MADRID, Spain – An Italian man and Portuguese woman who allegedly tried to extort money from the parents of missing British 4-year-old Madeleine McCann remained in custody in southern Spain on Friday pending further questioning, a police spokeswoman said.
Police arrested the two in the exclusive Sotogrande district of San Roque town Thursday. A judge in the nearby town of Torremolinos has taken charge of the case and placed a secrecy order on investigations, meaning police will not be able to comment on developments, the spokeswoman said. She was speaking on condition of anonymity in line with police rules.
The detainees were only identified by their initials.
In a statement Thursday, police said the two were suspected of trying to extract money from the McCanns by supposedly offering information concerning their daughter.
However, the Italian Foreign Ministry said Spanish authorities had told them the man had no connection with the girl's disappearance.
Two Portuguese detectives took part in the arrests and Portuguese police inspector Olegario Sousa said it was thought that the two might be involved in the Madeleine case, but there was no concrete evidence yet.
The McCann family has launched a search across Europe for their daughter. She disappeared two months ago during a family vacation in Portugal.
The Italian was arrested on an international warrant — issued from France, where he was wanted for alleged association with a crime group — the Spanish police statement said. He had served an 18-month sentence in France for the mistreatment of his daughter, it said. A spokeswoman said his arrest warrant had nothing to do with the McCann case.
The Portuguese woman was detained due to her association with the Italian man.
Madeleine disappeared on May 3 after her parents left her and her brother and sister, 2-year-old twins, alone in their room while they went to a restaurant inside their hotel complex in Praia da Luz, a tiny resort town in Portugal's Algarve region.
Police have identified just one suspect in the case, but made no arrests before Thursday.
A month ago, Portuguese police said they were searching for a suspect — a white man between 35 and 40 years old — in connection with the girl's disappearance. They said the suspect had been wearing a dark jacket and beige trousers on the day the girl disappeared, and was spotted possibly carrying the girl near to where she had vanished.