LISBON, Portugal – The justice minister said Wednesday that the police investigation into the disappearance last year of British girl Madeleine McCann in southern Portugal is nearing its conclusion.
"We are at a stage now where we are approaching the conclusion of the process," Justice Minister Alberto Costa told a parliamentary committee hearing.
Costa said he could provide no details of the police investigation, which opened after Madeleine vanished May 3 — a few days before her 4th birthday — from a hotel room during a family vacation in Praia da Luz in Portugal's Algarve region.
Last month, the attorney general granted detectives working on the case an extra three months to pursue their inquiries.
Police said they requested the extension because of the "unusual complexity" of the case.
Costa was questioned by lawmakers about comments by Portugal's most senior detective who said recently that investigators acted hastily in naming the girl's parents as suspects in her disappearance.
Alipio Ribeiro, head of the Portuguese police's detective branch, said in a radio interview that investigators had shown "a certain haste" in naming Kate and Gerry McCann as formal suspects.
Costa said there was no indication Ribeiro had broken Portugal's secrecy laws which prohibit public discussion of ongoing investigations.
"If there was any such sign ... I am sure an inquiry would have been opened, and it hasn't been," Costa said.
The parents returned to Britain in September, and no one has been charged in the case.
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 the secrecy laws.