Shock in Hockering over Maddie inquiry

The quiet community of Hockering, near Dereham, was in shock last night after being thrust into the spotlight of one of Europe's biggest child abduction inquiries for many years.

The quiet community of Hockering, near Dereham, was in shock last night after being thrust into the spotlight of one of Europe's biggest child abduction inquiries for many years.

And villagers rallied around the well-liked and friendly former resident Robert Murat who they said “could not be capable of anything outside the law”.

The Mid Norfolk village - just off the main A47 Norwich/Dereham road - was besieged by the nation's media after it emerged the former car salesman had lived there until about two years ago and his estranged wife Dawn, four-year-old daughter and 20-year-old step son still occupy the family home at The Street.

Carla Cunha, 35, is a friend of Mr Murat and his estranged wife and had been with Dawn as news broke of him being questioned by police in connection with the abduction of Madeleine McCann.

“He is a lovely person and kind and helps everybody. This must be a big mix up. I know he has nothing to do with this and I am 100pc sure he is innocent. I am not worried about him as I know he has done nothing. If I could get a message to him I would tell him to be strong.”

She said she had not spoken to Dawn since she and her daughter and son had been taken to a secret location by police for their own safety but added: “Dawn will be fine.”

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Neighbour Colin Shackcloth, 85, said: “He was a lovely down to earth fella. If you wanted anything he was prepared to help.

“This whole thing does not fit with his character.”

“He and his wife were always lovely and never had an angry word with anyone. They were good neighbours and helped us out if we needed it.”

Geoffrey Livock, 71, who lives near Dawn, 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. I didn't know anyone to dislike him.”

He said Mr Murat was a loving father and his daughter could look like the “twin' sister” of little Madeleine.

He said the girls had the same hair style and very similar faces.

“At first glance if you saw them walking down the street you would think they were twins.”

“Their hair is about the same and their faces are similar. I didn't think anything about it when Madeleine went missing. It was only when all this came out that I realised they were so similar.'

Fred French, 85, said of Mr Murat: “He is a friendly chap. I used to know him right well. I used to see him in his garden, sitting outside with his ex-wife. We used to have a laugh and a joke. I'm Scottish and he's Portuguese and we used to say we were the foreigners of the village.'

Gerry Thompson, 56, added: “He is a friendly person to talk to. I have known him all the time he lived in the village, which must be about seven or eight years. I saw him in the pub a few times and we would have a chat. This whole thing is a bolt out of the blue.”

Two policemen continued to guard the family home all day and cones were put up to stop people getting close to the property.

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