Last updated at 12:58 10 August 2007
A dog who was ‘earning’ more money than her force’s Chief Constable has been brought in to help Portuguese police in their hunt for missing Madeleine McCann.
Specially-trained Keela was flown to Praia da Luz in the Algarve last week because she can detect human blood – even after items have been cleaned or washed many times.
Keela, and another English springer spaniel called Eddie, have now both been enlisted in the hunt for the missing four-year-old.
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Keela hit the headlines two years ago because she was earning more than her force’s Chief Constable.
The South Yorkshire Police dog has already helped forces across the country, including working on the high-profile stabbing of pregnant mother Abigail Witchalls in Surrey, and was being hired out for £530 per day, plus expenses.
Back then she would have been earning almost £200,000 – around £70,000 more than her force’s Chief Constable – if she worked every day of the year.
She has been trained to ignore decomposing body materials other than human blood.
And instead of barking when she smells blood, she has been trained to have a “passive” alert – freezing with her nose as near to the subject matter as possible without touching, to enable scientists to recover the sample quickly and efficiently.
This technique has saved time and money on major investigations.
She can search any area, including houses, cars, boats, both indoors and outdoors, and will lead her handler to spots of blood so small that humans cannot see them.
She screens textiles and can pick out traces of blood even after clothing has been washed many times or weapons cleaned.
When Keela was working on the Abigail Witchalls case she found eight piece of blood-stained clothing in just one day.
Now the dogs have been brought in to help after the police looking into her disappearance re-focused on the McCanns’ holiday apartment.
Madeleine has now been missing for 99 days and police are increasingly desperate for any kind of breakthrough in her case – as are her parents Kate and Gerry, who are still in Portugal.
Both sniffer dogs are attached to South Yorkshire Police.
Eddie is a “victim recovery dog” who can detect blood and human remains.
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It appears highly likely that Keela was the dog who was brought in by British detectives last week who located tiny traces of blood in the McCanns’ apartment despite alleged attempts to wash them off.
Police are still waiting for the results of tests on the recovered traces, which arrived yesterday at a top UK forensic laboratory.
The sniffer dogs have already travelled around Britain, and to Ireland and the US to help police investigating murder and missing person cases.
A dog diary about Keela on the South Yorkshire Police website when she was six months old says she and Eddie live “with my dad” at home in Bawtry, Doncaster.
It reads: “He is going to train me to search for very small spots of blood at crime scenes, so small that the humans can’t see it.
“My very sensitive nose will be able to smell the blood and I will show Dad where it is. He can then show the scientists so that they can take samples.” South Yorkshire Police were unavailable for comment last night.