LONDON – The disappearance of 4-year-old Madeleine McCann still remains a mystery nearly seven weeks after the British girl was snatched from her hotel room in Portugal.
Olegario Sousa, a spokesman for the Policia Judiciara, said evidence of her abduction may have been contaminated because more than 20 people had gone into the McCanns' Mark Warner holiday apartment on the night Madeleine disappeared.
He told a Portuguese newspaper: "The presence of so many people – especially in the room where the little girl slept with her brother and sister could have at least complicated the work of the forensic team.
"At the very worst they would have destroyed all the evidence," he added. "This could prove to be fatal for the investigation."
The McCanns were reportedly "dismayed" by chief inspector's remarks.
A source close to the family said: "It's insensitive at the very least. Of course the family are going to search the apartment.
"If your child goes missing, you search under the beds, in the wardrobes, behind the doors, everywhere," they added.
"It's inevitable that there were people in the bedroom. Even if what the police are saying is true, it's very unhelpful to say it publicly."
Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, have held onto their Catholic faith throughout their ordeal, regularly attending a local Catholic church as well as recently traveling to Rome to meet Pope Benedict XVI, who prayed for their missing daughter.
Gerry McCann, who attended Sunday mass yesterday, said that like his birthday two weeks ago, he was barely aware of Fathers' Day.
He said it was too painful to remember life as it was a year ago. "I can't think about last year and how we spent it, I honestly can't," he commented.
"I can't really think about anything else, other than how we can help try and get Madeleine back."
This Friday, the McCanns are planning on releasing 50 balloons from 50 countries to highlight the fact their daughter will have been missing for 50 days.
Germany, France, Australia, Dubai, Canada, America and El Salvador are among those places expected to take part.
Madelein's father said: "We will probably have 10 centers in the U.K. – like Glasgow, Liverpool, Leicester – as well as Ireland and Guernsey where we have friends, and Kate and I will do the Praia da Luz one.
"We are going to tie it in with other missing kids. We were anxious about going to their countries and asking for help finding Madeleine but they have said 'what you are doing is amazing and it is helping us.'"
Madeleine disappeared May 3 after her parents left her and her brother and sister, both aged 2, alone in their room while they went to a restaurant inside their hotel complex in Praia da Luz, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Lisbon and the police believe she was abducted.
Since then, the McCanns have launched an international campaign to find their daughter, enlisting the aid of celebrities including soccer star David Beckham and J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books.