Hunt team has its deal 'dropped'

August 26, 2008
Europe Intelligence Wire

A firm of private investigators hired to hunt for Madeleine McCann has reportedly had its GBP 500,000 contract dropped. The US-based Oakley International had been given a six-month contract and was paid from the Find Madeleine Fund.

But this weekend national newspapers reported that its contract will not be renewed at the end of the month.

This follows a review led by double-glazing tycoon Brian Kennedy, who is underwriting the fund's search.

The firm was hired in May, just before the anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

It monitored a Madeleine Hotline number, followed up leads and reviewed CCTV footage of possible sightings.

Mr Kennedy, who owns the Sale Sharks rugby team, reportedly believes the agency's bills - estimated to be more than GBP 80,000 a month - were not justified by its results.

Most of the money spent on the agency came from a GBP 550,000 libel payout from Express Newspapers in March.

About GBP 450,000 remains in the fund.

Oakley International won the contract after an introduction by another company, Red Defence International (RDI).

A spokesman for the McCanns told the Daily Telegraph:
"Kate and Gerry, the fund and their backers have continually sought to employ the best people in the search for Madeleine.
"Red Defence and Oakley International were part of a large number of resources employed in recent months.

"Their contract is continuing for the immediate future and will be reviewed when it ends, as you would expect. We will not comment on the detail of any personnel, financial or operational arrangements."

Lawyers and investigators for the McCanns are still combing through the police files released in Portugal earlier this month after Mr and Mrs McCann were released from their status as official suspects. They are looking for leads they fear police ignored after focusing the investigation on the couple.

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