Madeleine McCann police give update as they end search of Portugal reservoir

Police have concluded their three-day hunt for evidence at a reservoir in Portugal

William Mata
Friday 26 May 2023 11:58 BST
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Sniffer dogs search Portuguese reservoir as Madeleine McCann investigation continues

Police have said materials unearthed during a three-day hunt for evidence over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann at a remote reservoir in Portugal are being sent off for analysis.

Authorities have been scouring Barragem do Arade reservoir in the Algarve this week, using sniffer dogs and cutting down trees as part of the search inland from the coastal resort where the then-three-year-old went missing in 2007.

As police concluded their three-day search on Thursday, they confirmed “materials collected” had been sent to Germany for analysis.

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A source close to the investigation told Reuters there was nothing tangible to report, while German prosecutor Christian Wolters played down hopes of a breakthrough, saying: “Of course, there is a certain expectation, but it is not high.”

He added that the investigators were looking for a body, but also for anything that could help the investigation, such as clothing.

Mr Wolters said he did not expect the results of the studies of the collected samples to be announced any time soon.

Madeleine McCann has been missing since 2007
Madeleine McCann has been missing since 2007 (PA Media)

Madeleine was three when she vanished while on holiday with her parents in Praia da Luz, after they left her and her twin siblings asleep in their apartment while they went out to dinner with friends.

The new search operation was carried out at the request of German investigators who believe their prime suspect, convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, 45, kidnapped and murdered the youngster.

He is in prison in Germany for the rape of a woman in Praia da Luz in 2005, and is suspected of further rapes and child sexual abuse committed in the area between 2000 and 2017.

German authorities have not revealed what triggered the latest search operation, but the prosecutor for the city of Braunschweig, Christian Wolters, said they were acting on the basis of “certain tips”.

He told German public broadcaster NDR the new information had not come from the suspect and they did not have a confession or “any indication from the suspect of where it would make sense to search”.

The Sun reported that investigators previously found photos and video of Brueckner at the reservoir.

He has reportedly denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Police officers are seen at the site of a remote reservoir where search is underway for evidence related to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Police officers are seen at the site of a remote reservoir where search is underway for evidence related to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (REUTERS)

British police who assisted their Portuguese and German counterparts at the Arade reservoir had left by early Thursday afternoon, followed by German investigators who packed up their tents at a camp on a hill.

As part of this latest three-day investigation, police dug holes of around 60cm and these have been left, along with piles of soil, now that authorities have left the digging area.

The surrounding woodland showed pathways had been cut by heavy machinery, leading to the main flattened 160 square-foot excavation area. A no-fly zone was also imposed over the reservoir for the first two days.

Judicial Police (PJ) criminal investigation unit members leave the base camp set near the Arade dam in Silves on May 25
Judicial Police (PJ) criminal investigation unit members leave the base camp set near the Arade dam in Silves on May 25 (AFP via Getty Images)

Broken rocks were also scattered around the site in Portugal after pickaxes were seen used by personnel over the course of three days.

The small area close to the banks of the Barragem do Arade has been clearly marked out. The cordon around the site has since been lifted, and evidence of attempts to cut the vast undergrowth was clear, with large branches and bushes lining freshly made pathways.

In a statement, police in Portugal said: “[The search] resulted in the collection of some material that will be subject to the competent expertise. The material collected will be handed over to the German authorities.”

The new searches come as the Home Office granted an extra £110,000 in funding this financial year for the Metropolitan Police to assist with finding Madeleine, down from just over £300,000 last year.

The total funding given to Operation Grange has been just under £13.1 million since 2011.

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