Kate and Gerry McCann tonight threatened to pull out of plans to return to Portugal to help police reconstruct the events around their daughter Madeleine’s disappearance amid a furious row over leaked interviews.
The McCanns believe the Portuguese authorities deliberately slipped transcripts of statements they gave to detectives in the hours after their daughter went missing on May 3 last year, to the media.
The excerpts include the disclosure that Madeleine and her brother Sean apparently woke up crying the night before the three-year-old’s disappearance, but her parents did not hear her as they were in a nearby restaurant.
The interviews disclosed that Madeleine asked Kate at breakfast on May 3: “Mummy, why didn’t you come when we were crying last night?”
The couple are demanding a full internal investigation from the Portuguese Ministry of Justice into whether the detail was deliberately passed to a Spanish journalist to “smear” them on the day they launched a campaign for a new child alert system in Brussels.
Their local MP Stephen Dorrell said today he would raise the matter with the Foreign Office. It is understood the McCanns’ Portuguese lawyers will be protesting to the relevant authorities there.
Their spokesman Clarence Mitchell called for the Portuguese government itself to “get a grip” of the leaks.
Although discussions about a possible return to Portugal to help police piece together the events of that night are still going on, the mood of co-operation has soured markedly since yesterday’s developments.
“All this nonsense over the last 24 or 36 hours does not in any way endear them to the idea of going back,” Mr Mitchell said.
It emerged today that Paulo Rebelo, the detective leading the case, has already flown back to Portugal from the UK – a day earlier than expected.
His team of Portuguese police have been in the UK all week sitting in on interviews with the so-called Tapas Seven – the McCanns’ friends who were dining with them at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Mr Mitchell said he hoped this meant Mr Rebelo had gone back “to crack some skulls”.
He added: “Rebelo came in partly to try and end all the leaks, now we have two in the week that he is in Britain.”
Mr Dorrell, the Conservative MP for Charnwood in Leicestershire which covers the McCanns’ home town of Rothley, said he would raise his concerns with the Foreign Office.
“I think this is an official investigation of the Portuguese government and this is a very sensitive case and I think clearly these are official records that have been leaked,” he said.
“It’s an issue that should be taken up with the Portuguese authorities by the Foreign Office.
“I intend to take it to the Foreign Office myself.”
Any leak of such sensitive material would constitute a clear breach of Portugal’s unusual judicial secrecy laws.
But tonight the country’s Justice Ministry declined to comment – citing the same judicial secrecy laws.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “If and when we receive a formal correspondence from him (Mr Dorrell) obviously we will look into it.
“But I don’t think, given the sensitivities around the case, we would go into any great detail.
“Any approach to the Portuguese police or Portuguese authorities from the Foreign Office would be done privately.”
Mr Mitchell reiterated that the McCanns knew they had made a “mistake” in leaving their three children unattended when Madeleine was abducted but emphasised their regret.
The couple said last year that the guilt they felt about that night would never leave them.
But he also insisted Madeleine’s remark at breakfast had been a matter-of-fact comment rather than a rebuke.
“They made a mistake,” he said. “Their system failed, they were incredibly unlucky and they made a mistake.
“Nobody, but nobody, regrets more than they what happened.
“And they possibly will have to live with that regret for the rest of their lives.”
He added: “The only person responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance is the person who took her.”
He repeated that the couple were checking their children every 20 to 25 minutes while dining at the restaurant.
“They were actually checking more frequently than any of the baby listening services which check every half an hour,” he added.
He also dismissed a report in the Portuguese press today that members of the Tapas Seven were dragging their feet over attending any reconstruction.
He said: “On behalf of all seven friends any reports in today’s Portuguese press that claims the Tapas Seven have made a set of impossible and unreasonable demands as part of any condition for a return for a reconstruction are categorically untrue.
“The group categorically deny that they have made any such demands and these reports are just another set of blatant lies to add to all of the hundreds of lies that have been told in the Portuguese press over the last 11 months.
“To suggest they want private jets or luxury hotel accommodation as part of any return is utter rubbish.”