How Would Private Investigators Help Find Maddie?

While the parents of Madeleine McCann learned Wednesday that a blond-haired girl in a tourist picture from Morocco was not their daughter, the British press reported earlier this week that the family had hired a private security firm to help look for the missing toddler.

Sources close to the family told British media that Kate and Gerry McCann had retained the services of Control Risks Group — an international company that employs former members of the British intelligence services and the army — because they mistrust the way the Portuguese police have handled the search for Madeleine.

Madeleine disappeared from a holiday flat in the Portuguese resort Praia de Luz on May 3, six days before her fourth birthday. Despite numerous reported sightings in Europe and North Africa, the child's trail appears to have gone cold.

A spokeswoman for Control Risks Group, which has 18 offices worldwide, but is based in London, would not comment on any dealings with the McCanns, telling ABC News only, "we don't confirm or deny who we're working for."

The McCanns have not confirmed their involvement with Control Risks Group or commented on how the company might be paid.

But a source close to the family's legal team told British newspaper The Times, "Control Risks are one of the groups who've offered their services to the McCanns. You can assume they are doing some things that the Portuguese police can't do."

What those things are, no one can say for sure. The operations of firms like Control Risks Groups are shrouded in secrecy. The company, which has more than 600 employees and describes itself as an "independent, specialist risk consultancy," offers services such as "video forensics" and "crime scene reconstruction," and is one of the largest British private security firms active in Iraq.

It promises clients absolute anonymity and will not comment on its methods. Its personnel is said to range from former intelligence officers to members of the British Special Forces.

But while Control Risks would not comment on its techniques, in interviews with ABC News several industry insiders not involved in the case sketched out how such a private firm might go about finding Madeleine.

A private investigator in charge of the case would likely "start with the parents, Mr. and Mrs. McCann," said Cliff Knuckey, a former detective inspector with Scotland Yard and managing director of the private investigations firm Risc Management.

They would work outward from there, Knuckey said, "to the circle of relatives, and the circle of friends that were there in Praia de Luz. Just to help piece together a profile."

Roy Ramm, a former commander of specialist operations at New Scotland Yard and chairman of the British private security firm Commercial Security International, also said private detectives would start with those closest to the case.

"Basically what they'll do is re-interview all the witnesses, going back over it in a methodical way," Ramm told ABC News. "They'll try to get to a point where they either do a physical or virtual reconstruction of what happened and literally start again. But to do it without the kind of preconceptions that seem to have beset the Portuguese investigation."

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