Norfolk Maddie suspect

IAN CLARKE A former Norfolk car salesman who was first person to be declared an official suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is set to be cleared by police, it has been reported in Portugal.


A former Norfolk car salesman who was first person to be declared an official suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is set to be cleared by police, it has been reported in Portugal.

British expat Robert Murat was taken in for questioning by police 11 days after the four-year-old disappeared in May and later declared an "arguido", or official suspect, but he has never been formally arrested or charged.

Mr Murat, 33, used to live in Hockering and his wife Dawn and daughter Sofia still live in the village.

Mr Murat lives with his mother in a villa less than 100m from the spot where Madeleine was last seen.

Police searched his house and garden using specialist sniffer dogs after suspicions were aroused over his interest in the case.

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He had offered his services as a translator to police working on the case and became a familiar sight around the crime scene in the days after Madeleine's disappearance.

Portuguese newspaper Sol reported that Mr Murat had now been told that police have no case against him.

But he is to remain an arguido until the investigation is complete to avoid compromising other ongoing inquiries, Sol said.

If Mr Murat was cleared of any involvement, it would mean Madeleine's dad Gerry and mum Kate are now the only official suspects in the case.

But surgeon Gerry's sister Philomena - who has regularly spoken on the couple's behalf - welcomed the news about Mr Murat.

She said: "The poor man - the police have seen the error of their ways.

"If there's no evidence, they are doing the decent thing in clearing him.

"And if they think he's innocent, that's fine.

"It's good to see the man's name can be cleared."

Mr Murat's cousin, Sally Eveleigh, said: 'This has been a nightmare for Robert and his family. His name has been dragged through the mud.

“His family and friends have always known the whole thing was ridiculous and there was never any truth to the allegations. Words wouldn't be able to describe how we will feel when this is all over. We haven't been told anything officially yet, but then Robert hasn't spoken to anyone involved in the investigation for ages.”

The news comes amid reports accusing Portuguese officers of failing to follow up a second sighting of Madeleine in Morocco.

Reports said a second witness told police he also spotted Madeleine in Morocco on May 9, the same day as a sighting by a Norwegian tourist.

A British tourist reportedly contacted Leicestershire Police after returning home from holiday and seeing pictures of the missing youngster, who passed the information on to Portuguese and Moroccan authorities.

In May a Norwegian tourist said she saw Madeleine in Marrakech. The second sighting, which was not disclosed by Portuguese police, came in the same location of the city at a similar time of day.

The Norwegian woman claimed she saw Madeleine outside a petrol station, while the British witness said he saw a young girl closely resembling Madeleine outside the Ibis Hotel opposite.

A source close to the family told reporters the British man was unaware of the other sighting, meaning police had two independent sightings in the same place.

Meanwhile, millionaire businessman Brian Kennedy has said he is providing financial backing to Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry McCann, the only other arguidos in the case.

Mr Kennedy, who owns the Latium Group and rugby union team Sale Sharks, said he felt compelled to support the McCanns following the accusations made against them.

He said in a statement: "In light of the quite literally incredible accusations against Gerry and Kate McCann, which are clearly exacerbating their emotional torture, I felt compelled to offer, along with other like-minded businessmen, financial support and the full logistical support of the Latium team.

"That support is principally our in-house lawyer Ed Smethurst and (official spokesman) Clarence Mitchell.

"This will relieve the McCanns of the daily pressure of coordinating the legal teams that will expedite the clearing of Gerry and Kate's names, allowing all parties to refocus on finding Madeleine.'

Cheshire-based Mr Kennedy is estimated to be worth £250 million and made his fortune in double-glazing and home improvement ventures.

His companies have included Weatherseal Holdings, Everest and Space Kitchens & Bedrooms.

Madeleine went missing from her family's rented holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on the Algarve on the night of May 3 while her parents Gerry and Kate were eating tapas in a restaurant nearby.

The McCanns were themselves declared arguidos after tests on DNA samples found in their hire car were taken as suggesting Madeleine's body had been transported in the vehicle.

They strenuously deny any involvement.

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