The idea that Madeleine McCann’s parents could harm the little girl is "ludicrous", a family member said today.

Brian Kennedy, a great uncle of the missing Leicestershire youngster, spoke out after it was announced that her mother, Kate McCann, was expected to become a formal suspect.

He said: "As you can imagine, the family of Kate and Gerry McCann have been shocked by the news of recent events in Portugal and the campaign against them, and are sure that all those who have given their tremendous support over the past months will be equally amazed and disbelieving of what this wonderful couple are having to contend with, having already suffered the loss of their much-loved Madeleine.

"The notion that either of them would or could harm one of their children is ludicrous."

Mr Kennedy said the couple were "absolutely devoted" to Madeleine and the twins and that no one who knows them would believe that they would hurt them in any way.

He added: "Their family and friends support them totally and we are sure that everyone else who has been kind in their letters and prayers, and financially, will continue to believe in them and hope for a speedy and just outcome to the present situation."