The German, Portuguese and English authorities launched new excavations near a dam on Tuesday in southern Portugal in an attempt to advance the investigation into the resounding disappearance, 16 years ago, of the British girl Madeleine McCann.
Helped by a tracking dog and a local fire boat, several police officers surveyed the parched banks of the Arade reservoir, located in Silves, a town in the hinterland of the tourist region of the Algarve, found AFP journalists.
At the end of the morning, about twenty of them concentrated on a portion of land using pickaxes and probes to examine the ground.
Operations “are currently underway in Portugal”, confirmed the German prosecutor’s office in charge of the case, which constitutes one of the biggest criminal enigmas of recent years.
These are new “researches” carried out with the support of the German judicial police, the Brunswick prosecutor’s office in northern Germany told AFP.
“The steps are continuing with a view to a total clarification” of the circumstances of the disappearance of the little “Maddie”, in May 2007, while she was spending holidays with her family in the seaside resort of Praia da Luz, affirmed the Portuguese police.
“New excavations will be carried out in the coming days, at the request of the German authorities” and “in the presence of the English authorities”, she announced Monday evening.
English police “continue to support and work with colleagues in Portugal and Spain in their investigations into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann,” Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said in a statement.
On the excavation site, cordoned off by a security perimeter, the authorities have set up a logistics base made up of white and blue tents overlooking the body of water surrounded by wooded hills.
The area, located about fifty kilometers from Praia da Luz, had already been searched in 2008, including by divers who had found only remains of animals there, according to local media.
“Sixteen years later, I very much doubt they’ll find anything!” “However, commented to AFP André Calado, 25, employed in a hotel in a small village near the Arade dam.
Last year, the Portuguese public prosecutor’s office decided to indict a new suspect, as part of its cooperation with the British and German authorities.
This is Christian Brueckner, a German repeat pedophile who lived for several years in the Algarve and who, according to the Portuguese media, regularly visited the Arade dam.
This man, who is serving a prison sentence in Germany for the rape of a 72-year-old American in 2005 in Portugal, was identified in 2020 by German investigators, who then said they were certain that the girl was dead.
Madeleine McCann, then almost four years old, disappeared from her room at the hotel complex in Praia da Luz, a small seaside resort in the Algarve region, on May 3, 2007, while her parents were having dinner with friends in a neighboring restaurant.
Her disappearance had given rise to an exceptional international campaign led by Kate and Gerry McCann to try to find her. Photos of little Maddie, with her light brown hair and big clear eyes, had then gone around the world.
After 14 months of controversial investigations, marked in particular by the indictment and then the exoneration of the couple, the Portuguese justice had closed the case in 2008, before reopening the file five years later because of the appearance “new elements”.
After spending two years studying the case, the United Kingdom officially opened its own investigation in July 2013, but since then only the German track has allowed real progress.
On May 12, for the 20e anniversary of Maddie’s birth, her parents, who say they still have no proof of her death, had posted a new message on social media to call on the public to continue to help find her.