The parents of missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann have been told by Portuguese police not to leave Portugal.
Police said that the investigation into the British girl's abduction is reaching a very critical stage and want the McCanns to remain close by. The advice came after the parents revealed this week that they were planning to return to England due to financial pressure and concern for their two-year-old twins.
Madeleine has now been missing for 15 weeks since she disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, a resort town in the southern Algarve region of Portugal, while her parents were dining at a nearby restaurant.
The police have been quick to emphasize that their request for the couple to stay has absolutely no implications that they are suspects.
The police suggested for the first time this week that there may be evidence to suggest more than one person was involved in the abduction of Madeleine. They also assured that the investigation would be over soon.
A Positive Feeling
Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa, spokesman for the Policia Judiciaria, said he had a very "positive feeling" about the case, adding that what happened to Madeleine is now finally becoming clearer.
"I am confident my police colleagues will reach the end of the investigation," he said.
"It's natural that in a crime of this nature more than one person took part. If it was committed by only one person, it would be even more difficult to resolve the case because he or she is the only person who knows what they did. In order to resolve this case it will be necessary to have more suspects," he added.
Officers are still waiting for forensic results from a laboratory in Birmingham on the blood specks found in the McCanns' holiday apartment.
"The things that could happen depend on the decisions of the group investigating the case," Sousa said.
The chief inspector also denied claims that Madeleine's parents had ever been under suspicion and put down rumors that their phone calls and emails had been monitored.
"To install a telephone listening device the person must be a suspect, and the McCanns are not," he said. "They are victims, so it would be totally illegal."
To clarify the situation a senior police source added: "There is nothing to stop the McCanns going home. They are not suspects, but we have told them it is not good timing because the investigation has changed.
"It is active now in assuming that Madeleine is dead."
A source close to the family stressed the couple had not yet decided whether or when to go home to Leicestershire.