The People: EXCLUSIVE British police stop Portuguese

Portuguese officers planned to name up to 80 British sex pests who were known to be in the country at the time the youngster went missing.

But Leicestershire force's Detective Superintendent Stuart Prior blocked the move, claiming that naming registered sex offenders would do nothing to help the Maddie investigation - and could lead to vigilante attacks.

A legal source close to Maddie's parents Kate and Gerry, both 40, said yesterday: "There was a huge row between the British and Portuguese police which was finally settled out of court."

The latest fall-out has just emerged as McCann lawyers in Portugal continue to sift through volumes of official papers after local cops closed the case.

Maddie from Rothley, Leics, went missing just days before her fourth birthday in the Algarve's Praia da Luz 16 months ago. She is feared to have been snatched by a paedophile ring. The legal source explained: "The first thing Leicester police did was offer up a known records of all British paedophiles in not just the Algarve but the whole of Portugal. There were 70-80 names on that list.

"People on the sex offenders' register are required to tell police if they go away. The majority were accounted for and police were satisfied with their movements."

Portugal's heavily-criticised Policia Judiciara then decided their names should be made public.

But furious Det Supt Prior flew to Portugal and threatened legal action to stop the PJ, who eventually backed down.

A Leicestershire police spokesman said yesterday: "We are not prepared to comment on information that was supplied to Portugal in confidence on a police-to-police basis."

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