Portugal’s attorney general has suspended a 14-month investigation into the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann, formally clearing her parents and another British man, Robert Murat, of any suspicion in the case.
Fernando Pinto Monteiro said Monday police were unable to find any meaningful information about how the girl disappeared, or who might be behind it, and the investigation was being shelved.
The case captivated the British public and international media since Kate and Gerry McCann reported their daughter missing in May 2007.
The couple had left the girl and their other children asleep in their hotel room in the beachside village of Praia da Luz, in Portugal’s Algarve resort area, while they dined at a nearby restaurant.
They returned to find Madeleine missing with no trace of how she had left the room.
Thousands of reporters and television crews descended on the normally tranquil beach community to report on the mysterious and emotionally loaded disappearance.
Parents are 'relieved'
In a news conference after the Portuguese announcement, Kate McCann said she was relieved but angry that the focus on her and her husband may have overshadowed the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance.
"It's been devastating because I truly believe this had a negative effect on the search," McCann said.
"We will never give up on Madeleine," she said, her voice choked with emotion.
Friends and those who work with the family in the hunt for information about the girl's disappearance say case files should now be handed over so a private probe can take place.
After their daughter disappeared, the McCanns put together an international effort to find her.
Soccer star David Beckham and other celebrities issued appeals for the safe return of the little girl.
Millions of dollars in rewards were offered for information about her disappearance and her safe return.
Courts award damages to McCanns, Murat
Prosecutors and Britain’s aggressive tabloid press named Murat, a 33-year-old who lives near Praia da Luz, as a suspect early on, but he sued several newspapers for libel and was awarded more than $1 million in damages last week.
The McCanns also won a libel case and front-page apologies from British newspapers earlier this year.
Police in Portugal formally named the McCanns as suspects in the fall of 2007. Two days later, the couple returned to Britain with their two-year-old twins.
They vigorously denied having anything to do with the disappearance.
"Despite there being so much we wish to say, we are unable to do so, except to say this: we have played no part in the disappearance of our lovely daughter Madeleine," Gerry McCann said as he and his wife arrived back in London.
After Madeleine disappeared, her parents remained in Portugal, holding almost daily news conferences and working with authorities on the search for their daughter.
Return to U.K. for sake of children: McCanns
Although they were considered suspects, the McCanns were allowed by Portuguese authorities to keep their passports and to travel without restrictions.
The couple, who are both doctors, said they left Portugal to give their two other children a normal life at their home in the village of Rothley, about 160 kilometres north of London.
In an interview with the BBC, the former head of the Portuguese police inquiry, Goncalo Amaral, said what evidence his investigators had uncovered indicated that Madeleine had died in the hotel room, and he fended off criticism of his team.
"We tried and we worked hard, so we can’t be accused of incompetence or failure," he said.