Search for Maddie: Divers trawl remote Portuguese reservoir described by prime suspect as 'little paradise'

23 May 2023, 08:33 | Updated: 23 May 2023, 13:51

Madeleine McCann cops are searching an Algarve reservoir said to have been visited by Cristian Brueckner
Madeleine McCann cops are searching an Algarve reservoir said to have been visited by Cristian Brueckner. Picture: Getty/PA
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Police divers searching for Madeleine McCann at the Barragem do Arade reservoir in Portugal have been seen entering the water early on Tuesday morning.

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A police motorboat has been sent into the water around 50km from Praia da Luz where Madeleine went missing in 2007.

A Policia Judiciaria statement said it is co-ordinating searches in the Algarve at the request of German police and in the presence of British officers.

The prime suspect in her disappearance, convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, spent time in the area between 2000 and 2017.

Investigators believe the 45-year-old killed Madeleine, then aged three, after abducting her from a holiday apartment.

Scotland Yard detectives are also understood to have travelled to the area but only with a "watching brief".

German prosecutor Christian Wolter said: "We are investigating in Portugal on the basis of certain tips (tip-offs).

"I can't disclose the background at the moment, like why we are searching there and what we hope to find there. That shall remain our secret for the moment."

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Portuguese firefighters work onboard a boat during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Portuguese firefighters work onboard a boat during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Picture: Getty
Police are searching the Barragem do Arade reservoir
Police are searching the Barragem do Arade reservoir. Picture: PA

Read More: Madeleine McCann detectives begin search of remote Portuguese reservoir German suspect Cristian Brueckner visited

Read More: Hopefully this reservoir search can finally reveal what happened to Madeleine McCann

The search is set to last for at least two days and beyond that if anything of relevance is found.

Tents have been erected on the banks of the reservoir and officers from Portugal, Germany and the UK were seen holding morning briefings on Tuesday, the BBC reported.

It is the first major operation of its kind since June 2014 when British police were given permission to do digs in Praia da Luz that involved sniffer dogs trained in detecting bodies and ground-penetrating radar.

This time round expert divers are set to explore the murky depths of the dam but digs will also take place in woodland by the water.

The area was searched twice in February and March 2008 by divers hired by a Portuguese lawyer.

Marcos Aragao Correia organised the privately-funded operation after claiming he had been tipped off by underworld contacts about the location being of interest within 48 hours of her disappearance.

Two bags containing small bones were found during the second search after divers had earlier recovered several lengths of cord, some plastic tape and a single white cotton sock.

Madeleine McCann went missing in Praia da Luz
Madeleine McCann went missing in Praia da Luz. Picture: Alamy
The reservoir was last searched more than a decade ago
The reservoir was last searched more than a decade ago. Picture: Alamy

It is not thought to have been searched since March 2008 as part of the ongoing investigation into her disappearance.

Earlier this month Kate and Gerry posted a poignant tribute to mark their daughter’s 20th birthday, telling her: “We love you and we’re waiting for you. We’re never going to give up.”

They added: “Happy Birthday Madeleine. Still missing. Still very much missed. Still looking. For as long as it takes.”

Read more: 'Never give up': Madeleine McCann's sister speaks publicly for the first time since her disappearance 16 years ago

Christian Brueckner was jailed for sex crimes
Christian Brueckner was jailed for sex crimes. Picture: Alamy

The message on the official Find Maddie Campaign Facebook page accompanied a cherished last photo of her as a three-year-old, beaming in a pink sunhat and clutching tennis balls.

Kate and Gerry are expected to be kept informed of any developments as a result of the new search through Scotland Yard liaison officers.

Read more: 'We are never going to give up trying to find her': Madeleine McCann's parents issue birthday statement

German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters has consistently said he is convinced Madeleine is dead and caged paedophile Brueckner, 45, has been named as the sole suspect.

He is currently serving time for the September 2005 rape of an American OPA in the resort where Madeleine vanished and has yet to face any formal accusation over the youngster’s disappearance.

Last April he was made an official suspect, or arguido, in Portugal over Madeleine’s disappearance, although his defence lawyer Friedrich Fulscher labelled it a “procedural trick” linked to statute of limitations legislation at the time.

Last autumn Bruecker was charged in Germany with several sex crimes on the Algarve against women and children including the rape of an Irish holiday rep in 2004 and the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old girl on a beach near Praia da Luz in 2007.

Brueckner’s lawyer revealed in April those charges had been dropped against him in a bombshell development after successfully arguing prosecutors had no jurisdiction over him in Braunschweig where the Madeleine case was being brought.

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