LONDON, Sept. 7, 2007 — -- She moved England and the world with a four-month massive media campaign to retrieve her missing daughter.
Today, Kate McCann, the mother of Madeleine McCann, who was 3 when she disappeared, was formally declared a suspect by the Portuguese police and given the status of "arguido." Gerry McCann's sister, Philomena, told ITV news that Kate McCann has been offered a plea deal of two years or less in jail if she admits to accidentally poisoning the child.
"They tried to get her to confess to having accidentally killed Madeleine by offering her a deal through her lawyer - 'if you say you killed Madeleine by accident and then hid her and disposed of the body, then we can guarantee you a two-year jail sentence or even less,"' the sister told ITV news.
The couple continued to strenuously profess their innocence Friday.
"By acquiring the status of arguido," said Rosemary de Rougemont, a lawyer specializing in Portuguese law, "Kate McCann will acquire the right to remain silent and to be legally represented."
McCann will have to submit to any forensic test and the judge may also restrict her movements and ask her to make regular contacts with the police, Rougemont said.
McCann and her husband, Gerry, reported Madeleine missing May 3 after the couple reportedly put the child to bed and went to dinner a short distance away in the resort of Praia da Luz, Algarve.
McCann returned today to the police for further questioning. When she arrived at the police station, people booed her for the first time, said Alison Roberts, with the BBC in Portugal.
McCann looked "very nervous and frail," said Roberts. "It's understandable. She had been questioned for 11 hours the day before."
Relations between the McCanns and the police have deteriorated lately with the discovery of blood samples in the bedroom of the Portugal apartment. Tests were conducted on blood samples, clothes and other items from the residence. The results of the tests, conducted in a British laboratory, haven't been made public.
But authorities now have some results from the tests, according to a police spokesman quoted in press reports.
"Police suggested that they have found Maddie's blood in the car that was hired by [the] McCanns 25 days after Maddie disappeared," said Justin McGuinness, the McCanns' spokesman, in an interview with the BBC.
"They believe that they have evidence to show that in some way she is involved in her daughter's death," said McGuinness.
The McCanns launched a media campaign to retrieve Madeleine and raised more than $2 million, according to media reports.
Pope Benedict XVI received the couple at the Vatican. They also got the support of celebrities such as "Harry Potter's" author J.K. Rowling and soccer player David Beckham.
The British tabloids, very supportive of the McCanns at first, were quick to spin on the couple's possible guilt this morning.
"Suspects," said the Mirror headline. The Sun reports that police asked McCann whether she had sedated "Maddie." According to the Sun, the McCanns may have accidentally given Madeleine an overdose of a sedative. The McCanns are both physicians.
In a statement released before she was questioned by the police, McCann said there was still hope to find Madeleine. "It is not too late," read the statement. "Please let her go or call the police."
"We came to Portugal an ordinary family of five. We just want to know what happened on 3 May and want to be able to go home one family, reunited."
Speaking to the media today, Brian Kennedy, a great-uncle of Madeleine, defended the McCanns. "The notion that either of them would or could harm one of their children is ludicrous," he said.
"Their family and friends support them totally and we are sure that everyone else who has been kind in their letters and prayers, and financially, will continue to believe in them and hope for a speedy and just outcome to the present situation."
"Anyone who knows anything about the 3rd May knows that Kate is completely innocent," wrote McCann's husband, Gerry. "We will fight this all the way and we will not stop looking for Madeleine."
McCann is the second suspect in the case, along with Robert Murat, 33, a Briton who lives in Portugal. Murat was not charged or arrested.
McCann was released today without charges. The police are now said to be focusing on Gerry McCann.