Police downplay Madeleine DNA evidence

Last updated 00:00 11/09/2007

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Portuguese police are downplaying DNA evidence that links missing British toddler Madeleine McCann to her parent's rental car five weeks after she disappeared, saying the DNA evidence is not conclusive.
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Sky News UK, citing unidentified sources, said DNA found in the boot of a car rented by her parents after the toddler disappeared was a complete match to Madeleine, the Associated Press reported.

However, Portuguese police said the forensics tests were not conclusive, agencies reported.

Some have suggested the DNA from the car boot came in fact from Madeleine's stuffed toy, Cuddle Cat.

The toddler went missing on May 3 from a hotel in southern Portugal.

Police named her parents as suspects last week. Both parents deny any role in their child's disapperance.

Her aunt Philomena McCann said the family is convinced she is still alive and want police to shift their focus away from the parents, who are formal suspects in the case.

Gerry and Kate McCann, who returned to Britain on Sunday four months after Madeleine went missing while on holiday, are prepared to go back to Portugal for more questioning, she added.

"The Portuguese have turned this investigation round and they are no longer looking for a live child; they are assuming on spurious evidence that Madeleine is now dead," Philomena McCann told the BBC.

"Well, we don't agree with that in any shape or form. We want the investigation changed round to look for Madeleine alive, as we reckon she is."

The couple have consulted lawyers in Britain after the Portuguese police declared them formal suspects on Friday, she added. Detectives questioned the couple for hours but did not charge them.

Police changed their line of inquiry after receiving partial results of forensic tests on evidence collected from various sites including the Algarve holiday apartment from which Madeleine vanished on May 3.

Kate McCann told a Sunday newspaper that detectives pressured her to confess having accidentally killed her daughter.

"They want me to lie. I am being framed," she was quoted as saying in the Sunday Mirror. "They are basically saying, 'If you confess Madeleine had an accident and that I panicked ... I'd get two or three years' suspended sentence.' It is ridiculous. The worst nightmare."

The couple are back at their home in the village of Rothley, Leicestershire, with crowds of TV crews, reporters and photographers camped outside.

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However, they are ready to face more questioning in Portugal and will fly back from time to time regardless of the police investigation, Philomena McCann said.

"They absolutely will co-operate with the police," she added. "They are more than prepared to undergo more questioning.

"It is their intention, regardless of whether they are asked ... to return at regular intervals to try and put pressure on the Portuguese police to change the direction of the investigation to look for Madeleine alive."

- Reuters

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