Police used sniffer dogs and pickaxes in their new search for Madeleine McCann on the banks of a reservoir in Portugal.
Today began a new hunt for Maddie in an artificial dam frequented by the pedophile suspected of killing the then three-year-old.
Rescue divers were spotted earlier this morning on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat at the Barragem do Arade – some 30 miles from Praia da Luz, where the little girl went missing in 2007.
Officers focused their search on an area of the reservoir and set up white tents on a hillside by the shore.
Further around the water, responders and officers from Portugal, Germany and the UK were seen holding briefings near blue police tents.
Plainclothes police officers spent several hours banging on the ground with pickaxes and combing through small rocks with rakes and spades while escorted by sniffer dogs.
A lane leading to the search area was cordoned off with police tape and marked vehicles belonging to the Portuguese Republican National Guard.
On Monday, Portuguese police broke their silence on the search and confirmed reports of their coordinated searches in the Algarve – at the request of German police and in the presence of British officers.
The Metropolitan Police said officers will be on site to update Madeleine’s family if there are any developments.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said: “The Met continues to work with colleagues in Portugal and Germany and is assisting them in their investigations into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.”
“The officers met will be in Portugal and I am grateful to the Policia Judiciaria and the Federal Criminal Police Office for allowing us to be present while they work so that we can update Madeleine’s family of any developments.”
A brief statement from the public prosecutor’s office of the German city of Braunschweig confirmed the search but did not reveal why it took place.
Braunschweig prosecutor Christian Wolters told reporters that investigators acted on the basis of “certain indications” but declined to give further details.
Four teams of officers from the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria are involved in the operation, along with at least 20 of their German counterparts, the Portuguese news agency SIC said.
It has been reported that the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance, convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, 45, spent time in the area between 2000 and 2017.
A no-fly zone was established covering the entire dam, leaving the airspace over the water and land near the water’s edge, where today’s search was concentrated, open only to police drones.
Brueckner, who is currently in prison for raping a 72-year-old woman, reportedly called the reservoir his “little paradise”.
In Germany he is charged with several different sex offenses allegedly committed in Portugal. He has denied any involvement in Maddie’s disappearance.
This isn’t the first time the reservoir has been searched. In 2008, Portuguese lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia paid specialized divers to conduct the search after he claimed to have been tipped off by criminal contacts that Madeleine’s body was there.
Madeleine’s parents Gerry and Kate McCann had previously dismissed Mr Correia as a self-promoter, saying there was no evidence their daughter was linked to the reservoir.
The last search in Portugal related to her disappearance was in 2014, when British police were given permission to search bushland near where she disappeared.
Earlier this month, Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann posted a brief statement on their Find Madeleine campaign website to mark the anniversary of her disappearance.
They said, “Today marks the 16th anniversary of the kidnapping of Madeleine.” Still missing…still missed very much.
“It’s hard to find the words to express how we feel. The police investigation continues and we are waiting for a breakthrough.”
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