A witness who was present when Kate McCann returned from her family's apartment to reveal her daughter was missing yesterday dismissed suggestions that her initial choice of words implied she was involved in the crime.
The witness said Mrs McCann ran back from apartment 5A at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, screaming: "Madeleine's gone, Madeleine's gone." Persistent reports in Portugal have suggested that Mrs McCann said: " They've taken her" – a choice of words which has been presented as evidence of a cover-up.
The witness said Mrs McCann and her husband Gerry had been too visibly horrified to have had any hand in their daughter's disappearance and revealed that that any suspicions about the choice of words was not based on interviews with the people present at the McCanns' table in the Ocean Club tapas bar on the night Madeleine vanished.
Continuing the steady, point-by-point rebuttal of alleged evidence against them which has characterised the McCanns' strategy in recent days, the witness said: "It is farcical that detectives could even make Kate and Gerry suspects without speaking to witnesses. Throughout all of this the police have never come back and asked eyewitnesses whether they could be faking it."
As the McCanns met their lawyers Kingsley Napley in London yesterday, doubts about the Polícia Judicária case deepened in Portugal. The newspaper Diario de Noticias quoted a source close to the lead prosecutor in the case as saying it had reached an "impasse". This followed the announcement on Wednesday night by Luís Bilro Verão, a prosecutor appointed by the Portuguese Attorney General to handle the case, that no new evidence had yet emerged to justify questioning the couple again.
The McCann group on the night of Madeleine's disappearance - Matthew and Rachael Oldfield, David and Fiona Payne and her mother Dianne Webster, and Russell O'Brien and his partner Jane Tanner - were interviewed by police in the immediate aftermath of Madeleine's disappearance and again about a week later.
A source also helped create the first detailed picture of how the fateful day of May 3 had unfolded for the McCanns. It seems that the children in the party were dropped at creche in the Mark Warner complex in the morning and picked up at midday, continuing a routine kept throughout the McCanns' one-week holiday. The couple then took Madeleine and her twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, for a picnic lunch. They also spent time at the beach, that afternoon, and at the pool of the Ocean Club.
The McCanns skipped supper with the rest of the group at the Paraiso restaurant close to the beach at 5.30pm. Mr and Mrs McCann were next seen in the tapas bar, the first of their group to arrive at 8.40pm.