Madeleine McCann is “assumed” to be dead by German prosecutors, who have identified an imprisoned German child abuser as a suspect in the murder of the British girl.
The suspect, who has been named in German media as 43-year-old Christian B, is currently serving a prison sentence.
Christian B is believed to have been in the area where Madeleine, aged 3, was last seen while on holiday in Algarve, Portugal.
The UK’s Metropolitan Police said it had received more than 270 calls and emails since a new appeal for information was launched on June 3.
Hans Christian Wolters, from the Braunschweig Public Prosecutor’s Office in Germany, said in an update on June 4: “We are assuming that the girl is dead.
“With the suspect, we are talking about a sexual predator who has already been convicted of crimes against little girls and he’s already serving a long sentence.”
He said the suspect was regularly living in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, when the British girl disappeared, and had jobs in the area, including in catering, but also committed burglaries in hotels and dealt drugs.
The McCann family’s spokesman said Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry, felt the new development was “potentially very significant”.
Clarence Mitchell, who has represented the family since Madeleine McCann went missing, said that in 13 years he couldn’t “recall an instance when the police had been so specific about an individual.
“Of all the thousands of leads and potential suspects that have been mentioned in the past, there has never been something as clear cut as that from not just one, but three police forces,” he said.
The Met Police, who are working with their German and Portuguese counterparts, said the case remained a “missing persons” investigation in the UK because it does not have “definitive evidence” as to whether Madeleine is alive or not.
Christian B has been described as white with short blond hair, and about 6ft tall with a slim build at the time.
Police have also released photos of two vehicles – a VW camper van and a Jaguar car – which are believed to be linked to the man, as well as a house in Portugal.
The day after Madeleine McCann vanished in 2007, the suspect transferred the Jaguar to someone else’s name.
Madeleine McCann went missing shortly before her fourth birthday from an apartment in Praia da Luz on the evening of May 3, 2007, while her parents were with friends at a nearby tapas bar.
Her disappearance sparked a huge and costly police hunt across much of Europe – the most recent Metropolitan Police investigation, which began in 2011, has cost more than £11 million ($12.1 million).
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who is in charge of the Met investigation – known as Operation Grange – said the suspect, then aged 30, frequented the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, staying for “days upon end” in his camper van and living a “transient lifestyle”.
The suspect was in the Praia da Luz area where the McCann family was staying when Madeleine disappeared and received a phone call at 19:32, which ended at 20:02. The girl is believed to have disappeared between 21:10 and 22:00 that evening.
Police have released details of the suspect’s phone number (+351 912 730 680) and the number which dialed him (+351 916 510 683), and said any information about these numbers could be “critical”.
Mark Cranwell said the caller was a “key witness” and should get in touch, while he also appealed to the public for details about the suspect.
In a statement, the McCanns, from Rothley in Leicestershire, welcomed the appeal: “We would like to thank the police forces involved for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine.
“All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice.
“We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive, but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace.”
Police said the suspect was one of 600 people that detectives on the UK inquiry originally looked at, though he had not been a suspect.
After a 10-year anniversary appeal in 2017, “significant” fresh information about him was provided.
Police searching for Madeleine McCann will begin activity in Portugal.
The disclosure comes amid reports Portuguese authorities have given permission for sites in Praia da Luz, where the toddler went missing, to be searched.
Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said he would be unable to provide details of activity.
But he said he believed it “will occur in the coming weeks”.
A letter was sent to media editors amid speculation about excavation work.
Madeleine McCann was three when she went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in 2007
Madeleine McCann was three when she went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Algarve, in May 2007.
A request to search a number of sites was among a series of requests made to police in Portugal by British detectives working on the case, according to reports.
Mark Rowley said he had discussed the case with his opposite number in Portugal and highlighted the “high levels of interest” that activity would generate in the British media.
But he said Portuguese police do not provide the media with updates on current investigations.
He adds that “activity will cease” if police in Britain provide information or reporters “cause any disruption to their work in Portugal”.
Mark Rowley also said the processing of requests had been “more bureaucratic and slower than we would wish”.
But he asked media editors to respect the requests of Portuguese authorities as they carry out the work.
“We do not want to undermine our prospects of providing Mr. and Mrs. McCann with answers in this tragic case,” he added.
The development comes after the seventh anniversary of Madeleine McCann going missing was marked on Saturday.
Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s father, expressed his family’s gratitude that the Metropolitan Police team investigating Madeleine’s disappearance was now moving on to a “very active” phase in their investigation.
Kate McCann also disclosed last week that she returns to the Portuguese resort where her daughter disappeared to “walk those streets” and “look for answers” once or twice each year.
British detectives searching for new leads in the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann have received 5,000 calls.
Investigators were inundated with tips from UK, Germany and Holland after police issued a computer-generated image of a suspect last month, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood told the BBC.
“The media appeals produced a fantastic response from the public in all three countries,” he said.
“I know the appeal generated a large number of calls to the Portuguese police also.”
Many of the tips were from people who were in Portugal’s Praia da Luz resort when 3-year-old Madeleine McCann went missing on May 3, 2007, Andy Redwood added.
British detectives searching for new leads in the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann have received 5,000 calls
The computer-generated image represents a man who was spotted carrying a child towards the beach near the resort.
Portuguese police closed the investigation in 2008. But after two years of reviewing case documents, London’s Metropolitan Police reopened the case in July, saying there was a good chance Madeleine was still alive. Portuguese detectives followed suit last month.
Five years after officially closing the book on Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, the Portuguese authorities say new material justifies reopening the investigation.
Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, said they were “very pleased” with the decision and hoped it would finally lead to their daughter being found.
Andy Redwood said police have widened the timeline they’re examining and in the last few months have opened two other investigative trails.
British cleaners and Portuguese manual workers are among new suspects in the Madeleine McCann investigation, according to recent reports in UK’s media.
Scotland Yard identified what they describe as “people of interest” during a review of the Portuguese inquiry into the 3-year-old’s disappearance in May, 2007.
The suspects are thought to number 12 – not 20 as has been reported – and include a number of British cleaners who were working near the apartment complex where Madeleine McCann, twin siblings Sean and Amelie and parents Gerry and Kate were staying.
Sources said “low-level” workers – handymen, cleaners and gardeners – have become the focus of interest. Some are thought to have been employed by the Ocean Club complex on a casual basis and may have already been interviewed.
Police are said to be keen to trace six British cleaners who were working in Praia da Luz when Madeleine McCann vanished and who didn’t appear in the Portuguese files.
They are said to have used a white van and went from apartment to apartment offering their services, chiefly concentrating on expats.
A source said: “There is quite a culture of people drifting from door to door offering services from everything from your garden to your roof or windows.”
As well as the manual workers there are a number of more obvious suspects who already appear in the Portuguese files but who British police feel haven’t been “bottomed out” properly and therefore warrant further investigation.
British cleaners and Portuguese manual workers are among new suspects in the Madeleine McCann investigation
“There are a lot of people who could be explored further, if only to be eliminated,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, head of Scotland Yard’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command.
However, officers face having to break down Portuguese resistance to re-opening the inquiry. Officials in Lisbon say they can reopen the case only if there is new evidence. But it has been claimed that the new leads could, if properly explored, result in new evidence and possibly solve the Madeleine McCann mystery.
Detectives examining the Portuguese files were alarmed that the original inquiry had not traced and interviewed all the staff and holidaymakers who were at the Ocean Club when Madeleine McCann went missing.
Last year the Met Police said that it had identified 195 fresh leads that should have been investigated either by conducting further witness interviews, eliminating suspects or carrying out forensic tests that were missing from the 2007 inquiry.
Officers found unexplained gaps in the investigation timeline and that there had been a complete lack of forensic examination of mobile phone activity in the area on the night Madeleine McCann disappeared.
Hamish Campbell said it was “perfectly probable” that information which could identify the suspect responsible for Madeleine McCann’s disappearance was already in the Portuguese files.
He reiterated a claim that Madeleine McCann could still be alive. He said: “You only have to look at the case in Cleveland, Ohio, and the European cases. Of course there is a possibility she is alive. But the key is to investigate the case and, alive or dead, we should be able to try and discern what happened.”
The McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire, have been kept closely informed of Scotland Yard’s review – codenamed Operation Grange – over the past two years.
A spokesman for Gerry and Kate McCann said: “They have been encouraged from the moment the review started and are now greatly encouraged that police have drawn up a short list of people who they believe are of interest to the inquiry.”
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