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McCanns 'victims of heinous crime'

  • Story Highlights
  • Gerry and Kate McCann are 'innocent victims', according to new spokesman
  • Clarence Mitchell leaves job as government media officer to assist the couple
  • The former BBC broadcast journalist takes over role from Justine McGuinness
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The new spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann has insisted that the parents of missing Madeleine are "innocent victims of a heinous crime."

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Kate and Gerry McCann after attending church in their home town of Rothley, Leicester, on Sunday.

Former BBC reporter Clarence Mitchell has given up his job with the British government to take up the role after Justine McGuinness -- the McCanns' spokesperson for the past three months -- stood down last weekend.

Mitchell told reporters on Tuesday: "I am extremely grateful to Kate and Gerry for asking me to return to become their official spokesman.

"To speak on their behalf, therefore, I have resigned from my role as director of the Central Office of Information's media monitoring unit within the Cabinet Office in Whitehall.

"More importantly, I have done so because I feel so strongly that they are innocent victims of a heinous crime that I am prepared to forego my career in government service to assist them.

"Therefore, I wish to stress that from now on I am in no way speaking on behalf of the British government.

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"I will simply be representing Kate and Gerry as a private individual, one who believes utterly that they are innocent of any involvement in the disappearance, let alone the death of their daughter Madeleine.

"I will also be working with the media here to ease any inconvenience faced by the local community here in Rothley."

Mitchell said he spent nearly a month with the McCanns in Portugal while representing the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between May and June.

He told PA: "Sometimes I was with them for up to 14 hours a day. During that time I saw or heard nothing that gave me cause for concern or suspicion.

"All I witnessed was a loving family that had been plunged into the most dreadful situation -- two parents trying to cope amidst their loss. To suggest that they somehow harmed Madeleine accidentally or otherwise is as ludicrous as it is nonsensical.

"Indeed, it would be laughable if it was not so serious. Because of the legal position in Portugal, I cannot go into further details. Suffice to say, there are highly innocent explanations for anything the police may have found during their inquiries."

It has been speculated that police found blood or hair belonging to Madeleine in a hire car rented by her parents 25 days after the child's disappearance in May.

But the case against the parents appeared to have stalled following reports on Tuesday that a Portuguese judge refused to order Kate McCann to return to Portugal for questioning despite her being formally named as a suspect.

Portuguese media reported Mrs. McCann could be re-interviewed this week by British police acting on behalf of the Portuguese authorities.

However, a source close to the family told the UK Press Association that no formal request had been made to the couple.

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The source said: "The report that police have been refused permission to bring Kate back to Portugal is interesting to hear, but so far Kate and Gerry are not aware of any discussion between the judge and police filtering through."

Earlier the couple's lawyers issued a statement saying they had received no request for new questioning "to date." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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