Officers fly to Portugal to quiz 'three burglars'
Operation Grange officers are believed to be pursuing three burglars, identified as prime suspects earlier this month
As revealed by the Mail 10 days ago, the thieves were operating in the area where Madeleine went missing
The CPS has sent a International Letter of Request to the police in Portugal, reportedly asking for permission to arrest the burglars
By William Turvill
The Metropolitan Police are said to be planning their first arrests in the Madeleine McCann investigation review set up three years ago.
Operation Grange officers were preparing to travel to Portugal last night. They are thought to be pursuing three burglars who were operating in the area when the three-year-old went missing.
As revealed by the Daily Mail 10 days ago, the thieves were identified as prime suspects earlier this month when analysis of mobile phone data indicated they had made an unusually high number of calls to each other in the hours after the disappearance.
This morning a Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed that the Crown Prosecution Service has sent an International Letter of Request to the police in Portugal.
The letter is said to request permission to arrest the burglars so that the British detectives can question them about their activities around the time the little girl went missing.
Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, are said to have described the letter as a ‘significant development’.
A spokesman for the family told the Mirror that they believe this indicates an arrest is imminent and that ‘it’s likely it is the three burglars’.
They said: ‘Police want to be given a chance to arrest key suspects. It doesn’t prove they have Madeleine but it will rule them in or out of the investigation and that is important.
‘Kate and Gerry don’t want to build up their hopes too high but they realise it could be a significant new lead.’
The trio, who include at least one Portuguese man, raided another holiday flat in the Praia da Luz area of the Algarve, disturbing a child, days before Madeleine’s disappearance. The child's parents, who had been drinking outside the holiday apartment, rushed inside to find the intruders had fled.
Portuguese police attached no significance to the break-in, which British police, who see it as potentially hugely significant, described as a 'disgrace'.
Operation Grange detectives sent a first International Letter of Request to the Portuguese authorities requesting permission to access the mobile phone records that highlighted the three suspects' phone conversations around the time Madeleine went missing.
Since they identified the three people, British detectives have had informal conversations about arresting them, searching their homes, and other sites.
They believe the burglars may have panicked after waking Madeleine up by mistake, and decided to take her with them.
But Scotland Yard’s hopes of early arrests have been thwarted by the reluctance of the Portuguese authorities to agree to a formal joint investigation.
Because none of the burglars is British, the Met cannot arrest them in Portugal and will need the full cooperation of local police to pursue the inquiry.
Behind the scenes, highly sensitive diplomatic discussions have taken place to resolve the issue so that British detectives can be based in Portugal. Home Secretary Theresa May is being briefed regularly.
At present, six local officers are working with Operation Grange, which was set up in 2011 to review the kidnapping. Some 37 officers are working on the inquiry, which has so far cost £4.5 million.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: 'We can confirm a second International Letter of Request has been sent to the Portuguese authorities by the Crown Prosecution Services.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2538472/British-police-preparing-make-arrests-Operation-Grange-investigation-disappearance-Madeleine-McCann.html#ixzz2qJJk8gsX
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