By Lucy Panton
PORTUGUESE police are concentrating on what they claim is a missing half hour in accounts of the night Madeleine disappeared.
The McCanns told detectives they believed they arrived at the Tapas restaurant at 8.30pm.
But months into the investigation, Portuguese detectives now allege they did not turn up until almost 30 minutes later.
Friends' statements show there may be differences of opinion over what time Kate and Gerry arrived with some of the pals stating it was just before 9pm.
Police want to quiz the couple again over what they call the "missing half hour".
A police source said: "We believe the timetable of events that evening is crucial to the inquiry. We want to know how they could make such a mistake over the time they arrived."
Early on in the investigation the McCanns said they got to the restaurant at 8.30pm.
Based on arrival timings given by their dining companions, that would mean the tragic couple arrived first before their friends.
But police sources say statements given by those pals show the McCanns arrived just before 9pm—and that by then all of their friends were already there.
The statements claim that Russell O'Brien, Jane Tanner, Matthew and Rachel Oldfield were first to arrive at around 8.45pm.
At 8.55 David and Fiona Payne were said to have turned up with Fiona's mum, Diane Webster.
Some statements indicate that the McCanns turned up two or three minutes after the Paynes.
If these new timings are accurate police are questioning why Gerry would go back and check the children just 5 minutes later.
He is reported as saying he checked the apartment and all three children were sleeping at 9.05pm.
This was confirmed when on his way back he stopped to speak to Jeremy Wilkins, another guest at the resort he had met playing tennis earlier in the week.
At 9.10pm Jane Tanner said she crossed Gerry's path on her way to check her own children.
Around that time she says she saw a man carrying away a child she now believes was Madeleine.
She describes the man as aged 35, dark-haired. wearing beige trousers and black shoes. She said the girl, who appeared to be sleeping, was toddler age, bare-footed and wearing pink pyjamas like Madeleine's.
No one else out that night reported seeing this man.
Portuguese cops have piled on the agony for the McCanns by retracing their steps and naming them both as official suspects. They believe the couple may have been involved in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine. And they think one may be covering up for the other.
Officers are probing a "three-hour window of opportunity" on the theory that during this time Madeleine was killed in the apartment and her body hidden somewhere nearby.
It starts the last time the children were seen alive by anyone but their parents and ends when Kate and Gerry were seen in public.
The last time Madeleine was seen alive was by staff at the Ocean Club creche at 6pm.
The McCanns were then alone with their children for almost three hours at the most if they did arrive at the Tapas restaurant at 9pm.A police source said: "The couple are being monitored to see how they react to every new piece of information they receive.
"The pressure has slowly been mounting on the McCanns over the last month as new information has been fed into the inquiry." Sources say the couple have been kept under surveillance following the discovery by a dog of the smell of death in their apartment on August 1.
Police now claim they have detected blood in a Renault Scenic car hired by the McCanns 24 days after Maddie's disappearance.
During questioning, GP Kate was asked why she had washed Madeleine's favourite toy "Cuddle Cat". Cops believe she has was trying to hide forensic evidence of her daughter's death.
The police claim the smell of a corpse was found on Kate's T-shirt, jeans and on Cuddle Cat.
Kate says she washed the toy on August 5—four days after police dogs picked up "the scent of death".
She insists she washed the toy simply because it was covered in dirt and sun tan lotion.
Portuguese police are relying heavily on a Cracker-style profiler who has been studying the McCanns' behaviour. The profiler has reportedly claimed that he suspects that the couple, from Rothley, Leics, could be "distracting" themselves from the horror of what they might have done by getting involved in the massive media campaign.
Doubts have also been cast over the lack of emotion and the controlled composure of the couple since their daughter disappeared.
The profiler has told cops that this matches that of a couple who are united and focused in a bid to cover up a tragedy.
But former Chief Inspector Albert Kirby, who led the hunt to trap the killers of toddler James Bulger, said: "There is very little time for the McCanns to have murdered their daughter and disposed of her body.
"And they would have had to carry her body a short distance away and concealed it without anyone spotting them. The body would have also had to remain concealed and unfound for a long time despite the police search.
"The Portuguese police must believe that one of them managed to conceal the body in a flat or a bush."
READ: NOW WE'RE FIGHTING FOR OUR LIVES
READ: KATE'S FEAR OF BEING LOCKED UP
READ: THREE COP THEORIES
READ: CAR BOOT EVIDENCE 'FLAWED'
READ: 'CRUCIAL' HIRE VEHICLE REMAINS ON THE ROAD
READ: CODE MADELEINE CAMPAIGN
READ: £1.5m REWARD
TELL US YOUR VIEWS ON THE INVESTIGATION