This is the farmhouse where the new prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance lived in Portugal – just two miles from where she went missing.
The 43-year-old German criminal lived on the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, including for a few years in the ramshackle home between Lagos and Praia da Luz.
The suspected burglar, drug dealer and paedophile had been residing only two miles from the holiday apartment where Madeleine vanished on May 3, 2007.
Neighbours described the man – who has not been named – as an ‘angry’ car dealer who vanished suddenly, leaving a collection of wigs, fancy dress and exotic clothing.
He lived in the rented building on a remote hillside along a footpath that runs from above the beach where Madeleine and her family played during their week’s holiday.
The farmhouse where the new prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance lived was located just two miles from where she went missing from her family’s holiday apartment
The 43-year-old German prime suspect lived in the rented building on a remote hillside along a footpath that runs from above the beach where Madeleine and her family played on holiday
According to residents, he littered the land with old vehicles which he bought and sold for a living, which may explain how he acquired the distinctive camper van and Jaguar which are now at the centre of the police investigation.
Months before Madeleine’s disappearance, the paedophile is said to have left the farm to move into his two-tonne camper van.
Scotland Yard said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Madeleine’s disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3.
A former neighbour told Sky News: ‘He arrived in the mid-90s and rented the place from the English owner.
‘He went back to Germany at one stage and moved another German guy in to look after it, then came back and threw him out on the street.
The living room of the rental apartment where the suspect was living just two miles from the McCann’s holiday apartment. Neighbours described the man as an ‘angry’ car dealer
Above, an interior of the rented home where the suspect lived in Portugal. Neighbours said that he vanished suddenly, leaving a collection of wigs, fancy dress and exotic clothing
‘He was always a bit angry, driving fast up and down the lane, and then one day, around 2006, he just disappeared without a word. I think he left some rent unpaid.’
Madeleine McCann went missing in May 2007 while on holiday on the Algarve in Portugal
The neighbour added: ‘About six months later I was asked to help clean up the place and it was disgusting, absolutely vile. It had been trashed, with broken stuff like computers all over the place.’
The neighbour said she was contacted by Scotland Yard detectives last year. They asked her about the man, without revealing why.
This year she was visited by Portuguese detectives who showed her photographs of the man and asked more questions.
It is understood that many neighbours, friends and acquaintances of the suspect have since been interviewed as police try to establish his movements around the time Madeleine disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment.
Meanwhile it has also emerged that the man is serving a seven-year jail sentence for the rape of 72-year-old American woman, according to reports.
The German criminal was convicted in Braunschweig district court last year for a rape he is said to have committed in Portugal in 2005.
An exterior view of the rented property in Porgugal where the German suspect lived
He lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, according to Braunschweig Zeitung.
Just two years before Maddie’s disappearance, the criminal raped an American tourist, the newspaper reported.
He has two previous convictions for ‘sexual contact with girls’, according to Christian Hoppe from Germany’s federal criminal police office, and the farmhouse he rented was on the footpath leading to the beach where the little girl played.
It is thought the suspect made his living by stealing from holiday apartments in the area, and he may have entered the McCann’s apartment and decided to take their daughter, say Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office.
The suspect’s battered camper van. Scotland Yard released images of the VW T3 Westfalia camper van, with a white upper body and a yellow skirting, with a Portuguese registration plate
Scotland Yard insisted it was still a missing person inquiry, but German police said: ‘There is reason to believe that there are other people besides the perpetrator who have concrete knowledge of the possible scene of the crime and, if necessary, where the body is stored.
‘We expressly ask these people to report and share their knowledge.’
Mr Hoppe, from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), said police had not ruled out a sexual motive for the crime.
He added that the suspect may have broken into an apartment in the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz – where Madeleine was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie – before spontaneously kidnapping her.
Pictured above and below, the Jaguar he re-registered the day after Maddie disappeared
In 2007, when the suspect was 30, he is said to have spent his days stealing from hotel complexes and holiday apartments and trafficking drugs, according to police.
Last night it was reported that he may also have committed further sexual assaults or rapes during his time in Portugal.
Yesterday Scotland Yard released images of the VW T3 Westfalia camper van, with a white upper body and a yellow skirting, with a Portuguese registration plate.
They also released images of a second vehicle the suspect owned – a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany.
Scotland Yard released images of a second vehicle the suspect owned
Detectives say it is significant that the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, the paedophile re-registered the car in someone else’s name back in Augsburg, Germany, even though the vehicle had never left Portugal.
The Jaguar is believed to have been in the Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007 and was originally registered in the suspect’s name.
German police said there were indications that he could have used one of these vehicles to commit the crime and they want to trace anyone who remembers seeing them parked up anywhere.
Detectives revealed last night that the suspect lived more or less permanently in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007.
The car is a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany
He worked occasionally in the catering business in the Lagos area. But police believe he was really earning his living by committing burglaries of hotel complexes and holiday flats as well as trafficking cannabis.
In 2013, Scotland Yard revealed that a blond man had been seen lurking near the 5A apartment about 4pm on the day that Madeleine was snatched.
He was described as white, aged 30 to 35, thin, with short, light-coloured hair and spots on his face possibly caused by shaving.
Last night detectives said the e-fit of the man released in 2013 had ‘not been ruled out’, suggesting he may resemble the new suspect.
A blond-haired man was also seen on the balcony of a nearby empty apartment and in the stairwell of the McCanns’ block.
Police believe a mobile phone call made by the suspect could be the key piece of evidence that unlocks the mystery which has puzzled detectives the world over for 13 years.
At 7.30pm on May 3, 2007, he made a call which places him in Praia da Luz. For half an hour he chatted to a mystery person before ending the call at 8.03pm.
Three-year-old Madeleine was snatched from her bed sometime after 9pm.
The Ocean Club in Praia Da Luz, where Madeleine disappeared on May 3, 2007, during a family holiday with her parents and younger twin siblings
Yesterday Scotland Yard took the highly unusual step of releasing the suspect’s Portuguese mobile phone number – 00351 912 730 680 – and that of the mystery witness he spoke to.
The unidentified witness, who used the Portuguese phone number 00351 916 510 683, was not staying in the area at the time of the call.
The suspect’s name was given to the Metropolitan Police in 2017 after the 10th anniversary.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said: ‘We know a lot about the suspect, but we need to know more about his movements on the night Madeleine vanished and in the days before and afterwards.
Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry were sitting at The Ocean Club Tapas Bar and had just checked on their daughter who was sleeping in their holiday apartment when she went missing just after 10pm
‘We know he was in the resort on the night, about an hour before Madeleine was last seen about 9pm.
‘He took a phone call on his Portuguese mobile from another Portuguese mobile. The call lasted half an hour.
‘While this male is a suspect we retain an open mind as to his involvement and this remains a missing person inquiry.’
German police said inquiries were homing in on two properties near where the toddler vanished and last night they appealed for anyone who could provide information about the rooms the man used to come forward.
The last photograph taken of the little girl shows her smiling next to her little sister Amelie and their father Gerry
Scotland Yard is launching a joint appeal with the BKA and the Portugal’s Policia Judiciaria, including a £20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Last night, as more details emerged about the suspect, there were questions about why police took so long to release the information.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who is leading the British investigation, said Scotland Yard knew a lot about the man who became a suspect when officers received critical information in 2017.
It emerged that since then Scotland Yard had been secretly working with German and Portuguese police to piece together his movements.
A photograph of the bedroom from which Madeleine was snatched in May 2007, which was included in police files released in August 2008
Yet Scotland Yard chose to make the information public only when the German police announced their appeal yesterday.
Yesterday Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy denied the timing was anything to do with seeking extra funding for Operation Grange, which has cost £12 million so far.
Mr Cranwell said: ‘We know a lot about the suspect, but we need to know more about his movements on the night Madeleine vanished and in the days before and afterwards.
‘It’s more than 13 years since Madeleine went missing and none of us can imagine what it must be like for her family, not knowing what happened or where she is.
On May 3, 2007 Kate and Gerry McCann went to a small tapas bar metres away from their apartment to dine with friends. But when Kate returned to do a routine check on their children, she found that Madeleine had disappeared
‘Following the ten-year anniversary, the Met received information about a German man who was known to have been in and around Praia da Luz.
‘We have been working with colleagues in Germany and Portugal and this man is a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.
‘The Met conducted a number of enquiries and in November 2017 engaged with the BKA who agreed to work with the Met.
‘Since then a huge amount of work has taken place by both the Met, the BKA and the Polícia Judiciaria. While this male is a suspect, we retain an open mind as to his involvement and this remains a missing person inquiry.’
How the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann unfolded over 13 years
May 3: Gerry and Kate McCann leave their three children, including Maddie, asleep in their hotel apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, as they eat with friends in a nearby restaurant. When they return, they find Maddie missing from her bed
May 4: A friend of the McCanns reports of seeing a man carrying a child away in the night. Meanwhile, airports and borders are put on high alert as search gets underway
May 14: Robert Mural, a property developer who lives a few yards from the hotel, is made a suspect by Portuguese police
May 30: The McCanns meet the Pope in Rome in a bid to bring worldwide attention to the search
August 11: Police in Portugal acknowledge for the first time in the investigation that Maddie might be dead.
September 7: Spanish police make the McCanns official suspects in the disappearance. Two days later the family flies back to England
July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved
May 1: A computer-generated image of what Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns
May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May
April 25: After a year of reviewing the case, Scotland Yard announce they belief that Maddie could be alive and call on police in Portugal to reopen the case, but it falls on deaf ears amid ‘a lack of new evidence’
Kate and Gerry McCann mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine with the publication of the book written by her mother in 2011
July 4: Scotland Yard opens new investigation and claim to have identified 38 ‘people of interest’
October 24: A review into the investigation is opened by Portuguese police and new lines of inquiry are discovered, forcing them to reopen the case
January 29: British officers arrive in Portugal as a detailed investigation takes place. During the year, several locations are searched, including an area of scrubland near the resort
October 28: British police announce that team investigating Maddie’s disappearance is reduced from 29 officers to just four, as it is also revealed that the investigation has cost £10million
April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months
March 11: Cash is once again pumped into keeping the investigation alive, with £85,000 granted to keep it running until September, when it is extended once again until April next year
March 27: The Home Office reveals it has allocated further funds to Operation Grange. The new fund is believed to be as large as £150,000
September 11: Parents fear as police hunt into daughter’s disappearance could be shelved within three weeks by the new Home Secretary amid funding cuts
September 26: Fresh hope in the search for Madeleine McCann as it emerges the Home Office is considering allocating more cash for the police to find her
April: Controversial new Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie’s kidnap is released, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls. They pair, who refused to take part in the eight hour programme series, slammed it for ‘potentially hindering’ the search for their daughter while an active police hunt is ongoing
June 5: The Home Office gives the Metropolitan Police enough funding to investigate for another year
June 22: Detectives say they are ‘closer than ever’ to solving the disappearance as they look into a new suspect. A joint effort by British and Portuguese police narrowed in on a ‘foreign’ man who was in the Algarve when she went missing in 2007
December 7: Paulo Pereira Cristovao, a long-time critic of Maddie’s parents who angered them with a controversial book about the mystery disappearance, was convicted of participating in the planning of two violent break-ins at properties in Lisbon and the nearby resort of Cascais. He is jailed for seven and a half years
December 11: Maddie’s revealed a touching list of what they miss most about their daughter as they spent their 13th Christmas without her
February 22: Scotland Yard detectives questioned a British expat about her German ex-boyfriend. Carol Hickman, 59, claims police entered her bar in Praia da Luz, Portugal to ask questions about her former partner
March 27: Detectives requested extra money to continue their investigation into the disappearance of the toddler in Portugal back in 2007, with funds for the operation set to run out at the end of the month
June 3: Police reveal that a 43-year-old German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.