Detectives investigating Madeleine McCann’s disappearance are convinced that a new prime suspect is the man who kidnapped her in a huge breakthrough 13 years after the three-year-old disappeared.
The 43-year-old German, currently serving a ‘lengthy’ jail sentence for a sex crime, has not been named by British police but was living in a battered campervan in Praia da Luz in Portugal around the time Maddie disappeared on May 3, 2007.
A German state prosecutor confirmed the suspect is a paedophile and has two previous convictions for ‘sexual contact with girls’, and had lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007 in a house just outside the resort town.
It is claimed the individual was not among the 600 people of interest in the Met’s original investigation, and first appeared on their radar following the 2017 appeal for new information
Christian Hoppe, from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), told the country’s ZDF television channel that the man pursued several casual hospitality jobs in the neighbouring Lagos area during his time there to make a living.
But further evidence suggests that he was dealing drugs and burgled hotels and apartment complexes. German police suggest that he could have silently crept into the McCann’s apartment and kidnapped Madeleine.
MailOnline understands German police and security sources are convinced the 43-year-old suspect is the man to took Maddie and are hoping they can work to bring the long-running case to a conclusion.
The Metropolitan Police revealed today that the suspect took a 30-minute call to his Portuguese phone between 7.30 and 8pm, around an hour before the toddler was snatched from the holiday apartment where she was staying with parents Kate and Gerry McCann and her young twin siblings, Sean and Amelie.
The suspect had been living in a rented farmhouse between 1995 and 2007 two miles outside of the Praia da Luz, but is believed to have moved into a campervan months before Maddie’s disappearance.
Speaking today at a press conference, Scotland Yard detectives who have led the £12million hunt for the toddler, said the suspect had been living in the 1980s VW T3 Westfalia campervan in the Portuguese resort in the days before she vanished.
They also disclosed he is linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.
The day after Madeleine went missing, he got the car re-registered in Germany under someone else’s name, although it is believed the vehicle was still in Portugal.
Both vehicles have been seized by German police, who say they are leading a murder investigation, although British police still insist it’s a missing person inquiry.
The suspect is described as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and around 6ft tall with a slim build.
A former investigator in the case has also alleged that the man had discussed her disappearance in an internet chat room, sparking police interest in his involvement.
Goncalo Amaral, the head of the original Portuguese police investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, said last year that the focus of the in-quiry was on a German paedophile. He claimed that the suspect had been ruled out of the inquiry in 2008 but later jail- ed in Germany for killing children.
‘Many years later, it appears that in an internet chatroom there is a conversation between that person and another person where they talk about Madeleine,’ the former detective said.
Scotland Yard today announced they were launching a ‘major’ joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ) including a £20,000 reward for information, just over 13 years after she vanished.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who leads Operation Grange, told the press briefing: ‘He is a German national, he’s currently in a German prison for an unrelated matter. He’s white, he’s about six foot in height.
‘He’s 43 now. At the time he was 30, but he could have looked aged somewhere between 25 and 32.
‘There may be people in the past who have been quite fearful of coming forward to the police, and my message is to anybody that has information… the message really is associated with the fact he is currently in prison.
‘This might be a good time, this is a good time, to come forward and talk to, whether it’s the UK police, whether it’s the German police or the Portuguese police.’
In a ‘really unusual’ step, Mr Cranwell also told reporters that Scotland Yard were releasing two mobile phone numbers as part of the appeal.
The first, (+351) 912 730 680, is believed to have been used by the suspect and received a call from another Portuguese mobile, (+351) 916 510 683, while in the Praia da Luz area, starting at 7.32pm and ending at 8.02pm on May 3.
Madeleine is believed to have disappeared between 9.10pm and 10pm that evening.
The caller, who is not thought to have been in the Praia da Luz area, is not being treated as a suspect, but is said to be a ‘key witness’.
‘Any information in relation to these mobile numbers during the spring and summer of 2007 could be critical to this investigation,’ said Mr Cranwell.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the investigation into the suspect had seen Met detectives sent to Portugal and Germany.
He added: ‘This is a significant development, which is why we’ve made the decision to take this significant step of making a public appeal on some information that we would not normally talk about in our major investigations.’
The Portuguese Policia Judiciaria police said in a short statement last night: ‘The PJ confirms that as part of the investigation into the disappearance of a British child in the Algarve in 2007, measures are still being taken to clarify completely the situation.
‘Through close coordination with the German authorities (BKA) and the Metropolitan Police, through the sharing of information and the undertaking of formal investigative and expert work, in Portugal and abroad, material was collected that indicates the possible involvement of a German national in the disappearance of the child.
‘The family of the missing child has been informed of these developments by the British authorities. The investigation continues.’
The news today comes as a shot in the arm to her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, who have never given up hope in the search for their daughter.
Last month, the couple penned an impassioned letter ahead of what would have been their daughter’s 17th birthday.
They wrote: ‘It is now 13 years since we were last with Madeleine. Her 17th birthday is to follow in the next couple of weeks….the latter tangibly, painfully, bringing it home to us what we have missed and continue to miss as a family.’
And tonight, a close friend of the Kate and Gerry told MailOnline that they refuse to believe their daughter is dead until her body is found.
A pal of the couple said: ‘German police are now leading on this inquiry and are treating it as murder. But what proof officers have got has not been spelt out at this stage. Until a body is found and it is proved to be Madeleine’s, Kate and Gerry are not giving up hope.
Three-year-old Madeleine, who would have turned 17 on May 12, vanished after she had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas restaurant at their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in 2007.
The couple, from Rothley in Leicestershire, have always maintained they made regular checks on the children throughout that evening.
The Portuguese probe into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance was archived in July 2008.
It was reopened in October 2013 after convicted burglar Euclides Monteiro, a former employee at the Ocean club holiday resort where the youngster vanished from, was identified as a suspect.
In April 2017 Pedro do Carmo, then the national assistant director of the Policia Judiciaria, admitted the case was unique and described the Maddie case as a ‘thorn in its side.’
He said in an interview: ‘We’d never had a case like it and we’ve never had one since.’
Stressing Portuguese police wanted to solve the mystery so they ‘could learn lessons for future situations’, he added: ‘The PJ knows that as time goes on, it will become more difficult to obtain answers and results.
‘In any case we have hope and we have reasons for that hope. We still don’t know what happened and why Madeleine disappeared.
‘That means that we’re still not in a position to say what was done wrong, what was done right and what should have been done.’
The Metropolitan Police took over the hunt in 2011 after the parents made a personal plea to then-Prime Minister David Cameron.
Their subsequent investigation, Operation Grange, has received more than £11m in funding, despite calls from some police chiefs for the search to end.
There has been considerable speculation over suspects in the case, including German national and convicted triple-murderer Martin Ney, now 49.
Ney, also a prolific pervert, was reportedly named as a ‘person of interest’ by Portuguese police following a tip off from Scotland Yard.
The killer, known as the ‘masked man’, is said to have visited the Algarve region and travelled extensively throughout Portugal in the 1990s.
However leading Portuguese tabloid Correio da Manha claimed that Ney was not a ‘new suspect’ in the case following fresh developments last year.
A controversial Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie’s kidnap was released last year, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls.
The pair, who refused to take part in the eight hour programme series, slammed it for ‘potentially hindering’ the search for their daughter while an active police hunt is ongoing.
In a statement accompanying the revelation that a suspect had been identified in her disappearance, Kate and Gerry McCann said they will ‘never give up hope’ of finding their daughter alive as their 13-year-long quest to ‘uncover the truth’ of how she went missing took a new turn.
‘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.’
Ever since her disappearance, Madeleine’s parents have consistently vowed to keep searching for their daughter.
The ceaseless campaign to locate the missing girl has frequently forced the McCanns to recall the day their ‘perfect nuclear family’ was hit by horror.
On May 3 2007, the couple, from Rothley, Leicestershire, left their three children asleep in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in southern Portugal while they had dinner with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.
Mr McCann found nothing amiss when he checked on the youngsters just after 9pm, but when his wife returned at about 10pm she discovered three-year-old Madeleine was missing.
Driven by an ‘almost feral reaction’ they carried out a desperate search and raised the alarm, but from that night their lives would never be the same again.
The couple are both from close-knit working-class Catholic families and have found solace through their relatives and their faith in the years since Madeleine’s disappearance.
Mr McCann is from Glasgow and his wife from Liverpool, but they met while working as junior doctors at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.
Mrs McCann stopped working as a GP after her daughter went missing to focus on campaign work and her two other children, twins Amelie and Sean, aged just two when Madeleine disappeared.
She poured her energies into charity work, including as an ambassador for the Missing People charity, before returning to work in another area of medicine.
Mr McCann is a professor of cardiac imaging at the University of Leicester and a consultant cardiologist who has been open about his mental health struggles since the night Madeleine went missing.
Over the years the McCann family have launched numerous public appeals, won high-profile backers, seen millions of pounds in public money spent on investigations, all to no avail.
In 2017, the McCanns said they had managed to adjust to a ‘new normality’ of being a family-of-four, with their focus on giving the twins ‘a very normal, happy and fulfilling life’.
Speaking to the BBC on the 10-year anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance, Mrs McCann said: ‘We had some excellent advice early on. We have been as open with them as we can. We have told them about things and that people are writing things that are simply just untrue and they need to be aware of that.’
Madeleine’s parents admitted they have been shocked by hurtful online abuse, saying they had seen ‘the worst and the best of human nature’ since the campaign to find their daughter thrust them into the spotlight.
They have also endured a long-running libel battle against Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese detective who led the initial inquiry into Madeleine’s disappearance, who alleged in a book that the girl had died in the holiday flat.
In 2017, Mrs McCann blasted the ‘misinformation, half-truths and downright lies’ that had circulated around her daughter’s case, but her husband has insisted that overall they had ‘been overwhelmingly seeing the better side of human nature’ and received ‘fantastic support’.
Over the years, the McCanns have built a bond with the Portuguese town where they last saw their daughter.
The couple were regular visitors to the church of Our Lady of Light in Praia da Luz after Madeleine’s disappearance.
In 2017, it was revealed that villagers in Praia da Luz have prayed for Madeleine every Sunday since.
In a letter written that year, Mrs McCann thanked local friends and supporters ‘for being strong enough and brave enough to keep Madeleine and our family in your prayers and in your hearts’.
She added: ‘Your love and compassion has given us fortitude over the years and sustained our hope in immeasurable amounts.’
As sad and difficult anniversaries come and go, Madeleine’s parents refuse to give up hope.
In 2017, Mrs McCann said she continued to buy birthday and Christmas presents for Madeleine.
Last Christmas, a message on the official Find Madeleine Facebook page, said ‘nothing has changed’.
As they faced their 13th Christmas without their daughter, the McCanns added: ‘We love her, we miss her, we hope as always.
‘The search for Madeleine goes on with unwavering commitment.’
by WILLIAM COLE and AMIE GORDON FOR MAILONLINE
‘Here’s hoping that normal, safe and happy times are close at hand’: Kate and Gerry McCann pen letter ahead of their daughter’s birthday
Kate and Gerry McCann penned a heartfelt letter as the UK remained in lockdown in May 2020, ahead of Maddie’s 17th birthday:
‘I don’t think any of us could have predicted the situation we all find ourselves in currently. It shows how easy it is to become complacent with our lives and circumstances, albeit a totally normal and understandable, human characteristic.
It is now 13 years since we were last with Madeleine. Her 17th birthday is to follow in the next couple of weeks….the latter tangibly, painfully, bringing it home to us what we have missed and continue to miss as a family.
We are very conscious that many families around the world are experiencing similar feelings at this time……being separated from each other and with many having lost loved ones prematurely and unexpectedly. There will also be many vulnerable people whose situation will have become even more precarious in the current lockdown conditions, with fear, worry and isolation – emotions that we dreaded Madeleine experiencing and which haunted us for a long time – and still do on occasions. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those suffering at this time.
We have been fortunate to spend more time together as a family since lockdown began, an enforced block to a usually frenetic life, a silver lining to this dark cloud. It has made us think about Madeleine even more, as she would have shared this period of special closeness with us too.
The investigation to find Madeleine remains open and continues, even though, in a way different to the ideal. We remain grateful for the ongoing efforts and commitment from all those involved in the search to find her and we hope and pray, as always, that our efforts will be fruitful.
Thank you to everyone still offering their support and good wishes for Madeleine and ourselves. Such solidarity continues to strengthen us. Thank you.
Please take care and please spare a thought or prayer for Madeleine and all missing children this weekend. Here’s hoping that more ‘normal’, safe and happy times are close at hand.’ – Kate and Gerry
How the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann unfolded over 13 years
May 3: Gerry and Kate McCann leave their three children, including Maddie, asleep in their hotel apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, as they eat with friends in a nearby restaurant. When they return, they find Maddie missing from her bed
May 4: A friend of the McCanns reports of seeing a man carrying a child away in the night. Meanwhile, airports and borders are put on high alert as search gets underway
May 14: Robert Mural, a property developer who lives a few yards from the hotel, is made a suspect by Portuguese police
May 30: The McCanns meet the Pope in Rome in a bid to bring worldwide attention to the search
August 11: Police in Portugal acknowledge for the first time in the investigation that Maddie might be dead.
September 7: Spanish police make the McCanns official suspects in the disappearance. Two days later the family flies back to England
July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved
May 1: A computer-generated image of what Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns
May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May
April 25: After a year of reviewing the case, Scotland Yard announce they belief that Maddie could be alive and call on police in Portugal to reopen the case, but it falls on deaf ears amid ‘a lack of new evidence’
July 4: Scotland Yard opens new investigation and claim to have identified 38 ‘people of interest’
October 24: A review into the investigation is opened by Portuguese police and new lines of inquiry are discovered, forcing them to reopen the case
January 29: British officers arrive in Portugal as a detailed investigation takes place. During the year, several locations are searched, including an area of scrubland near the resort
October 28: British police announce that team investigating Maddie’s disappearance is reduced from 29 officers to just four, as it is also revealed that the investigation has cost £10million
April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months
March 11: Cash is once again pumped into keeping the investigation alive, with £85,000 granted to keep it running until September, when it is extended once again until April next year
March 27: The Home Office reveals it has allocated further funds to Operation Grange. The new fund is believed to be as large as £150,000
September 11: Parents fear as police hunt into daughter’s disappearance could be shelved within three weeks by the new Home Secretary amid funding cuts
September 26: Fresh hope in the search for Madeleine McCann as it emerges the Home Office is considering allocating more cash for the police to find her
April: Controversial new Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie’s kidnap is released, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls. They pair, who refused to take part in the eight hour programme series, slammed it for ‘potentially hindering’ the search for their daughter while an active police hunt is ongoing
June 5: The Home Office gives the Metropolitan Police enough funding to investigate for another year
June 22: Detectives say they are ‘closer than ever’ to solving the disappearance as they look into a new suspect. A joint effort by British and Portuguese police narrowed in on a ‘foreign’ man who was in the Algarve when she went missing in 2007
December 7: Paulo Pereira Cristovao, a long-time critic of Maddie’s parents who angered them with a controversial book about the mystery disappearance, was convicted of participating in the planning of two violent break-ins at properties in Lisbon and the nearby resort of Cascais. He is jailed for seven and a half years
December 11: Maddie’s revealed a touching list of what they miss most about their daughter as they spent their 13th Christmas without her
February 22: Scotland Yard detectives questioned a British expat about her German ex-boyfriend. Carol Hickman, 59, claims police entered her bar in Praia da Luz, Portugal to ask questions about her former partner
March 27: Detectives requested extra money to continue their investigation into the disappearance of the toddler in Portugal back in 2007, with funds for the operation set to run out at the end of the month
June 3: Police reveal that a 43-year-old German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.
‘He was always angry… he trashed the house’: Madeleine McCann suspect is a convicted child sex offender who vanished suddenly from his rented home just TWO MILES from where the McCanns were staying
The suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance is a convicted child sex offender whose farm was on a footpath leading to the beach where the little girl played.
Extraordinary details emerged tonight about the German criminal currently at the centre of an international investigation.
It can be revealed he is a suspected burglar, drug dealer and paedophile who was living just two miles from the holiday apartment where Madeleine vanished in May 2007.
Scotland Yard insisted it was still a missing person inquiry, but German police said: ‘There is reason to believe that there are other people besides the perpetrator who have concrete knowledge of the possible scene of the crime and, if necessary, where the body is stored.
‘We expressly ask these people to report and share their knowledge.’
Christian Hoppe, from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), said the 43-year-old paedophile was serving a long prison sentence in his homeland for a sex crime and had two previous convictions for ‘sexual contact with girls’.
Mr Hoppe said police had not ruled out a sexual motive for the crime.
He added that the suspect may have broken into an apartment in the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz – where Madeleine was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie – before spontaneously kidnapping her.
In 2007, when the suspect was 30, he is said to have spent his days stealing from hotel complexes and holiday apartments and trafficking drugs, according to police.
Tonight it was reported that he may also have committed further sexual assaults or rapes during his time in Portugal.
Neighbours described him as an ‘angry’ car dealer who vanished suddenly, leaving a collection of wigs, fancy dress and exotic clothing. He lived in a rented ramshackle farm building on a remote hillside along a footpath that runs from above the beach where Madeleine and her family played during their week’s holiday in May 2007.
According to residents, he littered the land with old vehicles which he bought and sold for a living, which may explain how he acquired the distinctive camper van and Jaguar at the centre of the police investigation.
Months before Madeleine’s disappearance, the paedophile is said to have left the farm to move into his two-tonne camper van.
A former neighbour told Sky News: ‘He arrived in the mid-90s and rented the place from the English owner. He went back to Germany at one stage and moved another German guy in to look after it, then came back and threw him out on the street.
‘He was always a bit angry, driving fast up and down the lane, and then one day, around 2006, he just disappeared without a word. I think he left some rent unpaid.’
The neighbour added: ‘About six months later I was asked to help clean up the place and it was disgusting, absolutely vile. It had been trashed, with broken stuff like computers all over the place.’
The neighbour said she was contacted by Scotland Yard detectives last year. They asked her about the man, without revealing why.
This year she was visited by Portuguese detectives who showed her photographs of the man and asked more questions.
It is understood that many neighbours, friends and acquaintances of the suspect have since been interviewed as police try to establish his movements around the time Madeleine disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment.
Yesterday Scotland Yard released images of the VW T3 Westfalia camper van, with a white upper body and a yellow skirting, with a Portuguese registration plate.
They also released images of a second vehicle the suspect owned – a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany.
Detectives say it is significant that the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, the paedophile re-registered the car in someone else’s name back in Augsburg, Germany, even though the vehicle had never left Portugal.
The Jaguar is believed to have been in the Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007 and was originally registered in the suspect’s name.
German police said there were indications that he could have used one of these vehicles to commit the crime and they want to trace anyone who remembers seeing them parked up anywhere.
Detectives revealed last night that the suspect lived more or less permanently in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007. He worked occasionally in the catering business in the Lagos area. But police believe he was really earning his living by committing burglaries of hotel complexes and holiday flats as well as trafficking cannabis.
In 2013, Scotland Yard revealed that a blond man had been seen lurking near the 5A apartment about 4pm on the day that Madeleine was snatched.
He was described as white, aged 30 to 35, thin, with short, light-coloured hair and spots on his face possibly caused by shaving. Last night detectives said the e-fit of the man released in 2013 had ‘not been ruled out’, suggesting he may resemble the new suspect.
A blond-haired man was also seen on the balcony of a nearby empty apartment and in the stairwell of the McCanns’ block.
Police believe a mobile phone call made by the suspect could be the key piece of evidence that unlocks the mystery which has puzzled detectives the world over for 13 years.
At 7.30pm on May 3, 2007, he made a call which places him in Praia da Luz. For half an hour he chatted to a mystery person before ending the call at 8.03pm.
Three-year-old Madeleine was snatched from her bed sometime after 9pm.
Yesterday Scotland Yard took the highly unusual step of releasing the suspect’s Portuguese mobile phone number – 00351 912 730 680 – and that of the mystery witness he spoke to. The unidentified witness, who used the Portuguese phone number 00351 916 510 683, was not staying in the area at the time of the call.
German police said inquiries were homing in on two properties near where the toddler vanished and last night they appealed for anyone who could provide information about the rooms the man used to come forward.
Scotland Yard is launching a joint appeal with the BKA and the Portugal’s Policia Judiciaria, including a £20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Last night, as more details emerged about the suspect, there were questions about why police took so long to release the information. Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who is leading the British investigation, said Scotland Yard knew a lot about the man who became a suspect when officers received critical information in 2017. It emerged that since then Scotland Yard had been secretly working with German and Portuguese police to piece together his movements.
Yet Scotland Yard chose to make the information public only when the German police announced their appeal yesterday.
Yesterday Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy denied the timing was anything to do with seeking extra funding for Operation Grange, which has cost £12 million so far.
Mr Cranwell said: ‘We know a lot about the suspect, but we need to know more about his movements on the night Madeleine vanished and in the days before and afterwards. It’s more than 13 years since Madeleine went missing and none of us can imagine what it must be like for her family, not knowing what happened or where she is.
‘Following the ten-year anniversary, the Met received information about a German man who was known to have been in and around Praia da Luz.
‘We have been working with colleagues in Germany and Portugal and this man is a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.
‘The Met conducted a number of enquiries and in November 2017 engaged with the BKA who agreed to work with the Met.
‘Since then a huge amount of work has taken place by both the Met, the BKA and the Polícia Judiciaria. While this male is a suspect, we retain an open mind as to his involvement and this remains a missing person inquiry.’
Suspect’s identity under wraps due to Germany’s strict privacy laws
The new prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann remained anonymous tonight – despite currently serving a jail sentence for a sex crime.
The 43-year-old convicted paedophile will not be named because of Germany’s strict privacy laws which protect the identities of suspects and even criminals.
Police can only release the name of a suspect if they can prove it would prevent further serious crimes, all but impossible when the suspect is in a prison.
Limited details of the suspect were made public by a state prosecutor on national television programme XY – which is similar to British Crimewatch.
Christian Hoppe, of the German federal office of criminal investigations, was able to tell programme hosts that the man was a German national conviction of multiple sex offences, including some against children.
But he was unable to provide details of where he grew or of the licence plates of two vehicles – a Jaguar and a VW camper – that he was known to have driven around Praia da Luz in 2007.
However, officers did take the ‘really unusual’ step of releasing two phone numbers, one belonging to the suspect, because of the hope it would lead to further evidence coming forward.
SOURCE: Daily Mail