Missing 4-year-old's parents return to England as suspects
Mother says she was pressed to confess to killing
ROTHLEY, England - A British couple named as suspects in the disappearance of their 4-year-old daughter returned home yesterday, and the mother told a newspaper that Portuguese police pressured her to confess that she had killed the girl accidentally and hid the body.
In a twist in the four-month-old case, Gerry and Kate McCann were formally named suspects in their daughter Madeleine's disappearance Friday when police said they found traces of blood in the couple's car in southern Portugal, where they had been on vacation.
After being interrogated separately for hours Saturday, the McCanns flew back to England with their 2-year-old twins and drove to their house in the village of Rothley, 100 miles north of London, escorted by police and met by scores of journalists.
Gerry McCann said it was heartbreaking to come home without his daughter, despite an extensive effort to find her.
"It does not mean we are giving up the search for her," he said, his voice shaking.
Addressing the police's suspicions of him and his wife, he added: "We have played no part in the disappearance of our lovely daughter Madeleine."
In an interview with the Sunday Mirror newspaper, Kate McCann said Portuguese police had pushed her to confess that she had killed Madeleine accidentally, then hid her body and pretended the girl had been abducted in a massive coverup.
"They are basically saying, 'If you confess Madeleine had an accident, and that I panicked and hid the body in a bag for a month then got rid of it in a hire car, I'd get two or three years' suspended sentence,' " she was quoted as telling the paper after her first police interrogation.
In a separate interview, Gerry McCann said he was concerned that their treatment indicated Portuguese police were under intense pressure to solve the case.
"We thought we were in our worst nightmare but now it just keeps getting worse and worse," he was quoted as saying in the Sunday newspaper The News of the World.
"We're desperate to get back for the kids' sake and emotional reasons," he was quoted as saying. "It's not that we're running away."
The McCanns say Madeleine vanished May 3 from a hotel room in southern Portugal's Algarve region while they were eating dinner at a nearby restaurant.
Until Friday, suspicion had centered on a British man who lived near the hotel.
No charges have been brought against him, and he has said he is innocent.
The case took a turn in recent days, after police said forensic tests on evidence gathered months after the girl vanished found traces of blood in the couple's car.
The traces, apparently missed in earlier tests, were uncovered by sniffer dogs brought from Britain.
Although police named the McCanns suspects in the case, authorities did not confiscate their passports or restrict their movements.
Gerry McCann said he and his wife had returned home "with the full agreement of the Portuguese authorities and police." They have said they will return to Portugal for questioning if needed.
The couple's ordeal has drawn attention around the world, partly because of the extensive international campaign they led to find their daughter.
The McCanns have toured Europe with photos of Madeleine and the child's stuffed animals and clothing, even meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
Celebrities including author J.K. Rowling and soccer star David Beckham made public appeals that helped the family raise more than $2 million.