UK & World News

  • 2 September 2014, 10:43

Madeleine: Secret Report On Police Probe

The competition between British police forces to be seen to be helping in the search for Madeleine McCann hampered the investigation into her disappearance and has had negative effects ever since, according to the author of a secret Home Office report.

The unpublished report - commissioned by former Home Secretary Alan Johnson in 2009 - concluded that so many UK agencies got involved it damaged relations with Portuguese police, Sky News has learnt.

Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) who wrote the report, said the intervention of competing police chiefs has had a long-term negative effect on the investigation.

Sky News has been briefed on the contents of the hitherto unseen document - delivered in 2010 - which eventually led to the Metropolitan Police re-opening the investigation.

It concluded that:

:: The intervention of multiple UK police forces and agencies created "frustration" and "resentment" among Portuguese police.

:: The decision by the Association of Chief Police Officers to put Leicestershire Police in charge of the operation was a mistake because the force was ill-equipped to deal with such a big investigation.

:: Challenges to the Portuguese police's approach to the investigation led to warnings that Britain should not try to act as a "colonial power".

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Gamble said that within the first few weeks of Madeleine going missing in Praia da Luz in May 2007 the Portuguese were given advice by CEOP, the Metropolitan Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Police Improvement Agency.

He said: "All of us? your first gut reaction is you want to help?so everyone came with best intention, that created a sense of chaos and a sense of competition?and in many instances in my opinion wanting to be seen to help.

"It was unhelpful?I've no doubt relationships from the outset with the Portuguese were impacted by it and I think that had a long-term negative effect on the investigation."

Mr Gamble - who refuses to release the detail of his findings - said the initial Portuguese police response to Madeleine's disappearance was "haphazard" and that potentially crucial information had not been followed up.

One of Mr Gamble's recommendations was the establishment of a national centre for missing children. However, this has not been set up.

As a result, Mr Gamble does not believe that the response of British authorities to a similar situation would be any better.

Author Anthony Summers, whose book Looking For Madeleine is out next week and contains further revelations about the case, said: "It was a case of too many cooks? spoiling the broth of the initial investigation."

Co-author Robbyn Swan added: "The problems that grew out of the race to help ?those things have not been fundamentally addressed."

The Home Office - which declined to release the report under Freedom of Information laws - declined to comment.

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