Saturday

Home Secretary to ask US for satellite images of Praia da Luz

Sunday October 18,2009

By James Murray

HOME Secretary Alan Johnson is prepared to ask US spy chiefs for satellite images which may show the face of Madeleine McCann’s kidnapper, following intervention by the Sunday Express.

Hope of new progress came after it emerged Leicestershire Police never made a formal request to the Home Office for views of Praia da Luz on Portugal’s Algarve at the time the little girl vanished in May 2007.

The quality of pictures taken by satellites in space is now so good they can reputedly identify the colour of someone’s eyes.

Last night a senior source with the Portuguese police said: “We know US spy satellites regularly sweep over Portugal looking at military installations and government facilities.

“So we thought they might actually have images of Praia da Luz on the day of the kidnapping and the preceding days.

“We hoped spy images may have captured the kidnapper watching the apartment prior to the event or even on the day itself. Obviously, having a picture would have speeded up the apprehension of the offender.”

Yet more than two years after Madeleine was snatched no help has been forthcoming, despite early requests from senior Portuguese detectives.

The Portuguese source explained: “This was fully discussed with Leicestershire Police and officials with the British Government.

“We were confident of getting progress because of Gordon Brown’s interest in the case and this apparent special relationship between Britain and the United States.

“Your ambassador to Portugal even visited our officers soon after the kidnap.

“The bad news for us is that we got nowhere with this avenue of inquiry, which was both frustrating and infuriating.”

For, despite all the talk, nothing appears to have been done officially with the British government and the formal requests were never made.

Last night a spokesman for Mr Johnson said extensive checks within the security intelligence community had failed to discover any formal request ever having come to them through Leicestershire Police from Portugal.

However, he said that if a request were now made Mr Johnson would see whether he could offer any assistance in trying to persuade the Americans to become co-operative.

The issue appears so sensitive that Prime Minister Mr Brown may have to speak directly to US President Barack Obama in order to achieve co-operation.

The Sunday Express sought explanations for the extraordinary situation from the US government’s ultra- secretive National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The agency’s lawyers are now considering a Freedom of Information request from the Sunday Express.

A spokesman for the agency said: “NGA does not provide imagery to private citizens or private companies. For reasons of national security we do not discuss specifics about what images we have or our capabilities.”

Private investigators working for parents Kate and Gerry McCann, who live in Rothley, Leicestershire, have also tried to access US satellite images, but with no success.

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Source: Sunday Express (thank goodness the Express seems to want to be helpful to the McCanns at last... :)

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