As of July 2008, Kate and Gerry McCann were dropped as suspects in the disappearance of their three-year-old daughter Madeleine when Portuguese police suspended their investigation for the first time.
But for 10 months before that, the British parents endured the police scrutiny and media glare of being ‘arguido’, suspects in what police theorised could be a cover-up of Maddie’s accidental death.
That suspect status was levelled in September 2007 – four months after their daughter’s disappearance on 3 May from her bedroom in the holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, where her family was holidaying.
For the months prior they had been assisting police to locate whoever took their child and hopefully recover Maddie alive. Yet, a piece of evidence made police turn their suspicion onto the parents.
In late July, two sniffer dogs were taken to the Praia da Luz resort to the apartment Maddie disappeared from, as well as to a parking garage where the hire car the McCanns had rented was parked.
One dog, Keela, was trained to sniff out and alert her handler to wherever she smelled human blood. The other, Eddie, was trained to bark at wherever he smelled the scent of human remains.
Both Keela and Eddie alerted their handler behind the couch in the apartment, while Eddie also barked at the wardrobe in the main bedroom.
About a week later, in the parking garage which also contained several other cars, the dogs separately went to the McCanns’ rental car and alerted at it.
In a video of the dogs at work, published by The Sun, their handler explains the accuracy – and limitations – of their results.
“[Keela] will find blood that is historically very old, and she will find anybody’s blood, any human blood.
“She is very, very good, and when she indicates, there is always blood there.”
However, it was not the dogs’ results, but what came next that led to Portuguese police deciding to name Madeleine’s parents as suspects.
Hair and other fibres were taken from where the dogs alerted and sent to the UK for DNA testing.
Using a testing method that is considered controversial because it can more easily lead to misinterpretation, the lab found that the car boot contained 15 out of 19 of Madeleine’s DNA components.
Crucially though, it also found that the result was “too complex for meaningful interpretation”.
However, Portuguese police took this as all the evidence they needed to name Kate and Gerry as suspects and bring them in for questioning.
In the end, though, the Portuguese police were forced to archive Madeleine’s case when, in almost a year, they hadn’t gathered enough evidence to make any arrests.
The case has been reopened and reexamined by Portuguese and British police since, but the McCann’s have never again been named suspects by authorities.