Madeleine McCann’s parents face an agonising wait after ‘relevant clue was found’ in three-day search operation at Algarve reservoir and sent for forensic tests in Germany – which could take MONTHS to be completed
Madeleine McCann’s parents face months of agony as they wait for the results of forensic testing after a ‘relevant clue’ was reportedly found during a three-day search operation in Portugal. Investigators cleared a large area of woodland at the Algarve reservoir and dug eight deep holes to collect samples, which have been sent for forensic and DNA testing in Germany. Scientists are expected to have initial results next week, sources say, but it is feared it could take months for a full analysis to be completed.
The Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha said a ‘relevant clue’ was found during the search on Thursday, leading police to focus on a specific area of the secluded beauty spot. Several items were removed from the site, which may or may not be of relevance to the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, the publication said. They include a bra strap, pieces of clothing and plastic items. The development came after MailOnline told yesterday how investigators had been looking for a gun and camcorder stolen from prime suspect Christian Brueckner’s house. A criminal informer tipped off German prosecutors that items taken in the 2007 raid at Brueckner’s isolated home were then thrown into the reservoir. Pictured: Prime suspect Christian Brueckner.
An area of around 160 square feet had been flattened and cleared of grass and shrubs with several holes dug into the ground to a depth of around two feet. There were also other holes dug into the foreshore close to the waterline and path close to the edge of the reservoir had been cleared by the rotovator. It is thought the soil removed was taken away by German officials for closer analysis at a lab in Wiesbaden where the country’s investigative force, the BKA, are based.
Axel Peterman, a criminal profiler and former German detective, told The Mirror that the ‘evidence will be examined and evaluated by experts’ within days at an ‘accredited DNA laboratory.’ He argued the examination of the land may identify the form of a ‘ditch or dug-out hole’ that could lead to ‘clothing or hidden objects’ tying the suspect to the area. However, former Met murder Peter Kirkham claimed the search was carried out ‘more in hope than expectation’ due to the amount of time that has passed since Madeline went missing in May 2007.
Portuguese police have confirmed that the three-day search resulted in ‘the collection of some material that will be subject to expertise analysis’ but, according to The Telegraph, it could be weeks or months to analyse all the samples. German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters has said a statement would be released soon if investigators find nothing of significance. But if the samples prove relevant, the statement would be delayed. Investigators have been combing the shores of the reservoir rather than searching under the water, as it is considerably lower than usual due to lack of rain.
Just after 5pm on Thursday police lifted the cordon and allowed media through to the site that had been searched the last three days. Police were desperate to find the video camera as they believe it may contain images of Madeleine, but also of other [sexual] attacks Brueckner is said to have carried out on at least two unidentified women. The informer has backed up information from key witnesses Manfred Seyferth and another man called Helge Busching, who have already told German investigators they broke into the house while Brueckner was in jail.
Seyferth said the pair had found a gun and a video camera at the isolated house in Floral where Brueckner lived, a few miles from the reservoir at Silves on Portugal’s Algarve, the focus of the latest police search. Germans Seyferth and Busching, who tipped off the police, were living on the Algarve at the same time as Brueckner and the two were involved in petty theft with him before having a falling out. Footage on the video camera was said to show Brueckner torturing and [sexually assaulting] an American woman, with footage of a girl around 15 years old also subjected to the same horrific ordeal. In 2019 Brueckner was convicted by a German court of the [sexual assault] of an elderly American woman in her home at Praia da Luz close to where Madeleine vanished, and was given a seven-year sentence. It is not known if this is the same woman on the missing video tape but investigators are keen to track it down to build up a more damning case against Brueckner.
A source close to the investigation told MailOnline: ‘Both men have told the BKA (German investigation police) they broke into Brueckner’s home. They had all been part of a network of petty criminals in the Algarve back in the early 2000s around the time Madeleine went missing but then fell out. Seyferth has told police that he and Busching found a video camera and a gun at the house after they broke in. When the video camera was played that said it showed a masked man carrying out a [sexual] attack on a woman and the voice they heard was Brueckner’s. Seyferth said a gun was also found and that after finding the video camera they panicked, drove off and later threw both items in the lake. Seyferth has told investigators the material on the video tape was evil and if this can be found will be vital to building a case against Brueckner. Now another witness has come forward to confirm the story of the first two men and this has prompted intensification of the investigation.’
Last year police in Germany charged Brueckner with a variety of historical [sexual] crimes including [sexual assaults] against two unidentified women and Irish tour guide Hazel Behan between 2000 and 2006. Meanwhile, Portuguese and German police left the scene this afternoon. In a sign that the search was over, blue tents that had been set up earlier this week were dismantled and packed away. Officers could be seen shuttling back and forth packing tables and chairs and carrying them to vans. While a truck used to empty portable toilets also arrived at a forward operating area that had been set up near the investigation site. The last vehicles to leave were the German registered black Mercedes vans belonging to the BKA investigative police. Sources close to the investigation said that material found at the scene, mainly soil samples, would be taken back to Germany for analysis.
Forensic biologist Dr. Mark Benecke told German media: ‘Soil samples contain stones, pollen and a few other small components that can be transmitted during an act. This means that if I find old shoes, for example, that now contain exactly the same components as in the earth, I know the person was there.’ He added that traces of textile fibres, pebbles or pollen could still be used even centuries later. He told RTL: ‘The only question is whether no one walked around there and left other traces that disturb the whole thing. If other people celebrated at that point, maybe urinated, vomited, somehow left their own skin, then of course it will be more difficult.’
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