LISBON, Portugal – Portuguese police released a suspect who they questioned about the disappearance of a British toddler, saying there was not enough evidence to file charges, an official said Tuesday.
Detectives searched five houses Monday as part of their investigation of the 33-year-old man, identified in media reports as Briton Robert Murat, and seized some of his belongings, inspector Olegario de Sousa told a news conference. Detectives also questioned two other people as part of the same inquiry into Madeleine McCann's disappearance, he said.
Detectives and forensic experts searched his villa for most of Monday, taking away computers and cellular phones, Lusa said. Portuguese media said police drained the villa's pool.
The villa is about 100 yards from the hotel where Madeleine, from central England, was apparently abducted while vacationing with her parents.
Police officials at national headquarters would not confirm the report nor name anyone under investigation, citing secrecy laws. They said detectives would hold a news conference later in the day.
Under Portuguese law, opening a formal investigation is a first step toward possibly bringing formal charges. The legal measure is designed to safeguard a citizen's constitutional rights. It grants the person in question access to potential evidence and allows the person to mount a legal defense.
The girl vanished May 3 after her parents left her, and her brother and sister, both aged 2, alone while they went to a nearby restaurant within their hotel complex in Portugal's Algarve region, a popular European tourist destination.
Portuguese media said the suspect had mingled with journalists outside the hotel in the days following the girl's disappearance and offered to act as an interpreter. He reportedly has a Portuguese father and a British mother and speaks English and Portuguese fluently.
A British journalist told Sky News she had told local police the man was behaving suspiciously and had encouraged them to follow leads suggesting the girl had been kidnapped and taken to Spain.
Last week, police called off their ground search for Madeleine, saying they had checked a 77-square-mile area twice and found nothing.
Her parents are still at the hotel.
British media have said that promised contributions to a reward fund total some $5.1 million, including reported donations from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, tycoon Sir Richard Branson and "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell. Also, celebrities including soccer star David Beckham have made public appeals for help in finding Madeleine.
Earlier this week, Gerry McCann said he and his wife, Kate, had taken strength from the "spiritual outpouring" around the world. They have received messages of support from numerous countries, he said.
Asked how long they would stay in Portugal, Kate McCann said, "I can't even consider going home at the moment, absolutely can't even let it enter my head."