Madeleine police files under wraps until case result

3 January 2010
Press Association
Chris Greenwood

Thousands of British police files detailing the hunt for Madeleine McCann will not be released unless those behind her disappearance are brought to justice, it emerged today. Senior Leicestershire Police officers have remained tight-lipped about their role co-ordinating the search for the toddler since she vanished from a Portuguese holiday resort in May 2007. But analysts at the force have drawn up a list detailing the mass of information they have gathered and considered whether they would ever release any of it to the general public. The paperwork includes everything from correspondence with Government ministers, minutes of police meetings, details of leads and sightings to copies of letters from the McCann family.

Leicestershire Police said they will not release any information while the inquiry is ongoing and will never reveal the tactics of their investigation. But internal documents suggest some papers may eventually be published.

They stated: "Anything in relation to the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann will not be released whilst it remains ongoing. "Consideration may be given to releasing certain material, ie, that which would not reveal police tactics, when the circumstances surrounding Madeleine's disappearance are fully known and the person/people involved have been brought to justice and a suitable period for any appeal has elapsed."

Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared on May 3 2007 from Praia da Luz, nine days before her fourth birthday. An investigation into her disappearance was carried out by the Portuguese police, supported by Leicestershire Police. The force is responsible for co-ordinating British inquiries under the codename Operation Task.

It has revealed the number and rank of officers who have worked on the case, some information about the inquiry cost, including Home Office grants, and the number of visits to Portugal by investigators. But police are sitting on a huge hoard of information generated by more than 30 months of detailed inquiries involving forces across the globe.

The internal documents revealed paperwork includes witness statements, intelligence reports, questionnaires, statistics on the number of sightings, as well as correspondence from Crimestoppers and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca). There are details of applications made under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) which governs the interception of post and emails by police and the bugging of telephones.

Leicestershire Police has also compiled a dossier relating to the McCann family, including all correspondence between the parties, details of meetings and logs drawn up by family liaison officers.

Paperwork generated by national meetings of senior investigators, a so-called "gold group", is also held as well as correspondence with "other agencies", probably including the security services, and Government ministers. The internal documents also revealed Leicestershire Police has given presentations to other law enforcement groups about what they have learned from the largest and most complex missing person inquiry in modern history. They showed temporary Chief Constable Chris Eyre may choose to publish the results of several internal reviews because they could help another force if it is faced with a similar high-profile inquiry.

A spokesman for the McCanns said: "Kate and Gerry have always been very grateful to Leicestershire Police for the amount of time, effort and resources they have taken to search for Madeleine. "Their private investigators continue to have a good relationship with them as the search goes on."

A Leicestershire Police spokesman declined to comment.

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