Innocent until proven guilty.jpg

Innocent until proven guilty

By: Ruth Sharpe

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ROBERT MURAT arrived in Portugal from the UK on May 1 this year for one of his regular visits to see his mother and girlfriend. Three weeks later, his “life has been ruined” after being named the only suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

In the words of Gerry McCann when asked about his feelings towards any potential suspects, he said: “I hope that they are treated the same way as they are at home and considered innocent until proven guilty.”

The Resident spoke with several of the Murats’ closest family friends to gain an insight into how they are coping with the media intrusion into their lives.

Jenny Murat moved to Portugal over 35 years ago and has since run several businesses in Burgau, Almadena and Praia da Luz. Robert, 33, grew up in Portugal until he was 16 and attended local schools Barlavento and the International School of the Algarve. His father died when he was 12 years old.

Tuck Price has been acting as a spokesman for Jenny and Robert since their house was searched on Monday, May 14, and has known the family for more than 10 years. He said that Robert was a “generous and helpful man. He likes to help and I think that is something that should be rewarded as opposed to being frowned upon”.

Robert is well known for his love for his family and devotion towards the young and elderly, especially his grandmother who died last year. Since then, he has spent his time working on his grandmother’s house in the UK in order to rent it out as he and Jenny were keen to keep the property in the family. His plan was then to move back here permanently to start up a business with his girlfriend Michelle (Michaela Walczuch).

“He is very in love with Michelle. They were looking forward to setting up Romigen, an online website where you pay to advertise your property,” said Price. The name Romigen stands for Robert, Michelle and Genesis, the latter word symbolic of ‘a new beginning’.

Another item reported in the news questioned why Robert Murat hired a car in the days following Madeleine’s disappearance. Tuck Price explained: “The police had asked him to come to Portimão to help with their investigation. One of his cars was being repaired and the other was being used by his mother, so he had to hire a car to get himself to Portimão. The police know this and are not investigating it as suspicious.”

When speaking about the actions of Sunday Mirror journalist Lori Campbell, who went to the police about her suspicions of Robert, Price said: “I’m sure she is starting to regret what she said.” Several Praia da Luz residents have expressed anger towards Campbell’s actions which have had such a negative impact on the community.

According to Price, Robert feels terrible about how this has affected his family here and in the UK and is almost punishing himself because his arguido status has been the cause of such grief.

Long term resident, Bridget Hicks, is one of Jenny’s closest friends and has known her since 1981. She has spoken with her several times since the house search on May 14. Bridget said: “Her strength lies in the fact that Robert was with her at the time of the abduction. Although nothing can compare with the heartbreak of losing a child, thought should be also given to the mother of Robert.”

Kate Roberts, who works in a fashion boutique in Praia da Luz, has also known the Murats for a long time; in fact, it was Jenny who gave Kate her first job at the garden centre in the nearby village of Almadena in the eighties. “Robert is just not capable of doing something like this,” she said.

Sally Vincent from Burgau has known the Murats since the family moved here and watched Robert grow up. She described him as calm, gentle and “very devoted” to his daughter.

The Resident spoke with a Murat family member who could not make any official statement but confirmed that Max Clifford was currently looking after the wellbeing of certain family members.

Sources close to the Murats have confirmed that Robert was contacted again by the police earlier this week and that he is allowed to travel freely as long as he informs the police of his whereabouts. These sources also confirmed that the Murat’s pool was not drained during the May 14 search and that there was no phone call from Sergey Malinka to the Murat house on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance.

The media intrusion now means that Robert’s family in Portugal and the UK are in hiding and some in need of police protection but, despite this, they remain positive and are grateful for the great support they have received from the community.

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