Madeleine: Robert Murat's plea to police

IAN CLARKE Former Norfolk car salesman Robert Murat has issued a “charge me or clear me” message to police over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.


Former Norfolk car salesman Robert Murat has issued a “charge me or clear me” message to police over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

The challenge from Mr Murat - the first official suspect in the case - came as a legal deadline is reached on Thursday marking exactly eight months since the four-year-old vanished from her family's holiday apartment in the Algarve on May 3.

Under new Portuguese laws, official suspects have to be charged after eight months unless public prosecutors apply for an extension.

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Mr Murat, 34, has always protested his innocence and has claimed he has been “made a scapegoat.”

His lawyer Francisco Pagarete said it would be "cruel" of detectives to keep his client as a suspect any longer.

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He said: "The truth is there are no grounds to maintain him as a suspect. It would be cruel if this situation was prolonged."

But speculation is growing that the prosecutor has already granted an extension allowing a further period of secrecy for the investigation because of the "special complexity" of the case.

Mr Murat used to live at Hockering, near Dereham, and his ex-wife Dawn and five-year-old daughter Sofia still live there.

If they fail to clear him, under Portuguese law, they must charge him or reveal what evidence they have against the 34-year-old father.

Mr Pagarette is hopeful police will use the eight-month deadline to announce their decision to drop the case against him.

He said: "After eight months that is the end of the inquiry, so a suspect must be accused or advised of the suspicions against them.

"The public prosecutor either accuses him or they don't. And that is what I am hoping will happen."

"We have not had any communication from the police since August.

"Obviously they have already cleared Robert, it is just a question of the deadline.

"My feeling, my instinct, is that they will clear Robert, but I can't say it for sure.

"My legal opinion in this case is that there is no need for any extra time. The evidence gathered by the police is strong, and enough to clear Robert."

Mr Murat was declared an official suspect on May 14 and he has claimed that his life has been destroyed by the false allegations.

Maddie's parents Kate and Gerry, who are the only other arguidos, should theoretically also be charged, released or told what evidence exists against them today.

But it has been reported detectives are due to re-interview Kate and Gerry in Britain and do not want to make any decision about their status until that is complete.

Suggestions that Mr Murat could soon be in the clear come just days after two new witnesses came forward contradicting his alibi for the evening of May 3.

A total of eight people now claim to have seen him near the McCanns' apartment on the night that Madeleine vanished.

He has always denied leaving his villa that night and his mother Jenny, 71, has insisted he spent the entire evening indoors with her.

Mr Murat told detectives he did not learn about Madeleine's disappearance until the next morning, when he volunteered his services as a translator to police.

Meanwhile, Maddie's parents have said that they will continue looking for their daughter.

They are also trying to adopt a more normal routine - with Mr McCann going back to work full-time as a hospital consultant.

McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "We will not comment on Mr Pagarete's assertions regarding his client, other than to say that January 3 is the eight month anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance.

"If the police are choosing to review matters on that particular anniversary, then we welcome anything that will lead to Gerry and Kate being eliminated from the inquiry, and will then allow the police to carry on searching for Madeleine properly.

"Beyond that we are not aware of January 3 having any particular significance at this stage."

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