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British couple ‘found Madeleine McCann shrine’ at Portugal reservoir searched by police

The retired couple claim to have found ‘memorial’ at Christmas in 2007 and say they alerted the authorities at the time

Joe Middleton
Sunday 28 May 2023 21:25 BST
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Police investigating disappearance of Madeleine McCann ‘to search reservoir’

A British couple claim to have found a ‘shrine’ to missing Madeleine McCann in an area close to the desolate reservoir in Portugal searched by police earlier this week.

The retired pair say they discovered a makeshift memorial, consisting of a photograph of the missing toddler surrounded by flowers and stones, at Christmas in 2007. The three year-old had vanished from a holiday resort in Portugal in May that year.

The husband and wife, named only as Ralf and Ann, say they took photographs of it and sent them to Portuguese detectives but never heard anything back. Just days later, the ‘shrine’ had disappeared, they claim.

Vehicles and tents of Portugal's investigative Judicial Police are seen at the site of a remote reservoir where a new search for the body of Madeleine McCann took place, in Silves, Portugal (REUTERS)

The couple say they didn’t think anything else of the “weird” incident until three years ago when Christian Brueckner was first identified by German authorities. He was named by Portuguese authorities as a formal suspect in 2022.

Ralf told the Mail on Sunday: “I immediately contacted the BKA in Germany and told them what we had and I had a reply back within a few hours.”

“They wanted to know everything that we had seen and then they asked me to send them the pictures and they sent a map of the reservoir, asking me to point out where the stones were,” he continued.

“As the crow flies, it was just half a mile across the water from the picnic spot where the police were digging last week.”

Ann says she traveled to Wiesbaden to give a statement and showed German detectives the photographs they took of the shrine at the reservoir, which is only a few minutes drive from their holiday home.

“Thinking about it now gives me goosebumps because when we saw where the police were searching the past few days you could see that’s where the row of stones was pointing to,” she said.

German police have not commented on the couple’s unconfirmed claims, or why it would appear to have taken three years to follow up the apparent tip-off, though the Mail has published pictures of the ‘shrine’.

Personnel at Barragem do Arade reservoir, in the Algave, Portugal, as searches took place into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (PA)

It comes after police last week embarked on a three-day hunt for new evidence in the ongoing mystery.

The search team flattened a concentrated area of woodland, dug a number of holes near a remote reservoir, and left huge piles of soil and broken rock next to an area close to the banks of the Barragem do Arade.

Portuguese police confirmed the search concluded on Thursday last week, and said materials had been sent to Germany for testing.

German detectives instigated the search after prosecutors in the country received “certain tips” about the case.

They believe that their prime suspect Brueckner, 45, kidnapped and murdered the youngster.

Madeleine vanished without a trace 16 years ago (PA Media)

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.

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

Portuguese lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia previously claimed that criminal contacts had told him that Madeleine‘s body was in the reservoir, and in 2008 he raised funds for unsuccessful private searches of the water.

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