Emotional McCanns deny 'pact of silence' on Maddy
Kate and Gerry McCann were grilled yesterday for the first time about allegations they could have been involved in their daughter's disappearance.
Portuguese police had previously named the couple as "arguidos", or formal suspects, in the case in September 2007.
But the McCanns, both 41, have always strenuously insisted they are innocent, and their suspect status was lifted when the authorities in Portugal shelved the case in July last year.
However, last night Sandra Felgueiras, a reporter for Portuguese TV station RTP, questioned the McCanns about claims made in a book by Goncalo Amaral, the former detective in charge of the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance.
The couple took legal action against Mr Amaral and in September Lisbon's main civil court banned further sale or publication of his book.
The McCanns were visibly frustrated by the course of the RTP interview, which included questions about the findings of sniffer dogs brought in to search their apartment in Praia da Luz and whether they had close links to the British government.
Ms Felgueiras quizzed them on claims there was a "pact of silence" between the couple and friends on holiday with them when Madeleine disappeared.
Mr McCann explained that there was no pact, but they had all refused to talk to the media about what happened that night in line with Portugal's strict judicial secrecy laws.
The journalist also asked if they felt they were victims of the Portuguese investigation, to which Mr McCann replied: "The victim is Madeleine."
Ms Felgueiras said afterwards: "It is two-and-a-half years after Madeleine disappeared and this was the first time they talked to us in a big interview since the files were closed. I think I should feel free and they should feel free to talk about it. It would be the only chance to clear up the rumours."
But Mr McCann insisted that: "The place to have those discussions is in the judicial and legal environment where they can be properly assessed and dealt with within the bounds of the law.
"That's the approach that we've taken, and clearly we're very pleased that the Portuguese judiciary have agreed that there is absolutely no evidence that Madeleine is dead or that we were involved, and that's why injunctions have been given.
"If people accept that, then they will accept that Madeleine is missing and can still be found."
Earlier Gerry McCann told how the couple's four-year-old twins have started saying they want to find and fight the person who took their missing sister. Sean and Amelie were just two when Madeleine vanished.
But their parents have discussed the fact that their big sister is missing with them and they are now fiercely protective of her.
The McCanns were speaking as police released a video showing how Madeleine might look now, in a bid to prick the conscience of anyone who knows what became of her.
The 60-second video, released in seven languages, features film footage of Madeleine and digitally enhanced photos of what she might look like now with shoulder-length blonde hair, as well as one with a tan and dark hair.
The clip, produced with the aid of psychologists, can be viewed at www.ceop.police.uk.
"This message is aimed at prompting the conscience of an individual who is keeping a secret," said Jim Gamble, head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
Mr McCann hailed the global online appeal as "a world first".
"We're optimistic that this message will get to them, it will cause them to wrestle with their conscience," he said.