Norfolk man 'wanted to help find Maddie'

A former Norfolk man questioned by Portuguese police about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann would rather "help than hinder", one of his fomer neighbours said today.

A former Norfolk man questioned by Portuguese police about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann would rather "help than hinder", one of his fomer neighbours said today.

The villa of Briton Robert Murat, formerly of Hockering, near Dereham, was searched by police who also drained the swimming pool.

The property, which is just 150yds from the apartment where four-year-old Madeleine was abducted 11 days ago, was searched by forensic experts and sniffer dogs.

Mr Murat was released late last night and was today said to be staying with friends in Portugal. Sources close to the investigation said Mr Murat and two other people taken in for questioning yesterday were not being treated as suspects, but were interviewed as witnesses.

Today Geoffrey Livock, 71, of Hockering, said: “The police have only taken him in for questioning. Like we were saying in the pub last night, he would rather help than hinder anyone. I don't know what to make of it. I'm shocked by it.

“He got on with everybody. He used to come up to the pub and have a laugh and joke and have a game of darts or pool.

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“His English was very good. If you were talking to him you would think he was more English than Portuguese. I didn't know anyone to dislike him.”

Mr Livock said he had known Mr Murat and his ex-wife, Dawn, for about five years. Mr Murat lived in Hockering before returning to Portugal two years ago.

Mr Livock said Mr Murat had a daughter due to start school this year, and returned to the house periodically.

Mr Murat came under suspicion after telling journalists he was helping to act as a translator between the police and Madeleine's family because the missing girl reminded him of his own daughter.

Madeleine was snatched from her bed where she was sleeping next to her two-year-old twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, while parents Gerry and Kate had dinner nearby.

Throughout the days since their daughter's disappearance, the family, who come from Leicestershire, have remained convinced that she is alive and will be safely returned to them.