German prison inmate identified as new suspect in Madeleine McCann case
3 June 2020, 19:15 | Updated: 3 June 2020, 19:54
A German prison inmate has been identified as a new suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Scotland Yard detectives have not revealed the name of the 43-year-old man who is described as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and about 6ft tall with a slim build.
The new suspect is now the main line of inquiry for the team of detectives investigating Madeleine's disappearance.
The German national is known to have been in and around Praia da Luz on the Algarve coast at the time Madeleine vanished on May 3 2007 while on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie.
The suspect would have been 30 years old at the time. Madeleine would have turned 17 last month.
A half-hour phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing.
Officers have taken the unusual step of releasing the phone number which he was using, as well as the number the call came from. The suspect’s number was (+351) 912 730 680, and the call came from (+351) 916 510 683.
It is not believed the caller was in the area but officers say they could be a key witness.
The suspect, who is in prison in Germany for an unrelated matter, has been linked to an early 1980s camper van - with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal - which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007.
Scotland Yard said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Madeleine's disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3.
He has also been 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, the suspect 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.
Scotland Yard is launching a joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ), including a £20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible of Madeleine's disappearance.
The Met's investigation has identified more than 600 people as being potentially significant and were tipped off about the German national, already known to detectives, following a 2017 appeal 10 years after she went missing.
She vanished shortly before her fourth birthday and would have turned 17 last month.
German police are treating her disappearance as a murder investigation but the Met's Operation Grange, launched in
2013, has always considered the case a missing person inquiry.
A statement from Madeleine's parents said: "We welcome the appeal today regarding the disappearance of our daughter Madeleine.
"We would like to thank the police officers involved for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine.
"All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice.
"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."
They have urged anyone with information to come forward.
Det Chief Insp Mark Cranwell said: "Any information in relation to these mobile numbers during the spring and summer of 2007 could be critical to this investigation.
"Some people will know the man we are describing today, the suspect in our investigation. I'm appealing to you directly.
"You may know, you may be aware of some of the things he has done. He may have confided in you about the disappearance of Madeleine.
"More than 13 years have passed and your loyalties may have changed.
"This individual is in prison and we are conscious that some people may have been concerned about contacting police in the past. Now is the time to come forward.
"I'm appealing to you to contact us, or the German authorities or the Portuguese authorities.
"I should be very, very clear on this - while this male is a suspect, we retain an open mind as to his involvement."
The Operation Grange incident room can be contacted via 0207 321 9251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.