Maddie suspect quizzed again

IAN CLARKE The Norfolk suspect in the missing Maddie McCann inquiry has been quizzed again as friends insisted: “He is innocent.”

IAN CLARKE

The Norfolk suspect in the missing Maddie McCann inquiry was quizzed again yesterday as friends insisted: “He is innocent.”

Former car salesman Robert Murat, 33, who used to live at Hockering, near Dereham, spent eight hours being re-interviewed by detectives investigating the disappearance of the four-year-old girl in Portugal before being allowed to walk free from the police station.

Last night a close friend said: “Hopefully this is the beginning of the end.”

Sources said the most likely reason for Mr Murat being re-interviewed at a station in the Algarve was for officers to go through evidence he has previously given to them.

He gave no comment as he left the police station, but Portuguese police said he remained a suspect.

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Mr Murat - who was first named an official “arguido” two months ago - is said to “remain adamant” that he is totally innocent but has been nervous and anxious in recent days because he remains a suspect.

The sources have indicated there have been “some discrepancies” in his accounts but he has not been arrested and has retained his passport and mobile phone and is free to leave Portugal if he wants to.

Mr Murat has told friends he wants to stay in the country as leaving may “give the wrong impression” to people.

At about 10am yesterday police telephoned Murat and asked him to attend the local headquarters in the town of Portimao for further questioning, family friend Tuck Price said.

"We all knew that he would be re-questioned at some point,' he said.

"Hopefully it is the beginning of the end for him, it would be terrific if it was.

"They just called and asked him to come in to have a chat, he wasn't arrested or anything like that.'

Mr Tuck added: "He is still under the arguido status, the only way that he can get out from under that is if they write a formal letter to him releasing him of that, hopefully today is the beginning of the end of that position.

"It has already been two months, they obviously haven't got anything on him or they would have found it by now.'

Mr Tuck said Mr Murat desperately wanted to be reunited with his daughter Sofia.

“It's been a very surreal experience for him. He is holding up, he wants it to be over. He wants to see his family in the UK, his daughter, as soon as the arguido status is lifted. They will either come here or he will go there.”

Until about two years ago Mr Murat had been living with his then-wife Dawn at Hockering, with Sofia, who is Madeleine's age.

She has also said she believes he is innocent and was not capable of being involved.

There was nobody at home at Mrs Murat's house yesterday .

The curtains were closed and the words "go away!!!" were written in biro on the front door. All that remained of the poster proclaiming Mr Murat's innocence was the sticky tape that had attached it to the window, and elsewhere in the village only one of the many posters that were put up in May was still to be seen.

That weathered poster was on the home of Carla Cunha, who had made and distributed the posters because she said, "Rob needs to know he is not alone."

It is believed that she has now not spoken to Mr Murat for some time.

Other friends and neighbours of Mrs Murat said she has not been seen in the village since Mr Murat was named as a suspect in the case, although there are sometimes cars in her driveway and the rubbish bins are usually put out on the right day.

Justine McGuinness, the McCanns' spokeswoman said the issue was a matter for Portuguese detectives adding that Madeleine's parents Gerry and Kate did not wish to comment.

Mr Murat, 33, was thrown into the spotlight on May 14, 11 days after the four-year-old from Rothley, Leicestershire, was snatched from her bed in the Algarve village of Praia Da Luz.

Officers swooped on Casa Liliana, the villa in which he lives with his mother Jenny - just a short walk from the apartment where the McCanns were staying at the time of the abduction.

The villa was searched extensively and several items were taken away for analysis while Mr Murat's girlfriend Michaela Walczuch and her estranged Portuguese husband Luis Antonio were also interviewed as witnesses.

When Madeleine went missing Mr Murat volunteered his services, telling journalists he was translating documents for police and others that he was helping with the investigation itself.

But one journalist reported him to the police, suspicious of his motives.

Mr Murat insists he is entirely innocent and was dining with his mother on the night Madeleine went missing.

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