Portuguese Detectives Ask for More Time in Madeleine Probe

Portuguese detectives investigating the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann have asked the attorney general to keep documents in the case classified beyond the usual limit of eight months, officials said Friday.

Under Portuguese law, the details of investigations are secret for the first eight months after police identify a formal suspect — a deadline that falls next week. However, police can ask for more time in exceptional cases.

Official suspects, police and lawyers can be prosecuted if they discuss details of an open case in public while it is classified.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General's office said investigators asked for an extension but she declined to provide details.

Portugal's national news agency, Lusa, quoting an unidentified official at the Attorney-General's office, said police requested a three-month extension because of the "unusual complexity" of the case.

It was not clear when the Attorney-General would rule on the police request.

Madeleine McCann vanished last May, a few days before her 4th birthday, from her family's hotel room during a vacation in Portugal's southern Algarve region.

The first formal suspect in her disappearance was Robert Murat, a British man who lives near the hotel from which she vanished. He has denied involvement.

Weeks later, Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry McCann were also named suspects. They say they were not involved in their daughter's disappearance and have run an international campaign to find her.

Murat and the girl's parents have complained that they are unable to give their version of events because of Portugal's secrecy law covering ongoing investigations.

Portuguese detectives met last month with forensic scientists from Britain who have examined evidence in the case.