PM hails McCann case 'progress'

Somerset County Gazette: David Cameron has hailed "progress" in the Madeleine McCann inquiry. David Cameron has hailed "progress" in the Madeleine McCann inquiry.

David Cameron has said he stands ready to speak to the Portuguese over the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

The Prime Minister did not raise the current British inquiry with Portugal's prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, during meetings in Brussels but will step in if Scotland Yard asks for help.

It comes after Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt expressed frustration at the speed of the legal system through which British police have to ask for Portuguese assistance with their inquiry.

At a press conference following a European Council summit, Mr Cameron said: "I have spoken to the Portuguese prime minister before. I didn't speak to him this council about this issue but obviously I'm pleased that the Metropolitan Police have taken this case forward and they have been working with the Portuguese.

"I stand ready, if ever required to, to speak to the Portuguese prime minister or other Portuguese authorities again but I haven't been asked to by the Metropolitan Police and they seem to be making some progress."

Scotland Yard has so far written three international letters of request to the Portuguese, covering 41 priority areas and including 287 separate requests.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood revealed earlier this week that the force are looking for a lone intruder who sexually abused five British girls during a series of break-ins in the Algarve, Portugal.

The tanned, dark-haired man is suspected of breaking in to 12 properties where British families were staying in the Algarve, Portugal, between 2004 and 2010.

In four of the incidents, a total of five girls aged between seven and 10 were sexually assaulted. These attacks happened between 2004 and 2006, before Madeleine vanished in 2007.

Another appeal for information was made last night on BBC's Crimewatch, that sparked more than 250 calls and emails.

Madeleine, who was then nearly four, disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on May 3 2007 as her parents dined at a nearby restaurant with friends.

British detectives launched a fresh investigation into the youngster's disappearance in July last year - two years into a review of the case - and made renewed appeals on television in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany.

After shelving their inquiry into Madeleine's disappearance in 2008, Portuguese authorities said last October that a review had uncovered enough new information to justify reopening it.

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