LONDON – Fresh operations in the hunt for Madeleine McCann have been authorized by a Portuguese judge, with police appearing to accept the original belief that she may have been abducted by a stranger.
A convicted terrorist was questioned by detectives yesterday about whether he had helped to dispose of the body of the missing girl, as police began a desperate hunt for new clues. Eef Hoos, who owns an incinerator about 20 miles from where Madeleine disappeared, claimed that detectives from the PolÍcia Judicia said that they knew he had spoken to the missing girl’s parents.
The 61-year-old Dutchman said: “Two officers asked me if I had anything to do with her, and have you spoken to the parents, they asked me three times. They said they knew I had spoken to the parents – it’s not true.
“Everything in my furnace – I have the names of the people and I see what’s in the bags.”
Mr Hoos, who operates a business called Creon Starlight to dispose of pets in the town of Monchique, moved to Portugal after serving a seven-year sentence in the Netherlands for a series of bomb attacks in 1988 in which one person was seriously injured. He said yesterday: “The police said to me you have a very bad name. I am the biggest bomb-maker in the world.”
The questioning followed a ruling by a Portuguese judge that police had insufficient evidence to reinterview Kate and Gerry McCann. Detectives have failed to find any proof that Madeleine is dead during the two weeks since the couple were made official suspects.
Mr and Mrs McCann, both 39, said last night that they were prepared to take a lie detector test if requested by the Portuguese authorities. “Kate and Gerry are happy to do anything that will help them to clear their names,” a source close to the couple said. “They have said all along that they want to cooperate fully with the Portuguese police, but as of today they have received no such request.”
The McCanns visited their British lawyers to discuss the announcement that police could not yet reinterview them and that further operations in the investigation had been authorised.
Search teams were reported to be preparing to scour rugged coastline and wasteland west of the town of Praia da Luz. Luis Bilro Verâo, the public prosecutor leading the case, said on Wednesday night: “The PolÍcia JudiciᲩa will carry out new operations under the order of the Ministério Público.”
A source close to Verâo was quoted in a respected Portuguese newspaper yesterday as saying that the case against Mr. and Mrs. McCann had reached an “impasse”.
Portuguese police suspect that the couple, from Leicestershire, may have accidentally killed their daughter and hidden her body. But tests on samples taken from the holiday flat where she disappeared and the couple’s hire car have failed to prove she is dead.
The couple had feared that they would be recalled to the Algarve to face further questioning by police but Verâo said on Wednesday night that it could not be done until further evidence had been found. The newspaper said it knew that the police were still investigating the possibility that Madeleine had been kidnapped.
Rogerio Alves, the president of the Portuguese Bar, was appointed yesterday by the McCanns as their second lawyer to fight the criminal allegations against them.
Travel agents will today arrive at the Ocean Club resort, where Madeleine disappeared, in an effort to attract more tourists. Andy Cooper, director-general of the Federation of Tour Operators, said: “It makes sense to get sales going.”