LONDON - The chaos engulfing the investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance deepened yesterday when the national director of policing in Portugal admitted he had "no idea" where the child might be and said the investigation was nowhere near a breakthrough.
The comments by Alipio Ribeiro, national director of the Policia Judiciaria (PJ), made a mockery of disclosures by Olegario Sousa, the PJ's spokesman in the Algarve, who has hinted that a breakthrough might be near and again said this week that a sniffer dog had detected the scent of a body in the hunt for Madeleine, with the inference that she might have died in the apartment where she was last seen alive.
Speaking after preliminary tests results showed that flecks of blood found at the McCanns' apartment were not from Madeleine, Mr Ribeiro said it was simply not possible to say whether she was dead or alive.
"There is a long way yet to go and it would be frivolous of me to say we are near the end," he told Spain's El Mundo newspaper.
"The hypothesis (that she is dead) is perceptible for everyone. Although it's true that it's a strong hypothesis and there is always that possibility, we cannot say that she is dead."
Mr Ribeiro admitted the police still have no idea what the motive for the abduction was - three months after Madeleine from the apartment in Praia da Luz.
He said: "We have to be clear that we are working to clear up a difficult situation, above all in relation to the motive. It could have been for money, for revenge, for hate. We don't know. I am optimistic because I believe we will end up understanding everything that happened. We have to recognise that the expectation is low. It is not easy."
Mr Ribeiro said a blood sample found at the McCanns' apartment had been sent to the UK to see if there was a match with the DNA database of British criminals but that it was impossible to check the DNA sample against British expatriates living in Praia da Luz.
He said: "That is not possible. The UK is the most advanced country with regard to databases. It has a much more complete database. But we cannot imagine making a comparison with all the British (in Praia da Luz)."
Mr Ribeiro also criticised officers who have leaked false information to Portuguese newspapers, serving merely to increase the torment for Madeleine's parents Gerry and Kate.
He said: "The police should be discreet and keep quiet, but there is always someone who talks. Sometimes it is someone who knows nothing and just wants to be a protagonist. There has been a lot of speculation, and if I denied everything erroneous that had been published, I would have no time for anything else."
The apartment blood test results show that the sample found probably came from a man from the "north-east European sub-group".
This conclusion is only 72 per cent accurate, however, due to the poor condition of the sample because of its age and cleaning of the bedroom wall.
The Forensic Science Service in Birmingham is now conducting further tests on the blood traces.
A male guest is known to have injured himself while staying at the flat after Madeleine disappeared.
This could explain why the blood was not found when Portuguese police searched the apartment after Madeleine's disappearance.
As the search for Madeleine goes on, Kate McCann has accepted that the family may have to return to Britain without the child.
"I know we will be going back but it will be when we are ready and it will be for the right reasons - for our welfare and our family's welfare, she said.
"While nobody has asked us to take up a full-time role in setting up something to help the families of missing children, this issue is something that we will never now be able to turn our backs on. [It] is something that we will continue to be involved in."
- INDEPENDENTBy Ian Herbert