The parents of a British girl whose disappearance sparked a global search will be formally named as suspects, family friends said Friday, after the child's mother was questioned for 11 hours. The girl's aunt said police suggested 4-year-old Madeleine might have been killed accidentally.
The allegations related to traces of blood found in a car rented by Kate and Gerry McCann, according to Justine McGuinness, a family spokeswoman. McGuinness said the car was rented 25 days after Madeleine vanished on May 3.
The car was hired nearly five weeks after Madeleine went missing, Britain's Sky News reporter Jeremy Thompson told CBS' The Early Show.
"They believe they have evidence to show that in some way she is involved in the death of her daughter, which is completely ludicrous," McGuinness told British Broadcasting Corp. television.
Philomena McCann, Madeleine's aunt, said police were suggesting Kate McCann might have killed her daughter accidentally.
"They are suggesting that Kate has in some way accidentally killed Madeleine, then kept her body, then got rid of it," Philomena McCann told Sky News. "I have never heard anything so utterly ludicrous in my entire life."
The father, Gerry McCann, was also due to be questioned.
However, police may be looking more for a way to break the case, rather than pursuing a belief the parents are criminally involved, CBS News correspondent Richard Roth reported.
Kate and Gerry McCann, both doctors from central England, have spearheaded an intense media campaign since Madeleine vanished from a holiday apartment in the Algarve where she was sleeping with her 2-year-old twin siblings. The parents say they were at dinner at the time at a nearby restaurant, but were checking on the children frequently.
The McCanns toured Europe with photos and stuffed animals of Madeleine, even meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Celebrities like J.K. Rowling and David Beckham made public appeals that helped the family raise more than $2 million.
The couple had been told they would both be named as suspects, family friend and former spokesman Clarence Mitchell said.
Under Portuguese law, the legal move grants certain protections to suspects, but allows police more latitude in questioning. Police also have to show suspects whatever evidence they might have against them.
Kate McCann was questioned for 11 hours on Thursday at a police station in Portimao, a town in Portugal's Algarve region, and looked gaunt and weary when she emerged at 1 a.m. She faced a media scrum as she returned for more questioning Friday morning. Gerry McCann was due to be questioned Friday afternoon, Mitchell said.
The Press Association news agency and other British news outlets quoted unidentified family friends as saying Kate McCann had been declared a suspect under Portuguese law.
The couple have maintained their innocence throughout.
Mitchell said Kate McCann found the police questioning "grueling."
"It's very intense, but she's remaining strong and determined to prove that they had nothing to do with their daughter's disappearance and they are innocent victims of the crime," he told The Associated Press.
Mitchell said both McCanns had been told earlier this week that they would be named as suspects. Family spokesman David Hughes also told the AP that Kate McCann had been told she would be named as a suspect Friday.
He said police had told her they wanted to ask 22 questions, but had not said what they were.
Police summoned Kate McCann after receiving new forensic evidence. Police spokesman Olegario Sousa said authorities have received some results from forensic tests of the apartment, but declined to elaborate on the findings.
The tests - on specks of blood, items of clothing and other objects in the apartment - were conducted at a British laboratory.
Mitchell said the McCanns did not know the test results.
In recent months, the McCanns have attended meetings with the police together. Officials described those meetings as informal, saying they wanted to keep the parents informed of developments in the case.
The only formal suspect until now has been Robert Murat, who lives with his mother near the hotel from which the girl disappeared. He has always maintained his innocence.