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‘Major’ breakthrough in Germany in hunt for Madeleine McCann

German detectives investigating Madeleine McCann’s disappearance say they have ‘almost enough evidence’ to charge a convicted paedophile currently serving jail time for rape with the three-year-old’s kidnap and murder.

The suspect, a 43-year-old German drifter with a long history of sex crimes against women and children, was living in the resort Maddie vanished from in 2007 when she disappeared.

Police revealed yesterday he made a 30-minute phone call that located him in Praia da Luz just an hour before the British girl was last seen on May 3, 2007. The following day he suspiciously transferred the ownership of his car to another person despite continuing to drive it, police said.

Detectives in London leading the hunt called a press conference last night to announce the ‘major breakthrough’.

The suspect was not named by Scotland Yard due to German anonymity laws, and British officers insisted theirs was still a ‘missing persons’ inquiry.

However Christian Hoppe, from the German Federal Criminal Police (BKA) last night went on TV show XY – his country’s version of Crimewatch – and revealed: ‘The investigation leads us to believe that Maddie McCann was killed.’

Maddie (pictured) was three when she is disappeared

A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in what could be a major breakthrough in the case. Pictured: An e-fit of Maddie showing her aged nine

The suspect, who is in prison in Germany for an unrelated matter, has been linked to an early 1980s camper van - with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal - which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007

The suspect, who is in prison in Germany for an unrelated matter, has been linked to an early 1980s camper van – with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal – which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007

He has also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and the surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007 including just days before Maddie's disappearance

He has also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and the surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007 including just days before Maddie’s disappearance

The news today has given hope to her Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry McCann (pictured together in 2017), who have never given up hope in the search for their daughter

The news today has given hope to comes as a shot in the arm to her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, who have never given up hope in the search for their daughter

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

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

Maddie’s parents refuse to believe their daughter is dead until her body is found, close friend says 

Madeleine McCann’s parents refuse to believe their daughter is dead until her body is found, a close friend said tonight.

Kate and Gerry cling onto a glimmer of hope that Maddie could still be alive as police probing her disappearance have sensationally revealed a prime suspect in a huge breakthrough in the 13-year mystery.

As police could be closing in on her kidnapper – a 43-year-old German who is currently in jail after committing other offences – the couple ‘remain on tenterhooks’ as they anxiously await updates.

A pal of the couple from Rothley, Leicestershire, said: ‘German police are now leading on this inquiry and are treating it as murder. But what proof officers have got has not been spelt out at this stage. Until a body is found and it is proved to be Madeleine’s, Kate and Gerry are not giving up hope.

‘This is the biggest police activity for many years, it appears to be a significant breakthrough after all this time. In 13 years never before has any police force said ‘We believe this person to be the prime suspect.’ There is tangible evidence, the suspect was in Praia da Luz when Madeleine went missing and he had been behaving suspiciously and is now serving a prison sentence.

‘But does it make him Madeleine’s abductor and, if it does, where is she and why now has he suddenly come to light when his name was given to police three years ago. And has he had any involvement in paedophilia?

‘There are still many unanswered questions and we cannot speculate.

‘Kate and Gerry want answers more than anyone but while the Metropolitan Police are still treating Madeleine’s disappearance as a missing people’s inquiry, it gives the family hope that she could still be alive. Nothing has changed for them. They will continuing hoping until they know for sure.’

The friend said that heart doctor Gerry, 51, and ex GP turned medical worker Kate, 52, remained ‘incredibly grateful’ to the British force for its continuing work over nine years.

McCann spokesman Clarence Mitchell declined to make a comment, saying: ‘Kate and Gerry have given a direct statement through police.’ 

The family have recently been buoyed up by news of a Chinese boy being found alive 32 years after being abducted. The pal said: ‘This is the news they are dreaming of receiving themselves one day.’  

MailOnline understands the BKA unit firmly believes their 43-year-old suspect is the man who took Maddie.

On one of the most crucial days in the 13-year hunt for the British girl, it emerged:

  • German police have seized the prime suspect’s car and campervan and said there was evidence to link one of them to ‘a crime’
  • The suspect is currently in jail serving seven years for raping a 72-year-old woman in the same resort Maddie vanished from
  • He has also got previous convictions for sex crimes against girls and police cannot rule out a sexual element to the Maddie kidnap
  • A German paedophile may have discussed Maddie’s disappearance in an internet chatroom, the Portuguese police chief who led the original probe revealed 
  • Friends of Maddie’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann told MailOnline they would refuse to believe their daughter was dead ‘until a body is found’

Maddie, who vanished days before her fourth birthday and would now be 17, had been left sleeping with her baby siblings Sean and Amelie on the night she disappeared as her parents went to a tapas restaurant nearby with friends.

Last night Kate and Gerry said: ‘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.’

According to Braunschweiger Zeitung, the newspaper for the central German city of Braunschweig, the McCann suspect was jailed there for rape last December.

The German national was tried and convicted in Germany for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal in 2005, the paper said, receiving a seven-year sentence. He has not yet exhausted the appeals process in the German courts. 

The attack on the American pensioner took place in Praia da Luz, 18 months before Maddie vanished from the same resort town. It was unclear this morning why the man, who was extradited to Germany from Portugal, had not faced trial in Portugal for the offence. 

German law prevents police from naming even convicted criminals – so the McCann suspect remained anonymous even as he was jailed last year.

And it meant Scotland Yard was unable to name him when they made their announcement about the case last night.

KEY EVIDENCE REVEALED

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, from Operation Grange, the £12m Met Police taskforce launched in 2013 to find Maddie, said the suspect took a 30-minute call to his Portuguese phone between 7.30pm and 8pm on May 3, 2007, around an hour before Maddie was snatched.

He said the suspect had lived between 1995 and 2007 in a rented farmhouse two miles outside of the Praia da Luz, but is believed to have moved into a campervan months before Maddie’s disappearance.

He revealed pictures of that 1980s VW T3 Westfalia campervan taken in the Portuguese resort in the days before she vanished.

They also disclosed the suspect is linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.

The Jaguar was originally registered in the suspect’s name, but the day after Madeleine’s disappearance it was re-registered to someone else in Germany. To re-register the car in Germany you don’t have to have the car in the country or region

The Jaguar was originally registered in the suspect’s name, but the day after Madeleine’s disappearance it was re-registered to someone else in Germany. To re-register the car in Germany you don’t have to have the car in the country or region

Both vehicles have been seized by German police, who say they are leading a murder investigation, although British police still insist it's a missing person inquiry

Both vehicles have been seized by German police, who say they are leading a murder investigation, although British police still insist it’s a missing person inquiry

Police released these pictures of the VW T3 Westfalia campervan, used in and around Praia da Luz, Portugal, by a new suspect

Police released these pictures of the VW T3 Westfalia campervan, used in and around Praia da Luz, Portugal, by a new suspect

It is believed that the suspect, a convicted paedophile, was living in the 1980s camper van at the time of Maddie's disappearance

It is believed that the suspect, a convicted paedophile, was living in the 1980s camper van at the time of Maddie’s disappearance

The suspect is said to have lived at this property named Escola Vehla - meaning 'old school' - during his time in Portugal

The suspect is said to have lived at this property named Escola Vehla – meaning ‘old school’ – during his time in Portugal

The house is situated between the resort of Praia da Luz and the larger town of Lagos four miles away

The house is situated between the resort of Praia da Luz and the larger town of Lagos four miles away

The house is situated between the resort of Praia da Luz and the larger town of Lagos four miles away

A photo of Maddie picking up tennis balls released by her family

A computer generated image from 2012 shows how Maddie would have looked at the age of nine

Madeleine McCann would have turned 17 last month. In 2012, five years after her disappearance, her family issued an age progression efit photo to show what Madeleine may have looked like aged nine (right)

The day after Madeleine went missing, he got the car re-registered in Germany under someone else’s name, although it is believed the vehicle was still in Portugal.

Both vehicles have been seized by German police, who say there is evidence one of them is linked to ‘an offence’.

DCI Cranwell said his suspect is described as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and around 6ft tall with a slim build.

‘He is a German national, he’s currently in a German prison for an unrelated matter. He’s white, he’s about six foot in height.

‘He’s 43 now. At the time he was 30, but he could have looked aged somewhere between 25 and 32.

‘There may be people in the past who have been quite fearful of coming forward to the police, and my message is to anybody that has information… the message really is associated with the fact he is currently in prison.

‘This might be a good time, this is a good time, to come forward and talk to, whether it’s the UK police, whether it’s the German police or the Portuguese police.’

In what he termed a ‘really unusual’ step, DCI Cranwell also told reporters that Scotland Yard were releasing two mobile phone numbers as part of the appeal.

The first, (+351) 912 730 680, is believed to have been used by the suspect and received a call from another Portuguese mobile, (+351) 916 510 683, while in the Praia da Luz area, starting at 7.32pm and ending at 8.02pm on May 3.

Madeleine is believed to have disappeared between 9.10pm and 10pm that evening.

The caller, who is not thought to have been in the Praia da Luz area, is not being treated as a suspect, but is said to be a ‘key witness’.

‘Any information in relation to these mobile numbers during the spring and summer of 2007 could be critical to this investigation,’ DCI Cranwell said.

The suspect’s name was first given to UK Police in 2017, Sky News reported.

DCI Cranwell added: ‘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.

‘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.’

He added: ‘Any information in relation to these mobile numbers during the spring and summer of 2007 could be critical to this investigation.

Who did suspect make 30-minute phone call to shortly before Maddie’s disappearance?

The German suspect is known to have been in and around the area of Praia da Luz on the Algarve coast at the time Madeleine McCann went missing shortly after 9pm on May 3, 2007.

A half-hour phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile phone between 7.30 and 8pm, around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have disappeared. 

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell told reporters on Wednesday that he was taking the ‘really unusual’ step of releasing two mobile phone numbers as part of the appeal.

The first, (+351) 912 730 680, is believed to have been used by the suspect and received a call from another Portuguese mobile, (+351) 916 510 683, while in the Praia da Luz area, starting at 7.32pm and ending at 8.02pm on the night of May 3 2007.

‘Some people will know the man we are describing today, the suspect in our investigation. I’m appealing to you directly.

‘You may know, you may be aware of some of the things he has done. He may have confided in you about the disappearance of Madeleine.

‘More than 13 years have passed and your loyalties may have changed.

‘This individual is in prison and we are conscious that some people may have been concerned about contacting police in the past. Now is the time to come forward.

‘I’m appealing to you to contact us, or the German authorities or the Portuguese authorities.’

However he stressed: ‘While this male is a suspect we retain an open mind as to his involvement and this remains a missing person inquiry.’

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the investigation into the suspect had seen Met detectives sent to Portugal and Germany.

He added: ‘This is a significant development, which is why we’ve made the decision to take this significant step of making a public appeal on some information that we would not normally talk about in our major investigations.’

Scotland Yard’s appeal was made jointly with Germany’s BKA and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria, and includes a £20,000 reward for information.

FEARS MADDIE IS DEAD

On the German ‘Crimewatch’, BKA director Christian Hoppe urged anyone with information ‘of the possible course of events’ to come forward and ‘clear their conscience’.

He said his officers needed people who were holidaying in Praia da Luz in May 2007 to fill ‘the final gaps’ in his investigation.

Madeleine vanished from this holiday apartment in the popular Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz - Apartment 5a - while her parents were with friends nearby and regularly checking on their three sleeping children

Madeleine vanished from this holiday apartment in the popular Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz – Apartment 5a – while her parents were with friends nearby and regularly checking on their three sleeping children

Scotland Yard is launching a 'major' joint appeal with the German and Portuguese forces, just over 13 years after she vanished. Pictured: DCI Mark Cranwell

Scotland Yard is launching a ‘major’ joint appeal with the German and Portuguese forces, just over 13 years after she vanished. Pictured: DCI Mark Cranwell

Extraditing a foreign suspect will be difficult

It is expected that Met Police will want any suspect charged in the Madeleine McCann case to be tried in the UK, given the nationality of the victim.

The force has consistently said that if the suspect were British, then they would push for a prosecution at the Old Bailey, rather than Portugal where the crime was committed.

But if the suspect happens to be from any other country, the chances of extraditing them to the UK for a crime which took place overseas is unlikely.

If a German national is ever charged, it is unclear if Portuguese authorities, who have been heavily criticised for their involvement in the past, who pursue a prosecution of allow Germany to try their own citizen.

Portugal the maximum prison sentence that can be imposed is 25 years, whereas Germany can hand down an indeterminate life sentence – although there can be the option for parole after 15 years.

The BKA’s appeal said: ‘There is reason to assume that there are other persons, apart from the suspect, who have concrete knowledge of the course of the crime and maybe also of the place where the body was left.’

Mr Hoppe gave a list of questions his team wanted answering:

  • Who saw the vehicles in the Portuguese Algarve around the time of the crime on 3 May and in what context?
  • Where were the cars parked at that time – possibly in unusual or remote places?
  • Are there any witnesses who know the user of the vehicles?
  • Who can provide information about the suspect’s homes, rooms and other points of contact?
  • Are there people with whom the crime show viewers associate the two houses?
  • The suspect had a lengthy telephone conversation with a Portuguese number in the Praia da Luz area on the evening of 3 May 2007. The person he was talking to is still being sought as an important witness. The wanted man made phone calls with a prepaid mobile phone that was not logged into the crime scene area. The number of the witness was: +351 / 91 65 10 683. The suspect’s +351 / 91 27 30 680. Who can provide information about the two mobile numbers or their users in May 2007?
  • The perpetrator may have committed further sexual assaults or rapes during his time in Portugal. Who may also have been the victim of the suspect and has not yet reported this to the police?
  • Who stayed in the Algarve in Portugal at the beginning of May 2007, especially in the region between Lagos and Luz or in the resort ‘Ocean Club’, from which Madeleine McCann disappeared and took photos/videos during his/her stay?

Mr Hoppe said the suspect had two previous convictions for ‘sexual contact with girls’ and he could not rule out a sexual motive for the alleged crime.

He said he was also investigating the possibility the suspect was burgling the McCanns’ holiday apartment and kidnapped Maddie opportunistically after finding her alone.

Scotland Yard is launching a ‘major’ joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ), just over 13 years after she vanished

GERMAN SUSPECT WAS DRIFTER

The German suspect lived in and around the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz for more than a decade.

His main home was a run-down rented farmhouse on a hillside that runs from Praia da Luz beach. Sky News reported he left suddenly a year before Madeleine disappeared but is thought to have remained in the area.

Suspect’s identity under wraps due to Germany’s strict privacy laws 

The new prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann remained anonymous tonight – despite currently serving a jail sentence for a sex crime.

The 43-year-old convicted paedophile will not be named because of Germany’s strict privacy laws which protect the identities of suspects and even criminals.

Police can only release the name of a suspect if they can prove it would prevent further serious crimes, all but impossible when the suspect is in a prison.

Limited details of the suspect were made public by a state prosecutor on national television programme XY – which is similar to British Crimewatch.

Christian Hoppe, of the German federal office of criminal investigations, was able to tell programme hosts that the man was a German national conviction of multiple sex offences, including some against children.

But he was unable to provide details of where he grew or of the licence plates of two vehicles – a Jaguar and a VW camper – that he was known to have driven around Praia da Luz in 2007.

However, officers did take the ‘really unusual’ step of releasing two phone numbers, one belonging to the suspect, because of the hope it would lead to further evidence coming forward.

A former neighbour of the suspect told the TV channel: ‘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.

‘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.

‘We found a bin bag and inside were wigs and exotic clothing, whether just fancy dress or something stranger I couldn’t tell.’

German police believe he burgled hotels and holiday homes and sold drugs in the resort to earn money. He also had casual hospitality jobs in the nearby town of Lagos.

He was also linked to a second home in Portugal, inland from the beach resorts, according to the police.

CHATROOM LINK TO SUSPECT?

Portuguese police have long considered the case a ‘thorn in their side’, Pedro do Carmo, then the national assistant director of the Policia Judiciaria said in 2017.

‘We’d never had a case like it and we’ve never had one since,’ he added.

Last year the former lead investigator on the McCann case Goncalo Amaral, said the focus of his inquiry had been on a German paedophile. He claimed that the suspect had been ruled out of the inquiry in 2008 but later jailed in Germany for killing children.

‘Many years later, it appears that in an internet chatroom there is a conversation between that person and another person where they talk about Madeleine,’ the former detective said.

Last night the PJ issued a short statement. It read: ‘The PJ confirms that as part of the investigation into the disappearance of a British child in the Algarve in 2007, measures are still being taken to clarify completely the situation.

‘Through close coordination with the German authorities (BKA) and the Metropolitan Police, through the sharing of information and the undertaking of formal investigative and expert work, in Portugal and abroad, material was collected that indicates the possible involvement of a German national in the disappearance of the child.

‘The family of the missing child has been informed of these developments by the British authorities. The investigation continues.’

KATE AND GERRY WELCOME DEVELOPMENTS

A statement from Madeleine’s parents, read by DCI Cranwell last night, said: ‘We welcome the appeal today regarding the disappearance of our daughter Madeleine.

‘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.’

Kate and Gerry McCann seen on the balcony of their apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007 shortly after Maddie disappeared

Kate and Gerry McCann seen on the balcony of their apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007 shortly after Maddie disappeared

Last night’s developments will give a shot in the arm to Maddie’s parents, who have never given up hope in the search for their daughter.

Last month, the couple penned an impassioned letter ahead of what would have been their daughter’s 17th birthday.

They wrote: ‘It is now 13 years since we were last with Madeleine. Her 17th birthday is to follow in the next couple of weeks… the latter tangibly, painfully, bringing it home to us what we have missed and continue to miss as a family.’

A close friend of the Kate and Gerry told MailOnline that they refuse to believe their daughter is dead until her body is found.

A pal of the couple said: ‘German police are now leading on this inquiry and are treating it as murder. But what proof officers have got has not been spelt out at this stage. Until a body is found and it is proved to be Madeleine’s, Kate and Gerry are not giving up hope.

Three-year-old Madeleine, who would have turned 17 on May 12, vanished after she had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas restaurant at their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in 2007.

The couple, from Rothley in Leicestershire, have always maintained they made regular checks on the children throughout that evening.

A controversial Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie’s kidnap was released last year, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls.

‘Here’s hoping that normal, safe and happy times are close at hand’: Kate and Gerry McCann pen letter ahead of their daughter’s birthday

Kate and Gerry McCann penned a heartfelt letter as the UK remained in lockdown in May 2020, ahead of Maddie’s 17th birthday:

‘I don’t think any of us could have predicted the situation we all find ourselves in currently. It shows how easy it is to become complacent with our lives and circumstances, albeit a totally normal and understandable, human characteristic.

It is now 13 years since we were last with Madeleine. Her 17th birthday is to follow in the next couple of weeks….the latter tangibly, painfully, bringing it home to us what we have missed and continue to miss as a family.

We are very conscious that many families around the world are experiencing similar feelings at this time……being separated from each other and with many having lost loved ones prematurely and unexpectedly. There will also be many vulnerable people whose situation will have become even more precarious in the current lockdown conditions, with fear, worry and isolation – emotions that we dreaded Madeleine experiencing and which haunted us for a long time – and still do on occasions. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those suffering at this time.

We have been fortunate to spend more time together as a family since lockdown began, an enforced block to a usually frenetic life, a silver lining to this dark cloud. It has made us think about Madeleine even more, as she would have shared this period of special closeness with us too.

The investigation to find Madeleine remains open and continues, even though, in a way different to the ideal. We remain grateful for the ongoing efforts and commitment from all those involved in the search to find her and we hope and pray, as always, that our efforts will be fruitful.

Thank you to everyone still offering their support and good wishes for Madeleine and ourselves. Such solidarity continues to strengthen us. Thank you.

Please take care and please spare a thought or prayer for Madeleine and all missing children this weekend. Here’s hoping that more ‘normal’, safe and happy times are close at hand.’ – Kate and Gerry

The 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.

Ever since her disappearance, Madeleine’s parents have consistently vowed to keep searching for their daughter.

The ceaseless campaign to locate the missing girl has frequently forced the McCanns to recall the day their ‘perfect nuclear family’ was hit by horror.

On May 3 2007, the couple, from Rothley, Leicestershire, left their three children asleep in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in southern Portugal while they had dinner with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.

Mr McCann found nothing amiss when he checked on the youngsters just after 9pm, but when his wife returned at about 10pm she discovered three-year-old Madeleine was missing.

Driven by an ‘almost feral reaction’ they carried out a desperate search and raised the alarm, but from that night their lives would never be the same again.

The couple are both from close-knit working-class Catholic families and have found solace through their relatives and their faith in the years since Madeleine’s disappearance.

Mr McCann is from Glasgow and his wife from Liverpool, but they met while working as junior doctors at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.

Mrs McCann stopped working as a GP after her daughter went missing to focus on campaign work and her two other children, twins Amelie and Sean, aged just two when Madeleine disappeared.

She poured her energies into charity work, including as an ambassador for the Missing People charity, before returning to work in another area of medicine.

Mr McCann is a professor of cardiac imaging at the University of Leicester and a consultant cardiologist who has been open about his mental health struggles since the night Madeleine went missing.

Over the years the McCann family have launched numerous public appeals, won high-profile backers, seen millions of pounds in public money spent on investigations, all to no avail.

In 2017, the McCanns said they had managed to adjust to a ‘new normality’ of being a family-of-four, with their focus on giving the twins ‘a very normal, happy and fulfilling life’.

Speaking to the BBC on the 10-year anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance, Mrs McCann said: ‘We had some excellent advice early on. We have been as open with them as we can. We have told them about things and that people are writing things that are simply just untrue and they need to be aware of that.’

Madeleine’s parents admitted they have been shocked by hurtful online abuse, saying they had seen ‘the worst and the best of human nature’ since the campaign to find their daughter thrust them into the spotlight.

They have also endured a long-running libel battle against Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese detective who led the initial inquiry into Madeleine’s disappearance, who alleged in a book that the girl had died in the holiday flat.

In 2017, Mrs McCann blasted the ‘misinformation, half-truths and downright lies’ that had circulated around her daughter’s case, but her husband has insisted that overall they had ‘been overwhelmingly seeing the better side of human nature’ and received ‘fantastic support’.

Kate and Gerry in 2012, five years after Maddie's disappearance, at an appeal revealing an aged photo of how she may look

Kate and Gerry in 2012, five years after Maddie’s disappearance, at an appeal revealing an aged photo of how she may look

Over the years, the McCanns have built a bond with the Portuguese town where they last saw their daughter.

The couple were regular visitors to the church of Our Lady of Light in Praia da Luz after Madeleine’s disappearance.

In 2017, it was revealed that villagers in Praia da Luz have prayed for Madeleine every Sunday since.

In a letter written that year, Mrs McCann thanked local friends and supporters ‘for being strong enough and brave enough to keep Madeleine and our family in your prayers and in your hearts’.

She added: ‘Your love and compassion has given us fortitude over the years and sustained our hope in immeasurable amounts.’

13 YEARS OF POLICEWORK

The Portuguese probe into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance was archived in July 2008.

It was reopened in October 2013 after convicted burglar Euclides Monteiro, a former employee at the Ocean club holiday resort where the youngster vanished from, was identified as a suspect.

The Metropolitan Police took over the hunt in 2011 after the parents made a personal plea to then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

Their subsequent investigation, Operation Grange, has received more than £11m in funding, despite calls from some police chiefs for the search to end.

After last night’s appeal, UK police are want to speak to anyone who may have seen the camper van in or around Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine went missing, or in the days before or weeks after.

Detectives also want to hear from anyone who saw the van together with the Jaguar, or individually, during the spring and summer of 2007.

  • Anyone with information can contact the Operation Grange incident room on 020 7321 9251 or operation.grange@met.police.uk

How the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann unfolded over 13 years  

2007

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

2008

July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved

2009

May 1: A computer-generated image of what Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns 

2011

May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May 

2012

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

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

2013

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

2014

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 

2015

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 

2016

April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months  

2017

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

2018

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

2019  

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

2020

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.

‘He was always angry… he trashed the house’: Madeleine McCann suspect is a convicted child sex offender who vanished suddenly from his rented home just TWO MILES from where the McCanns were staying

ByRebecca Camberand Arthur Martin for the Daily Mail

The suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance is a convicted child sex offender whose farm was on a footpath leading to the beach where the little girl played.

Extraordinary details emerged tonight about the German criminal currently at the centre of an international investigation.

It can be revealed he is a suspected burglar, drug dealer and paedophile who was living just two miles from the holiday apartment where Madeleine vanished in May 2007.

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.’

Christian Hoppe, from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), said the 43-year-old paedophile was serving a long prison sentence in his homeland for a sex crime and had two previous convictions for ‘sexual contact with girls’.

Mr Hoppe 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.

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.

Above, an interior of the rented home where the suspect lived. Extraordinary details emerged tonight about the German criminal currently at the centre of an international investigation

Above, an interior of the rented home where the suspect lived. Extraordinary details emerged tonight about the German criminal currently at the centre of an international investigation

The living room of the rental apartment where the suspect was living just two miles from the McCann's holiday apartment

The living room of the rental apartment where the suspect was living just two miles from the McCann’s holiday apartment 

Months before Madeleine's disappearance, the paedophile is said to have left the farm to move into his two-tonne camper van. Madeleine McCann pictured above

Months before Madeleine’s disappearance, the paedophile is said to have left the farm to move into his two-tonne camper van. Madeleine McCann pictured above

Tonight it was reported that he may also have committed further sexual assaults or rapes during his time in Portugal.

Neighbours described him as an ‘angry’ car dealer who vanished suddenly, leaving a collection of wigs, fancy dress and exotic clothing. He lived in a rented ramshackle farm 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 in May 2007.

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 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.

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.

‘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.’

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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. 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.

Pictured above and below, the Jaguar he re-registered the day after Maddie disappeared

Pictured above and below, the Jaguar he re-registered the day after Maddie disappeared 

Three-year-old Madeleine was snatched from her bed sometime after 9pm.

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.

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.

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.

Scotland Yard released images of a second vehicle the suspect owned

Scotland Yard released images of a second vehicle the suspect owned

The car is a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany

The car is a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany

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.

‘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.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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