THE parents of Madeleine McCann were forced to defend themselves publicly yesterday against accusations that they were involved in their daughter's abduction.
Kate and Gerry McCann had flown to Berlin to raise awareness of Madeleine's kidnap, almost five weeks after she was taken from the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz.
But they were shocked at a press conference when a German radio reporter suggested the "finger of suspicion" was pointing at them.
A surprised Mrs McCann said: "To be honest, I don't think that is the case, I think that is a very small minority of people that are criticising us. We love our children so much."
Mr McCann added firmly: "I have never heard before that anyone considers us suspects and the Portuguese police certainly don't."
Reporter Sabine Mueller, of German Radio, had asked: "How do you feel about the fact that people seem to be pointing the finger at you, saying the way you behave is not the way people would normally behave when their child is abducted and they seem to imply you might have something to do with it?"
Afterwards, Ms Mueller (35), who has worked for German Radio for 14 years, said her question was justified. "I was aware it was a difficult question but I felt it needed to be asked. I don't suspect the McCanns of being involved. I know it has been seen as a hard question but I do not think it was improper."
The McCanns responded to wider criticism of their campaign to raise awareness of Madeleine's disappearance.
They said they were not on a "tour" and reiterated that the sole motivation of their trips to four European countries in the past week was to get Madeleine back.
The McCanns are launching a wristband carrying the international Crimestoppers number, for which people will be asked to make a minimum €1.50 donation to raise cash and awareness for their missing child. Meanwhile, callers to RTE's 'Liveline' show yesterday expressed outrage at the off-colour joke made by Irish comedian Sean Hughes about Madeleine's abduction.
His joke, made at a stand-up show in England, also included controversial comments about the McCanns meeting with the Pope, which listeners also found tasteless. (© Daily Telegraph, London)