Friday May 18, 2007

Robert Murat hired a car after discovering he was under police surveillance, it was revealed last night.

Police are investigating why Murat, the main suspect in the abduction of Madeleine, hired a baby blue Hyundai Getz from Audio Rent III Car Hire nine days after the four-year-old vanished.

Maria Rocio, who works for the hire company, alerted police after she realised Murat’s home had been raided by detectives two days after he rented the car.

She said she was concerned by the suspect’s behaviour and the desperation in his voice. Mrs Rocio said she first received a call from Murat at midday on Saturday and recognised him because he has used the service before.

“He said he needed to hire a car for himself because the English people who were looking for the missing girl needed to borrow his car,” she said.

“He told me he could not use his car because they had put up posters in it showing the missing child. I thought to myself, ‘Why?’”

Mrs Rocio said Murat called again at 3pm and asked if he could pick up the car straight away.

She said: “I did suggest he get it from someone else but he still arrived to pick it up at 5.15pm.” The hire form filled in by Murat gave his address as that of his estranged wife Dawn’s in Dereham, Norfolk.

He also gave his UK driving licence when he hired the car on an initial three-day contract.

Murat’s elderly mother Jennifer returned the car on Tuesday after detectives examined it on Monday.

Mrs Rocio said: “When I saw that police were interviewing him I phoned police and told them about him hiring the car.

They have now been into the office and asked to check the records of everybody who has hired a vehicle between 28 April and 5 May.

“There was something about his voice. He needed to have the car quickly and his voice was very impatient. The reason it was odd is that he already has his own car.”

Friends of Murat in the village where he used to live in Norfolk have launched a poster campaign protesting his innocence, urging him to be strong and to think of his daughter.

Portuguese Carla Cunha, who Murat helped to get a job at the Bernard Matthews plant, produced the notices and posted them around Hockering.

Mrs Cunha, 35, said: “He is a lovely person and kind and helps everybody. This must be a big mix-up. I know he has nothing to do with this.”

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