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McCanns keen to leave Portugal, father suspect

Praia Da Luz (Portugal), Sept. 8 (AP): The parents of missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann are keen to leave Portugal as soon as possible and return to Britain to clear their names after Portuguese police named them as suspects in their daughter’s disappearance, a family friend said today.

Clarence Mitchell said father Gerry McCann told him that he and his wife expected clarification of their legal status within 48 hours. Their lawyer said late yesterday that police had declared the parents suspects in the May 3 disappearance.

“They are in broad agreement that they should get out as soon as they can,” Mitchell said by telephone from Britain. Whether Portuguese police will allow them to leave is unclear, though their passports are not believed to have been seized up until now.

Mitchell said Kate and Gerry McCann had previously intended to leave southern Portugal, where they have stayed since their daughter vanished from a hotel room during a family vacation, on May 3.

“They are determined to prove this is a travesty ... and clear their names,” Mitchell said of the police allegations about their possible involvement.

The police decision to name the parents as suspects brought a dramatic twist in the four-month-old case. Their ordeal has drawn attention around the world, partly because of an international campaign they have run to find their daughter.

Mitchell said the McCanns, both doctors from central England, were considering hiring lawyers in Britain where they would also have support from family and friends.

The McCanns’ Portuguese lawyer, Carlos Pinto Abreu, said police have not brought charges against them and that the investigation was continuing.

British media quoted unnamed friends of the McCanns as saying the couple were keen to return to Britain but would remain in Portugal for the time being. The couple had made no comment today.

The McCanns have strenuously professed their innocence, and relatives said police should reveal what, if any, evidence there is against them.

“If this is what it takes to speed up the process of absolutely exonerating Gerry and Kate, let’s get on with it,” Gerry’s brother John McCann told BBC radio. “I hope the police can move quickly, bring whatever evidence they have got and discuss with Gerry and Kate why they think what they think.”

Kate McCann's aunt said that during the questioning, police suggested Madeleine might have been killed accidentally and offered the mother a plea deal if she confessed. “They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer: ‘If you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less,’” Gerry McCann’s sister, Philomena, told ITV news yesterday.

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