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Portuguese police has decided to reopen their inquiry into the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann, the public prosecutor’s office has announced.
Madeleine McCann, from Leicestershire, was 3-year-old when she disappeared from Praia da Luz in the Algarve, Portugal, in May 2007.
Portugal’s attorney-general said “new elements of evidence” justified the “continuation of the investigation”, which was shelved by police in 2008.
Madeleine McCann’s parents said they hoped for “the answers we so desperately need”.
Scotland Yard began a review of the case in May 2011 – codenamed Operation Grange – and opened a formal investigation in July 2013.
They said the Portuguese decision followed the “discovery of new lines of inquiry as a result of an internal review of the original investigation by the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria”.
It comes after Scotland Yard said at a briefing earlier this year that the Portuguese inquiry would not be re-opened until judges there were convinced there were solid grounds to do so.
Madeleine McCann was 3-year-old when she disappeared from Praia da Luz in the Algarve
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley and Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood met senior Portuguese police last Thursday in Lisbon for a briefing on the new lines of enquiry which they said were “separate” to those being followed by the Metropolitan Police (Met).
Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, were also briefed on the plans to apply to reopen the investigation.
They said they were “very pleased” the Portuguese inquiry, which will run in parallel with the Met operation, was being reopened.
“We hope that this will finally lead to her being found and to the discovery of whoever is responsible for this crime,” they said.
“We once again urge any member of the public who may have information relating to Madeleine’s abduction to contact the police in Portugal or the UK.”
Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner for specialist crime and operations, said the meeting was “very positive” and both forces had a “shared determination” to solve the case.
“I believe that we have the best opportunity yet to finally understand what happened to Madeleine,” he said.
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British police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have said they had an “overwhelming response” to an appeal on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme.
Officers suggested that Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in Portugal in 2007 bore hallmarks of a “pre-planned abduction”.
Scotland Yard said it was also looking into possible links to burglaries and bogus charity collections in the area.
It said officers would be following up the lines of inquiry provided by more than 300 phone calls and 170 emails.
Madeleine McCann, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was 3-year-old when she disappeared from her parents’ holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.
Detectives investigating the case released two e-fits of a man seen carrying a child in Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine McCann went missing.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior Metropolitan Police investigating officer, said a number of men had been seen by witnesses in the area on the day Madeleine McCann vanished and one theory was they could have been carrying out reconnaissance.
He said they wanted to track down men seen “lurking suspiciously” near the McCanns’ apartment block.
The Metropolitan Police say their inquiries have led to the timeline and “accepted version of events” surrounding Madeleine McCann’s disappearance being significantly changed.
Andy Redwood said it had been a “revelation moment” when police discovered a man seen by the McCanns’ friend Jane Tanner at 21:15 was almost certainly an innocent British holiday-maker collecting his two-year-old daughter from a nearby crèche.
He said: “Our focus in terms of understanding what happened on the night of 3 May has now given us a shift of emphasis.
Madeleine McCann, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was 3-year-old when she disappeared from her parents’ holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007
“It takes us through to a position at 10pm when we see another man who is walking towards the ocean, close by to the apartment, with a young child in his arms.”
Crimewatch featured a detailed reconstruction lasting close to 25 minutes and covering events leading up to and surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance.
The film is also to be shown in the Netherlands, Germany and Irish Republic this week as tourists from those countries were known to be in the resort at the time.
Andy Redwood said he would be travelling to the Netherlands and Germany to continue the appeal.
Madeleine McCann’s parents Kate and Gerry told the programme they were “hopeful and optimistic” after the fresh appeal for information.
Kate McCann said: “We’re not the ones that have done something wrong here. It’s the person who’s gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family.”
The two e-fit images released are of a man a family had seen with a blond-haired child of 3 or 4, possibly wearing pyjamas, heading away from the McCanns’ holiday apartment.
Andy Redwood said he could be the man who took Madeleine McCann – but there could be an innocent explanation.
He also said there had been a four-fold increase in the number of burglaries in the area between January and May 2007 and one possible scenario was that Madeleine McCann had disturbed a burglar.
Police are also looking at possible bogus charity collectors operating in the area at the time and have released two e-fit images of Portuguese men they would like to identify.
Police have also released e-fit images of two men seen in the area around the time that Madeleine McCann disappeared. Two are of fair-haired men who fit similar descriptions.
Portuguese police shelved their inquiry in 2008 but Scotland Yard began a review of the case in May 2011 and opened a formal investigation in July this year.
Kate McCann described the moment that “panic kicked in” after returning to the apartment to find her daughter missing.
Madeleine McCann and her brother and sister were left in the apartment at 20:30 while her parents dined with friends at a nearby restaurant.
Gerry McCann checked on them at 21:05 and Kate McCann raised the alarm at 22:00.
British police investigating Madeleine McCann’s disappearance has released two e-fits of a man who was seen carrying a child towards the beach in Portugal.
Police say a family saw the man with a blond-haired child of three or four, possibly wearing pyjamas, heading away from the McCanns’ holiday apartment.
Madeleine McCann, from Rothley, Leics, was 3-year-old when she went missing on May 3, 2007, in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
The e-fit images will feature in a BBC Crimewatch appeal later.
The witnesses said the man was white, 20 to 40 years old and of medium build. He had short brown hair, was clean-shaven and of medium height, they added.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior Metropolitan Police investigating officer, said he could be the man who took Madeleine but there could be an innocent explanation.
The Met Police opened up a new investigation earlier this year and have been reassessing all the gathered material.
British police investigating Madeleine McCann’s disappearance has released two e-fits of a man who was seen carrying a child towards the beach in Portugal
As a result, according to the police, the timeline and “accepted version of events” surrounding Madeleine McCann’s disappearance have significantly changed.
Andy Redwood said he was now attaching more weight to the sighting of the man and the child at 10pm, which was later than the time it was previously believed Madeleine McCann was taken.
Madeleine McCann and her brother and sister were left in the apartment at 8.30 p.m. while her parents dined with friends at a nearby restaurant. Her father, Gerry McCann, checked on them at 9.05 p.m. and her mother, Kate, raised the alarm at 10 p.m.
Andy Redwood said the child in the man’s arms had not been crying, nor looked in distress.
He added: “Whilst this man may or may not be the key to unlocking this investigation, tracing and speaking to him is of vital importance to us.
“This is far from our only line of inquiry and there will be e-fits released of other sightings as well, who we are equally keen to trace.
“These people were seen on the day of Madeleine’s disappearance and the days leading up to it.”
UK’s PM David Cameron said he was “very pleased” Scotland Yard were doing this work, which the government was helping to fund.
According to British police, the timeline and “accepted version of events” surrounding Madeleine McCann’s disappearance have significantly changed.
The Metropolitan Police said a BBC Crimewatch appeal to be aired on Monday would feature “the most detailed reconstruction” of the case yet.
It will also broadcast e-fits of a number of men police want to find.
Madeleine McCann, of Rothley, Leicestershire, was 3-year-old when she went missing in Portugal in May 2007.
She disappeared from her family’s holiday flat in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, as her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, dined out with friends at a nearby restaurant.
Portuguese authorities dropped their investigation into the case in 2008, but Scotland Yard started a review in May 2011.
The purpose of the Crimewatch appeal, which police are describing as the “most complex and detailed” so far in the case, is to try to identify a number of computer-generated images, or e-fits, of men who were sighted in and around Praia da Luz on or before Thursday, May 3, 2007.
As part of that effort, a reconstruction – almost 25 minutes long – of events leading up to and surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance will be shown.
Madeleine McCann, of Rothley, Leicestershire, was 3-year-old when she went missing in Portugal in May 2007
A short clip released in advance by police shows an actress playing Madeleine McCann running across a tennis court as two adults, apparently her parents, play a game.
During the search for their daughter, the McCann family released a photograph of Madeleine, believed to be one of the last taken of her during the holiday, holding several tennis balls.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is heading the investigation, said: “The timeline we have now established has given new significance to sightings and movements of people in and around Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
“Our work to date has significantly changed the timeline and the accepted version of events that has been in the public domain to date.
“It has allowed us to work with Crimewatch to build the most detailed reconstruction as yet, and highlight very specific appeal points.
“I hope that when the public see our investigative strands drawn together within the overall context of that appeal, it will bring in new information that moves our investigation forward.”
Andy Redwood said that police had sought to “try and draw everything back to zero… take everything back to the beginning and then reanalyze and reassess everything, accepting nothing”.
He added: “The careful and critical analysis of the timeline has been absolutely key. Primarily, we are focused on the area between 8.30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
“We know that at 8.30, that was the time that Mr. and Mrs. McCann went down to the tapas area for their dinner, and we know that at around 10 p.m., that was when Mrs. McCann found that Madeleine was missing.”
Madeleine McCann’s parents will make a live appeal in the studio during the programme and, ahead of the broadcast.
“When it’s a special occasion, when you should be at your happiest, and Madeleine’s not there, that’s when it really hits home,” Gerry McCann said.
Kate McCann added: “It’s when you have the big family occasions… and you haven’t got your complete family.”
Earlier this month, police said phone records may be key to the case after it emerged officers were analyzing data from phones belonging to people who were in Praia da Luz when Madeleine vanished.
Scotland Yard detectives believe mobile phone records may hold the key to solving the Madeleine McCann case.
Three-year-old Madeleine McCann, of Rothley, Leicestershire, vanished on holiday in Praia de Luz, Portugal, in 2007.
Police are analyzing data from thousands of phones belonging to people in the village at the time. There are 41 potential suspects, they say.
A major appeal based on “substantive” new information will be broadcast on the BBC’s Crimewatch on October 14.
Madeleine McCann was days away from her fourth birthday when she disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading the inquiry, said officers were examining a “substantial amount of data” from mobile phones thought to belong to people who were in the resort of Praia de Luz in the days just before, during and after Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.
Police are trying to identify the owner of each phone to build up a picture of exactly who was in the area. More than 3,000 people live in Praia de Luz, while holidaymakers and seasonal workers visit from countries across the world.
“This is not just a general trawl,” said Det. Ch. Insp. Andy Redwood.
“It’s a targeted attack on that data to see if it assists us to find out what happened to Madeleine McCann at that time.”
Detective Chief Inspector Redwood said officers had so far been unable to attribute a “large number” of mobile numbers and admitted that it was difficult to do so with phones bought six years ago on a pay-as-you-go basis.
The records also contain information on which phone numbers were dialed and when calls were made. It is thought some phone numbers might appear on police intelligence systems or be linked to criminals.
“We can see what the phone is doing, but we can’t see the text messages,” said the detective.
Scotland Yard detectives believe mobile phone records may hold the key to solving the Madeleine McCann case
“It shows a timeline of the call data.”
According to Scotland Yard, the phone records had been “looked at” during the initial Portuguese police investigation but not in detail.
Asked by reporters if the information held the key to the investigation, Det. Ch. Insp. Andy Redwood replied: “It could do.”
He said there was no CCTV available – evidence which is often used to help solve missing persons inquiries in the UK.
Scotland Yard announced it was launching an investigation into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in July – after spending two years reviewing the case, under the codename Operation Grange.
At that time, detectives said there were 38 “persons of interest” from five different countries – Portugal, the UK and three others that were not named.
Police said the number had now gone up to 41, of whom 15 were UK nationals.
However, detectives said work was “pretty now complete” on three of the Britons and they were likely to be struck off the list in the near future.
No one has been arrested.
Since July, police have formally requested the co-operation of the Portuguese authorities and a team of six senior detectives from Faro, in the Algarve, has begun working on the inquiry. Portuguese authorities dropped their investigation into her disappearance in 2008.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said it was a “good and professional” relationship and it was hoped that in future a small group of Scotland Yard detectives would be based in the Algarve to work with the Portuguese.
“It’s easier to do it alongside than at a distance,” he said.
Law enforcement agencies in 30 other countries – most of them in Europe – have also been asked for their assistance, principally to trace people thought to have been in Praia de Luz at the time.
Appeals for witnesses and information are also expected to air in Germany, the Netherlands and, possibly, the Republic of Ireland – the countries where most of the tourists in Praia de Luz came from.
The Crimewatch programme will feature a reconstruction and interviews with Kate and Gerry McCann, who, for the first time, will appear alongside detectives working on the investigation.
Police said the investigation was “gathering momentum”, though much work was still to be done.
Of 39,148 documents from the various police and private investigator inquiries detectives from Operation Grange have processed 21,614 of them.
The number of police tasks, known as “actions”, to be carried out by the new 37-strong investigative team numbers 4,920, of which 2,123 have been completed.
Andy Redwood said police were working backwards from the moment Madeleine McCann went missing to understand what happened to her.