Gerry McCann 'came close to Madeleine's abductor'

MADELEINE McCANN's father believes he might have come within a few yards of his daughter's abductor when he saw her for the last time, a friend said today.

Gerry McCann has become convinced an intruder was already hiding inside the family's holiday flat when he left his meal to go back and check on his children on the night of Madeleine's disappearance.

Madeleine, now four, went missing from the apartment in Praia da Luz on the Algarve on on the night of May 3 while her parents were dining with friends in a tapas restaurant nearby.

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It was Mr McCann's wife Kate who raised the alarm at about 10pm when she is said to have gone back to the apartment to check on the sleeping children and found Madeleine missing.

Mr McCann is believed to have gone to check on the children at around 9.05pm and saw them still asleep, including Madeleine. He spotted that the door to her room was ajar but thought nothing of it at the time, a friend said today.

But over the months since Madeleine's disappearance he has become increasingly convinced that the intruder was already in the flat.

"He believes there was certainly something odd," a friend said today. "The bedroom door was ajar when he got in and he thought: 'That's strange'. He went into the room, checked that Madeleine was still asleep in bed; she was and he came out, closed the door.

"Initially he thought that she might have got up and gone to the toilet or gone to get a drink or something but now he thinks that the abductor must have been in there hiding."

The friend added: "He believes he came in, opened the door and didn't have time to close it [as he went to hide before Gerry arrived].

"Once Gerry had left he would have known he had to come out very quickly and because Gerry went out through the patio door, went out through the window. He has no proof but that is what he believes."

It is believed that when Mrs McCann went to check on the children a gust of wind in the room caused the door to slam behind her. It was then that she realised that the bedroom window was open and Madeleine was gone.

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It emerged earlier today that the McCanns, who are official suspects or "arguidos" in the case, were prepared to take a lie-detector test to show they have nothing to hide.

But Clarence Mitchell, their spokesman, said that the couple would only do so if asked by the Portuguese police, adding that there were some doubts about the reliability of such evidence.

He said: "Kate and Gerry McCann have absolutely nothing to hide and, if a request from the Portuguese authorities was made for them to undergo such a lie-detector test, they would have no issue with it, provided the test is suitably overseen by an appropriate expert who can ensure the absolute reliability of the equipment being used.

"However, it is my understanding that such machines are not used in Portuguese criminal cases, nor is the information from them deemed admissible in court, and there are question marks over their reliability.

"Therefore we think it is extremely unlikely that such a request for a test would come through."

The couple were declared arguidos two weeks ago after DNA traces in a car they hired several weeks after Madeleine's disappearance appeared to suggest Madeleine's body could have been in the car.

The couple strenuously deny any involvement.

Police have been told to continue keeping all options open in the case and have no plans to reinterview the couple in the absence of new evidence.

A judge is now believed to have completed his review of a 4000-page dossier of evidence in the case from police, and handed the files back to prosecutors.

No details of any rulings have so far been made public.