Belfast Telegraph

Former Northern Ireland police officer reveals Madeleine McCann hunt flaws

By Kunal Dutta

A Home Office report written by the former head of Special Branch in Belfast has found that competition between police and crime agencies to get involved in the search for Madeleine McCann hampered the investigation into her disappearance.

The report, commissioned by the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson in 2009 but yet to be released, is thought to have resulted in UK authorities reopening the investigation into the missing toddler.

According to its author, Jim Gamble, so many British agencies got involved in the search that it created "frustration and resentment" among Portuguese police, even leading to warnings that British officers were acting like a "colonial power".

The report by Mr Gamble – who is also the former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) – criticised the decision of the Association of Chief Police Officers to put Leicestershire Police in charge of the operation, concluding that the force was ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the investigation.

Mr Gamble told Sky News the intervention of competing police chiefs has had a long-term negative effect on the investigation.

Within the first few weeks of the toddler's disappearance in May 2007 the Portuguese were advised by the Ceop, the Metropolitan Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Police Improvement Agency.

"It was unhelpful. I've no doubt that relationships from the outset with the Portuguese were [affected] by it and I think that had a long-term negative effect on the investigation. To this very day the Met investigation team is still having to manage and massage that relationship and – perhaps to be fair to the Portuguese – mend some fences that were trodden on in the early days," he said.

The Home Office declined to comment last night.

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