Saturday, May 19, 2007


Algarve police face mounting criticism.
John Follain and Steven Swinford, Praia da Luz
May 20, 2007

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LAST SUNDAY, a solitary figured stood outside the home of Robert Murat, the Englishman questioned in the Madeleine McCann case, as police forensic experts searched the villa.

A week on, searching questions are being asked about why Guilhermino da Encarnacao, the chief investigating officer, switched the focus of his inquiries on to one man. Even the police admit there is, to date, no credible evidence against Murat.

Described as a “desk strategist”, Encarnacao, a methodical 59-year-old officer, now heads one of the most intensively scrutinised police investigations in recent history.

There are questions over the resources and time spent investigating Murat. It has also emerged that Encarnacao was involved in a previous investigation of a missing child, which was hit by criticism. “As police we can’t make miracles happen,” he has said in one his few interviews. “Let’s hope God will allow us to solve the case.”

There were no miracles last week and after 17 days, Madeleine is still missing. The trauma consultants with the McCann family have gently helped them to at least consider the possibility that their daughter is now dead, although the couple are convinced she is still alive.

Police are widening their inquiry, with new searches in other European countries and northern Africa.

A report of a small child matching Madeleine’s description in Marrakesh on May 9 was yesterday reported to have been discounted.

The profile of the case remains as high as ever. A two-minute appeal was shown on the big screen at Wembley ahead of the Manchester United-Chelsea FA Cup Final. The website appealing for help has had more than 60m hits.

The results of forensic tests on Murat’s property are still awaited, but the questions are being asked: what was the evidence that initially made him a suspect? Were searches of properties connected to him conducted effectively? And why was he still allowed to attend witness interviews as a police translator while under suspicion?

Last week it emerged that Encarnacao was also involved in another high-profile missing child case when Joana Cipriano disappeared from her home in the village of Figueira on September 12, 2004, only seven miles from the coastal resort of Praia da Luz where Madeleine went missing on May 3.



Tax blow for search fund

A FUND to finance the international search for Madeleine McCann will be forced to pay Vat and denied tax breaks worth tens of thousands of pounds after being refused charitable status writes Mark Macaskill.

The Madeleine fund has already received almost £80,000 from the public and businesses. Madeleine’s parents had hoped for charity status for the fund but were turned down by the Charity Commission because the money raised is not for the “wider public good”.

Instead, the fund has been registered as a company, which means it is liable to pay Vat at 17.5% on advertising costs and goods designed to raise funds, such as stickers. Charities are eligible for “zero rate” tax relief on such expenses.

In addition, the fund will not benefit from gift aid, a form of tax relief that allows charities to claim from the government an additional 28p for every £1 they receive in donations. And tax will have to be paid on all interest accrued by the fund.

Last night the Treasury refused to intervene, insisting it was the preserve of HM Revenue & Customs to decide tax liability.

The development will embarrass Gordon Brown who told Madeleine’s family last week he would do all he could to help on “a practical and a personal level”.


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