Police in Portugal are again searching for Madeleine McCann, the British three-year-old who disappeared while on vacation with her family in 2007.
The active search began Tuesday in a reservoir around the area of the Arade dam, about 50 kilometres from Praia da Luz in southern Portugal where McCann vanished 16 years ago. The search was requested by German police, who claimed a suspect in the case visited the area around the time McCann disappeared.
German native Christian Brückner was named an “arguido,” meaning suspect, in 2022 after German authorities said “new evidence” connected Brückner to McCann.
During the active search, officials used rakes and hoe-like tools to prod the ground beside the dam while other firefighters were observed in a dinghy on the reservoir.
Portuguese media said this is the fourth search for McCann, following the initial one in 2007 in the Algarve area and then two more in 2013 and 2014. Another search was held in Germany in 2020.
This search is expected to take two days. It is not the first time the reservoir has been searched in connection with the case.
Referring to the latest searches, German prosecutor Christian Wolters said Tuesday that police in Portugal are investigating “on the basis of certain tips.” He did not provide any further information.
Portuguese, German and British officials are working in collaboration on the search.
This month marked 16 years since McCann’s disappearance. Her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, released a statement on the anniversary, writing that while their daughter is “still missing,” she is also “still very much missed.”
“The police investigation continues, and we await a breakthrough,” the McCann family wrote.
The disappearance of Madeleine McCann
On May 3, 2007, three-year-old McCann went missing from a hotel room in Praia da Luz, Portugal, while on vacation with her parents. Kate and Gerry McCann were dining with friends at a nearby tapas bar, leaving Madeleine and her two siblings asleep in their bedroom on the evening she disappeared.
For over a decade, Portuguese, English and German police forces have collaborated in an attempt to locate McCann and her kidnapper.
Her disappearance launched a cross-country investigation and resulted in an international media frenzy. Throughout the years, many online have claimed to have spotted McCann. A Polish woman earlier this year said she may be McCann but was proven a phony after a DNA test.
In June 2020, German police said that Madeleine is assumed dead but British authorities continue to treat her disappearance as a missing person case.
Last year, Brückner, a convicted rapist, was named a suspect but has yet to be charged in this case. He lived in the Praia da Luz area from 1995 to 2007.
Brückner is serving a seven-year prison sentence for raping a 72-year-old woman in 2005 in the same area where Madeleine went missing. He has also been convicted of drug charges.
It was the first time a formal suspect had been named in the McCann case since Madeleine’s parents were declared such in 2007. They were cleared of suspicion in 2008.
— With files from The Associated Press
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