Experts from Britain are attempting to trace the abductor of Madeleine McCann by following a trail left by mobile telephone signals.
A team of British telecommunications specialists has arrived in the Algarve to attempt to pinpoint the movements of telephones around the resort complex where Madeleine was abducted 26 days ago.
Their arrival came as Madeleine’s parents released the final mobile telephone images of the child before her abduction. They show her excitedly starting the week’s holiday in Portugal.
The mobile telephone tracing technique was used to collect evidence that helped to convict Ian Huntley for the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 2002.
Trails are created by silent transmissions sent out by every mobile phone even when not in use. Each signal is picked up by masts, which create a timed computer log of the handset’s movements. By measuring the strength of the signal, the location of the handset can often be narrowed to an area as small as a few square yards.
Detectives will use the information to verify statements provided by guests and staff at the Ocean Club complex, where Madeleine was taken from her bed.
Portuguese police appear to have made little progress in the investigation since searching the home of Robert Murat, the only official suspect in the case.
Murat, 33, who lives less than 100 yards from Madeleine’s apartment, strenuously denies any wrongdoing. Detectives have become increasingly interested in yachts at the marina in Lagos, a town about 5 miles from where Madeleine disappeared. They have questioned four boat owners, three of them English.
Officers are also reported to be attempting to trace a British man who left the harbor on his yacht about three weeks ago, after mooring there for about two years. A witness reported seeing a man walking with a child in his arms down to the marina hours after 4-year-old Madeleine was kidnapped.
Kate McCann will leave Portugal tonight for the first time since her daughter’s disappearance for a visit to the Vatican with her husband, Gerry, to see the Pope tomorrow morning.
The trip will be the first in a series of visits to promote the search for their daughter across Europe and North Africa. The couple are expected to travel to Spain on Friday or Saturday and Berlin on Monday. They also want to visit Amsterdam and Morocco.
Kate McCann is particularly keen to visit Morocco to raise awareness of Madeleine’s abduction because of its closeness to Portugal and easy access by boat.
A suspected sighting in Marrakesh has been ruled out by Interpol after they re-interviewed the woman who claimed to have seen a little girl similar to Madeleine at a petrol station. But a small contingent of officers from Leicestershire police are still in the North African country.
The family is considering recording a version of Bryan Adams’s "Everything I Do" to promote the search and raise funds for the Madeleine Fund.
The first line of the song, “Look into my eyes,” is particularly relevant because of Madeleine’s distinctive iris in her right eye. The couple, both 38, visited the beach at Praia da Luz yesterday to look at an 800-square-foot inflatable billboard with Madeleine’s face on it which was set up by two volunteers who had driven from Glasgow to help with the search.
The parents also released the latest mobile telephone images, which show Madeleine clasping her pink Barbie rucksack as she clambers up the steps to the aircraft at East Midlands airport.
Holding hands with another little girl, she loses her footing and slips, grazing her shin on the third step. But although she cut herself quite badly, she stops crying after only seconds.
Gerry McCann, holding the pink rucksack, said: “She was really brave.”
On arrival in Portugal the family were filmed sitting on the shuttle bus at Faro airport.
Gerry McCann said: “She was dead excited about going away with the rest of the kids.”