Ex-wife of Maddie suspect speaks out

The Norfolk ex-wife of the man named as a suspect in the hunt for Madeleine McCann last night spoke out for the first time and described the “very difficult time” for her family.

The Norfolk ex-wife of the man named as a suspect in the hunt for Madeleine McCann last night spoke out for the first time and described the “very difficult time” for her family.

Robert Murat, 33, was questioned by police investigating the disappearance of the four-year-old girl in the Algarve coastal town of Praia da Luz and his villa has been thoroughly searched.

He lived in Hockering, near Dereham, until about two years ago when his marriage to Dawn Murat finished and he returned to Portugal.

Mrs Murat and their four-year-old daughter and her son were taken to a secret location by police on Monday night after news broke that Mr Murat was being quizzed.

In a statement issued through Norfolk Police, she said: “This is a very difficult time for my family.

“I am aware of the significant levels of press interest being generated by the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and I am assisting the police in any way I can.

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“At this time I have no comment to make about the inquiry or my previous relationship with my estranged husband.

“I have been very saddened by the disappearance of young Madeleine and like everyone else, sincerely hope the search for her ends with a positive outcome.”

Last night Mr Murat's cousin Sally Eveleigh told the BBC 10 o'clock News: “His whole life's fallen apart just from being over-enthusiastic trying to help people as he always does - that's his way.

“People not knowing him have misunderstood it.”

Meanwhile, several hundred miles away, Madeleine's uncle John McCann and former England rugby captain Martin Johnson unveiled Madeleine's Fund at Leicester's Walkers Stadium in support of the family and to “bring her abductors to justice'.

In a separate development, detectives in Portugal last night swooped on the home of 22-year-old Sergey Malinka, who designed a website for Mr Murat, in Praia da Luz.

After spending two hours inside, the plain clothes officers emerged carrying two hard drives, a laptop and a black bin bag full of items.

Mr Malinka, who neighbours said was Russian and lived in the town for around seven years, was brought out by the detectives and driven off.

During the search a courtyard surrounding the entrance to his apartment where he was believed to live with his parents, was sealed off.

Back in Norfolk, Mrs Murat's home at The Street, Hockering, is still being guarded by police and cones have been put on roads in the nearby area.

Yesterday morning Mrs Murat's mother Margaret Chapman, who lives in Mile Cross, Norwich, visited the house briefly along with her son Andy but walked by reporters without commenting.

Europe-wide media interest in the village has continued as journalists have tried to find more background out about Mr Murat.

A film crew from a Portuguese TV company was among those in Hockering yesterday.

Meanwhile, the family of Madeleine received the backing of the British Government, with pledges of help coming from across the political spectrum.

Relatives of the four-year-old travelled from Glasgow to London to meet Chancellor Gordon Brown and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

In Leicester, former England rugby captain Martin Johnston helped launch a fund to help find the little girl.

Madeleine's aunt Philomena McCann said the family was so buoyed by all the support that despair had turned to “a tidal wave of hope.”

It is 13 days since Madeleine went missing, snatched from her bedroom in the Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz, only yards from where her parents Kate and Gerry were enjoying a meal.

The McCanns have made repeated televised appeals for information about Madeleine but let family and friends keep the situation in the media spotlight yesterday.

Ms McCann said she spoke to her brother Gerry for 45 minutes and he was overwhelmed by the support.

“Instead of a tidal wave of despair, he is facing a tidal wave of hope,” she said.

“Initially, he was completely floored by what had happened and found it very difficult to cope.

“That was turned around by the support of the nation of Portugal, the support of Glasgow, the whole of Scotland and England.”

Ms McCann said finding Madeleine was the “number one priority.”

“There is nothing else as important as that to our entire family and people all over the country.

“Madeleine is a beautiful, caring little girl. I can totally understand why someone might take her - but give her back, she is not yours.'”

As Ms McCann spoke, she was surrounded by a group of MPs wearing yellow ribbons in support.

Earlier, relatives met Mr Brown, whom Ms McCann said was deeply affected by the abduction.

“He was very distressed about our situation. I felt he was a genuine and caring person, I was touched by his sensitivity.”

She said she had been given some useful advice and offers of help.

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