."

Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson backed the McCanns yesterday, making a scathing attack on the Portuguese media.

Speaking for the first time since it emerged he has helped the family meet their legal costs, he said: "The Portuguese press have behaved abysmally.

"They've been fed inaccurate stories by the Portuguese police. They've all turned out to be a load of garbage. I've never doubted Kate and Gerry's innocence."

Billionaire Sir Richard has been in regular touch with the couple, who returned to the UK from Portugal last month.

The McCanns, who have always maintained their complete innocence, remain official suspects under Portuguese law.