Madeleine police had no training in missing people searches

Most of the Portuguese police officers who looked for Madeleine McCann after her disappearance had no formal training in missing people searches, case files revealed today.

Most of the Portuguese police officers who looked for Madeleine McCann after her disappearance had no formal training in missing people searches, case files revealed today.

Up to 100 personnel spent a week scouring an area up to 15km (9.3 miles) around the Algarve resort where the little girl vanished on May 3 last year.

But they failed to find any clues to Madeleine’s fate, and in July Portuguese detectives called in leading British expert Mark Harrison.

Mr Harrison, national search adviser for all UK police agencies in cases of missing people, homicides and abductions, reviewed the initial operations and advised on the inquiry’s future strategy.

He noted that neither search co-ordinator Major Luis Sequeira nor most of his teams had received any training for the task of looking for the missing girl.

Between 80 and 100 people drawn from the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) local police, civil protection, fire brigade, Red Cross and urban police were involved in the searches.

In his report, dated July 23 last year, Mr Harrison wrote: “Major Sequeira has not benefited from any formal training or accreditation in the management of searching for missing persons.

“The search officers – with the exception of the search and rescue team dispatched from Lisbon – had not benefited from any formal training in search procedures.”

The report, contained in police files made public last week, focuses on the possibility that Madeleine was murdered and her body hidden in areas previously scrutinised by police.

Mr Harrison highlighted an open area to the east of Praia da Luz, the village where the little girl disappeared, that afforded “many opportunities to dispose of a body” and recommended fresh searches there.

Most significantly, he advised that specialist sniffer dogs should be used to examine key sites such as the McCanns’ holiday apartment and the home of official suspect Robert Murat.

In late July and early August two British dogs trained to scent corpses and human blood were brought to Portugal and taken around property associated with people connected to the case.

As a result of their findings further samples were taken from the McCanns’ flat and sent to the Birmingham-based Forensic Science Service (FSS) for analysis.

The sniffer dog and DNA evidence were central to Portuguese detectives’ decision to name Mr and Mrs McCann as “arguidos”, or formal suspects, in Madeleine’s disappearance on September 7 last year.

In his report Mr Harrison also concluded that information about the child’s whereabouts provided by a former South African policeman was “likely to be of low value”.

Danie Krugel, who claims to have invented a device for finding missing people, visited Praia da Luz last July on the invitation of Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.

Based on his investigations he said he believed she was not transported beyond the area where she disappeared.

In a separate report Mr Harrison expressed scepticism about the possibility that Madeleine had been buried on Praia da Luz’s beach, noting this was a “high risk activity” and “extremely rare”.

Mr and Mrs McCann, both 40, from Leicestershire in the UK, insist they will continue believing their daughter is alive until shown concrete proof to the contrary.

On July 21, Portuguese prosecutors announced they were shelving the case, although it can be reopened if credible new evidence comes to light.

At the same time the McCanns and Mr Murat were told they were no longer arguidos in the investigation.

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