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British police identify suspect in case of Madeleine McCann who went missing in 2007

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British police say that a German man has been identified as a prime suspect in the long-running case of missing three-year-old Madeleine McCann, a British youth who disappeared 13 years ago while she and her family were on vacation in Portugal.

Metropolitan Police in London, did not name the suspect but said he is 43 years old and was living in and around the Praia da Luz resort area on the Algarve coast in a camper around the time that the McCann girl disappeared May 3, 2007.

“In connection with the disappearance of the then 3-year-old British girl Madeleine Beth McCann on May 3, 2007, from an apartment complex in Praia da Luz in Portugal, Braunschweig prosecutors are investigating a 43-year-old German citizen on suspicion of murder,” Hans Christian Wolters, a prosecutor in Braunschweig, told reporters.

“You can infer from that we assume the girl is dead.”

The case has sparked much interest, especially in Britain, for years. The girl’s parents claim that Madeleine went missing after they left her and her twin siblings asleep in their vacation complex as they dined with friends a restaurant close by, reports note.

According to various accounts, the parents reportedly checked on their children several times throughout the evening. Her mother allegedly discovered Madeleine missing around 10 p.m.

A subsequent investigation by British authorities would identify some 600 potential suspects over the years, but suspicion was cast on the girl’s parents within weeks after she went missing by Portuguese police, though eventually the parents — Gerry and Kate McCann — were cleared.

As for the suspect now in custody, British police were tipped off to him in 2017, a decade after Madeleine went missing.

CBS News reports:

Police said the suspect, described as white with short, blond hair and a slim build, was linked to a camper van seen in the Algarve in 2007. He was believed to be in the resort area in the days before and after May 3 that year.

Christian Hoppe, with Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, told ZDF that the suspect is a German citizen who is currently behind bars for having committed a sexual crime. He would have been about 30 years old at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.

The suspect spent a number of years living in Portugal and has two prior convictions for “sexual contact with girls.”

German police say they are not ruling out a sexual motive in Madeleine’s disappearance. They noted that whoever broke into the vacation apartment may have simply abducted the girl spontaneously.

The suspect is under investigation for murder by prosecutors in Braunschweig, where he was last registered before leaving Germany.

Police in Britain, Germany, and Portugal have issued a new appeal to anyone who may have information about the case, In particular, police are looking for clues linked to the suspect — the camper van and a Jaguar.

Mark Cranwell, the lead British detective on the case, said the suspect made frequent visits to the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, where he stayed for “days upon end” in the camper and living a “transient lifestyle,” according to the BBC.

The day Madeleine disappeared, the suspect registered the Jaguar, a 1993 XJR6, to another person’s name.

Authorities also investigated two Portuguese phone numbers including one that the suspect is believed to have used the day the girl disappeared.

Hoppe said a new appeal for information was issued because what “we have gained in the course of our investigation leads us to the conviction that the suspect might have committed the crime.”

German police also are not ruling out that there may be additional victims, and have asked for anyone who believes the suspect may have sexually assaulted them between 1995 and 2007 to come forward.

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for the McCann family, said though numerous suspects have been examined in the past, it seems different this time.

“In more than 13 years of working with the family I can’t recall the police being so specific about an individual,” Mitchell told Sky News, according to the Indianapolis Star. “He is not being named and the police are quite adamant they are not going to do that, certainly not yet, but they want very specific details around his movement in 2007, even down to phone calls he received the night before Madeleine went missing and the fact he changed the registration of his car the day after.’’

Madeleine’s parents thanked the police in a statement.

“All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice,” they 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.”

Jon Dougherty

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