LISBON, Portugal – A senior Portuguese official investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann scolded British police, saying they were being misled by the girl's parents, who are official suspects in the case.
Goncalo Amaral, a detective who is overseeing the investigation into the child's May 3 disappearance during a vacation in Portugal, claimed in comments published Tuesday that British police have been pursuing leads that were "created and cultivated" by the parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, to shift suspicion away from them.
"The British police have been working solely on what the McCanns want and what suits them," Amaral was quoted as saying by daily paper Diario de Noticias.
A spokeswoman for Leicestershire Police, who have jurisdiction over the McCanns' home town in central England, said the force would "continue to support the Portuguese authorities" in their investigation but declined to comment further.
One of the McCanns' two Portuguese lawyers, Carlos Pinto Abreu, told Lisbon radio TSF that Amaral's comments were "in very poor taste" and were unhelpful for the investigation.
The McCanns have insisted they had nothing to do with their daughter's disappearance and believe someone took her.
British authorities have been cooperating in the investigation from the start. Forensic tests conducted at a government laboratory in Britain found evidence indicating that DNA from Madeleine was in the trunk of a rental car the parents used after her disappearance.
The findings prompted Portuguese police to place Kate and Gerry McCann under investigation.
However, Portugal's national police chief, Alipio Ribeiro, said the forensic tests on the car were not conclusive, and that he expected the investigation to continue.
The investigation initially focussed on the possibility that Madeleine, who was a few days short of her 4th birthday, was abducted from her hotel room at a resort while her parents were dining at a nearby restaurant.
Kate and Gerry McCann, who have run an international campaign to find their daughter, returned to Britain last month, a day after they were named as formal suspects. They have said they are prepared to return to Portugal for further police questioning, if necessary.
The only other formal suspect in Madeleine's disappearance is Robert Murat, a British man who lived near the hotel from which she vanished. He also has denied involvement.