Significant new evidence about the night Madeleine McCann disappeared has been uncovered, it was claimed, as one of Portugal’s most senior detectives took charge of the investigation.
Paulo Rebelo, an assistant national director of the Polícia Judiciária (PJ), took over responsibility for the case last night. He made his name in the investigation into Portugal’s most notorious paedophile ring.
His appointment was made amid reports in Portugal that detectives have evidence contradicting Kate and Gerry McCann's version of the events of the night that they reported their daughter missing.
Police believe that Madeleine and her twin brother and sister may not have been alone in the McCann holiday apartment, but that the children of seven British friends who were on holiday with the McCanns were also present when Madeleine disappeared on May 3, the 24 Horas newspaper claimed.
The McCanns, from Rothley, Leicestershire, have insisted that Madeleine was with only her two-year-old twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, while they dined with their friends at a tapas restaurant at the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz. The group has claimed that their children were in their own apartments and that they made checks on their own children and those of their friends during the evening.
However, a source within the investigation was quoted by 24 Horas as saying: “It’s not only the collected evidence that points to the fact that there were more children inside that [the McCanns'] apartment.
“Evidence also exists, following the interrogations to the other people who that were at the Ocean Club, that only the McCanns’ apartment was visited by the people who attended the dinner.”
The children had visited each other’s apartments regularly in the six days that they had been at the Ocean Club. The newspaper does not explain how any forensic evidence could be pinpointed to the evening of Madeleine’s disappearance.
The newspaper also casts doubt on claims by one of the McCanns’ friends that he was looking after his unwell daughter when he was away from the restaurant on the evening Madeleine disappeared.
It says that Russell O’Brien, a hospital consultant from Exeter, left the restaurant at 9.35pm and returned at 10pm, just minutes before Mrs McCann discovered that Madeleine was missing. Mr O’Brien has strenuously denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance and has never been a formal suspect in the investigation. 24 Horas reported: “The British man guaranteed he took that long because he visited his sick daughter, and she vomited. He says he asked for the sheets to be changed, but the staff at the Ocean Club assured the investigators that nobody asked for any bedsheets to be changed that evening.”