A Portuguese detective who investigated the disappearance of Madeleine McCann was removed after scolding British police, saying they were being misled by the girl's parents, who are suspects in the case.
Portuguese police said that Goncalo Amaral, a senior detective overseeing the investigation, had been taken off the case. They gave no reason for the decision, but his removal came shortly after he claimed that British police have been pursuing leads "created and cultivated" by Kate and Gerry McCann to shift suspicion away from themselves.
"The British police have been working solely on what the McCanns want and what suits them," Amaral was quoted as saying Tuesday by daily paper Diario de Noticias.
Portuguese Justice Minister Alberto Costa refused to comment, saying: "We have to concentrate on the work, not on making comments."
McCann spokesman Clarence Mitchell said the family would have nothing to say about the development.
"Gerry and Kate have consistently said that they are very happy to cooperate fully with the Portuguese authorities and they will continue their cooperation irrespective of who is in charge of the actual hunt for Madeleine," Mitchell told the British Broadcasting Corp.
A spokeswoman for Leicestershire Police, who have jurisdiction over the McCanns' hometown in central England, said the force would "continue to support the Portuguese authorities" in their investigation but declined to comment further.
One of the McCanns' two Portuguese lawyers, Carlos Pinto Abreu, told Lisbon radio TSF that Amaral's comments were "in very poor taste" and were unhelpful to the investigation.
The McCanns have insisted they had nothing to do with their daughter's disappearance and believe someone took her.
Madeline McCann disappeared May 3, a few days before her 4th birthday, during a family vacation in Portugal.
British authorities have been cooperating in the investigation from the start. Forensic tests conducted at a government laboratory in Britain found evidence that DNA from Madeleine was in the trunk of a rental car the parents used after her disappearance.
The findings prompted Portuguese police to place Kate and Gerry McCann under investigation.
However, Portugal's national police chief, Alipio Ribeiro, said the forensic tests on the car were not conclusive and he expected the investigation to continue.
The investigation initially focused on the possibility that Madeleine had been abducted from her hotel room at a resort while her parents were dining at a nearby restaurant.
Kate and Gerry McCann, who have run an international campaign to find their daughter, returned to Britain last month, a day after they were named as formal suspects. They have said they are prepared to return to Portugal for further police questioning, if necessary.
The only other formal suspect in Madeleine's disappearance is Robert Murat, a British man who lived near the hotel from which she vanished. He also has denied involvement.