A NEW prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance has sensationally been revealed as a German paedo in a huge breakthrough in the 13-year investigation.
And he is currently serving a seven-year jail term for raping a 72-year-old American tourist in 2005, according to a report by Braunschweig Zeitung.
He was convicted in Braunschweig district court last year for the offence in Praia da Luz, according to the newspaper.
German cops believe the prolific burglar, who has previous convictions for sex crimes against young girls, may have first gone to raid the room before he “moved on to a sexual motive”.
Detectives in Germany believe they have “almost enough evidence” to charge him if caught, according to the Daily Mail.
The Metropolitan Police also revealed a 30-minute call was made to his Portuguese phone around an hour before the three-year-old is feared to have been snatched from her holiday apartment as parents Kate and Gerry dined with pals nearby.
German cops are treating Maddie’s disappearance as murder – though the Met Police are still investigating the case as a missing person inquiry because there is “no definitive information” whether she is dead or alive.
They also believe the suspect could have had an accomplice who may know where Maddie’s body is.
What we know…
- Madeleine McCann cops have sensationally revealed a new prime suspect in a major breakthrough
- The German paedophile, 43, was living in Praia de Luz, Portugal, when she disappeared
- He took a 30-minute call on his mobile around an hour before Maddie vanished
- The suspect is linked to a campervan he was reportedly living in at the time of the disappearance
- He also has links to a Jaguar XJR6 with a German plate seen in the area in 2006 and 2007
- German police are treating the disappearance as a murder inquiry and say the suspect is ‘significant’
- Maddie’s parents have welcomed the breakthrough and say they will ‘never give up hope of finding her alive’
- Anyone with information for Operation Grange can ring 0207 321 9251 or email Operation.firstname.lastname@example.org
The man emerged as a “significant” suspect following a vital breakthrough in the case from a witness who came forward after a 10th anniversary appeal by the Met for information in 2017.
He was already known to British and Portuguese cops investigating the case but they have refused to disclose why the suspect is now in prison.
The suspect was 30 years old when Maddie vanished and at the time is said to have been leading a “transient lifestyle” travelling between Portugal and Germany.
The man’s links to Portugal stretch back to 1995 when he was just 18, police said.
The suspect is serving a prison sentence for child sex crimes and drug offences, Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) crime director Christian Hoppe said.
He believes Madeleine may have been randomly targeted after the man broke into her family’s apartment.
Hoppe identified two houses in the Praia da Luz area where he said Maddie could have been taken after she was abducted.
He also said: “We think that she might have become the victim of a homicide.”
When asked whether the attack was sexually motivated, Mr Hoppe said: “We cannot rule that out.
“But it is also possible that the suspect, after an initial intention of burglary, spontaneously moved on to a sexual motive.”
He was also asked if the suspect could have had accomplices and replied: “We do not rule that out- besides the initial offender- there might be others who have known about the crime, the location of Maddie’s body or even participated in the crime.”
The BKA is the federal investigative police agency of Germany.
Scotland Yard said tonight that the suspect has been linked to a 1980s VW T3 Westfalia white campervan with yellow skirting that was registered in Portugal and pictured in the Algarve in 2007 in another bombshell development.
Cops say he was driving the vehicle in the same town just days before Madeleine vanished and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after the date of her disappearance.
You can help by calling Operation Grange with information on 0207 321 9251 or email Operation.email@example.com
The German lag has also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and the surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.
German police believe one of the two vehicles was used in the disappearance of Maddie.
On May 4, 2007 – the day after Madeleine vanished – the man got the Jaguar re-registered in Germany under someone else’s name although it is believed the vehicle remained in Portugal.
The suspect's mystery phonecall
The prime suspect took a mystery 30-minute call on his phone just one hour before Maddie vanished.
The suspect’ss number was +351 912 730 680.
DCI Cranwell said: “Extensive enquiries have led investigators to believe the suspect was using this number and received a call, starting at 7.32pm and finishing at 8.02pm on 3 May 2007.
“This call was received in the area of Praia da Luz.”
The number which called him is +351 916 510 683 – but cops have not found who was using it.
DCI Cranwell said: “This number is the phone number that made this call. We know the person was not in the area of Praia da Luz.
“Investigators believe the person who made this call is a highly significant witness and are appealing for them to get in touch.
“The Operation Grange team is also asking anyone if they recognise these numbers.
“Did you ever call them? Do you have them in your phone, an old phone or your electronic contacts?”
German police have seized both vehicles and described the new prime suspect as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and around 6ft tall with a slim build.
Cops refused to disclose if any forensic evidence was found linking either to Madeleine’s disappearance.
Scotland Yard has now launched a joint appeal with the BKA and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ) – with a £20,000 reward for information.
Met deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said: “The main line of inquiry is this suspect.
“All of us are determined to do whatever we can to establish what happened and to see if this man was involved in Madeleine’s disappearance.
“It is a significant development.
The two cars used by the suspect – did you see them?
The detective appealed for information on the vehicles used by the suspect.
He said: “The Operation Grange team is revealing details of two vehicles which the suspect is known to have had access to and used around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
“The first vehicle is a distinctive VW T3 Westfalia campervan. It is an early 1980s model, with two tone markings, a white upper body and a yellow skirting. It had a Portuguese registration plate.
“The suspect had access to this van from at least April 2007 until sometime after May 2007. It was used in and around the area of Praia da Luz.
“We believe he was living in this van for days, possibly weeks, and may have been using it on 3 May 2007.
“We are appealing for anyone who may have seen it in or around Praia da Luz on 3 May, the night Madeleine went missing, the days before, or weeks following the disappearance.
“The second vehicle is a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany.
“This car is believed to have been in the Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.
“The car was originally registered in the suspect’s name. On 4 May 2007, the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, the car was re-registered to someone else in Germany.
“To re-register the car in Germany you don’t have to have the car in the country or region. We believe the car was still in Portugal and would like information if you saw it.
“The Met is asking if anyone saw these cars together or individually during the spring and summer of 2007. Both of these vehicles are now held by the German authorities.”
“As part of our investigation into this man, since 2017 we have been to Portugal and Germany.
“A huge amount of work has been carried out by the Met, BKA and PJ.”
The Met’s £12million Operation Grange probe into the disappearance has identified more than 600 potentially significant suspects.
They were tipped off about the major new suspect, who was already known to police, following an appeal for information in 2017 – ten years after Madeleine vanished.
A statement from Madeleine’s parents, read by Det Chief Insp Mark Cranwell 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.”
Timeline of Maddie's disappearance
28 April 2007 The McCanns go on holiday at the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz.
3 May 2007 Madeleine disappears between 9.30pm and 10pm while her parents are out for dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant.
4 May 2007 Portuguese police investigation begins, the McCanns make an impassioned appeal for information – with Kate holding Madeleine’s favourite toy, Cuddle Cat.
7 September 2007 During further questioning of Mr and Mrs McCann, detectives make them both suspects in their daughter’s disappearance.
29 November 2007 Local pizza shop owner George Brook told British media he saw a “vicious looking” man and woman dragging a little blonde girl towards the marina at 6am. He said Portugese police ignored his report.
6 May 2009 After the McCann’s appear on the Oprah Winfrey show, several witnesses come forward to say they had seen an “ugly” man with dark hair watching the McCann’s apartment in the days leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance.
6 August 2009 Police say they are looking for a “Victoria Beckham” lookalike in connection with Maddie’s disappearance.
13 May 2011 Then prime minister David Cameron asks London’s Metropolitan Police to help investigate the case.
9 March 2012 Portuguese police in Porto launch a review of the original investigation.
26 April 2012 Scotland Yard says Madeleine McCann may still be alive and release an artist’s impression of what she may look like as a nine-year-old.
15 June 2013 The Home Office agrees to fund a full-scale investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
14 October 2013 Police release an e-fit of a man seen by witnesses carrying a small blonde child near the McCann’s resort. The man was white with brown hair.
24 October 2013 Detectives in Portugal reopen the investigation into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance after an internal review uncovers new lines of inquiry and witnesses who were never questioned during the original Portuguese investigation.
19 March 2014 British Police reveal they are looking for a man with tanned skin and unkempt long brown hair after a man of that description sexually abused five young girls in their beds between 2004 and 2010.
28 October 2015 The number of police officers devoted to the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance is reduced from 29 to four.
3 April 2016 Theresa May, then home secretary, grants Scotland Yard £95,000 in extra funding to continue the search for Madeleine.
12 March 2017 The Home Office gives police £85,000 to extend the search for Madeleine – known as Operation Grange – for a further six months. It takes the total spent on the investigation to beyond £11m.
2 May 2017 A secret Home Office report reveals Gerry and Kate McCann claimed they were treated badly by Portuguese police from the start of the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance – and they fell out with UK authorities too and later did not share with police information gathered by their own private investigators.
13 November 2018 Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine have received a further £150,000 in government funding.
4 May 2019 German child killer, Martin Ney,who matches an e-fit of man seen shortly after she vanished is named as a suspect in the case.
2 June 2019 Scotland Yard granted a further £300,000 for the investigation
The breakthrough – revealed in a press conference by Scotland Yard tonight – could be the biggest leap forward in the £12million investigation so far.
Det Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, leading the small team of four detectives working on the Met’s Grange inquiry, said the white suspect was living “on and off” between 1995 and 2007 in the Praia da Luz area with spells in Germany.
He said: “This man is white and in 2007 is believed to have had short blond hair, possibly fair.
“He was about 6ft in height with a slim build. He is 43-years-old, but in 2007 may have looked between 25 to early 30s.
“We have established that he lived on and off in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007.
“He is connected to the area of Praia da Luz and surrounding regions, and spent some short spells in Germany.
“This individual, who we will not identify, is currently in prison in Germany for an unrelated matter.”
German cops tonight revealed the man was living in Portugal between 1995 and 2007 and worked part-time in the food industry.
He was known to them at the time for drug offences and has twice been charged with sex offences.
According to the BKA, further indications suggest that he also makes his living by committing crimes, including burglary theft in hotel complexes and holiday apartments as well as drug trafficking.
While living in Portugal, the suspect lived in a dilapidated old farm building two miles from the holiday apartment, Sky News reports.
One neighbour said he rented the home from an English owner in the 90s and was “always a bit angry” before he vanished in 2006 “without a word”.
The local 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.
“We found a bin bag and inside were wigs and exotic clothing, whether just fancy dress or something stranger I couldn’t tell.”
Maddie disappeared from her holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, while her parents Kate and Gerry enjoyed tapas with their friends nearby.
When Kate returned to check on Maddie and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie at around 10pm that evening, she discovered the youngster was not in her bed.
Despite a 13-year search for the missing girl and countless conspiracy theories and potential suspects, no trace of Madeleine – who would now be 17 – has ever been found.
In September 2007, Gerry and Kate, both doctors, were sensationally named as “arguidos” by Portuguese police – which translates as more than a witness, but who has not been arrested or charged.
The following summer the McCanns were cleared by investigators in Portugal who declared they had exhausted all avenues in the case.
Ex-Portuguese police chief Goncalo Amaral then penned a bombshell book in 2008 claiming that Kate and Gerry had accidentally killed their daughter then covered up the death.
The book, ‘The Truth of the Lie’, led to years of legal wrangling between the desperate couple and ex-cop that led to British police officers picking up the case.
The £12million investigation
THE BRITISH police investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has cost more than £12million.
The Met was given an extra £300,000 last year to explore a number of outstanding leads identified during its Operation Grange investigation.
The initial Portuguese investigation failed to make any headway and at one point even wrongly declared her parents, Kate and Gerry “arguidoes”, or persons of interest.
Scotland Yard then launched its own investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance in 2011 and initially had 29 full time officers working on the case.
It is now a team of four cops, led by Det Chief Insp Mark Cranwell, and is continuing the efforts into finding the, now teenage, Madeline.
During the investigation police said they had looked at more than 60 persons of interest and had made inquiries about the whereabouts of 650 sex offenders.
Confirming the extra funding last year, a Home Office spokesman said: “All applications for Special Grant funding are considered carefully on their individual merits, however, decisions are made in batches to allow us to better consider the impact on the overall policing budget.
“Due to this, the next round of Special Grant funding will not be decided until October, however we have written to Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in the meantime with assurance that the Metropolitan Police Service will receive a similar level of funding for Operation Grange for 2019/20 as it did for the previous year.”
The local probe into her suspected kidnapping was axed in 2008 and Scotland Yard launched Operation Grange in 2011.
Costs soon spiralled into the millions as 29 officers were dispatched to investigate the youngster’s disappearance.
The entire cost has now topped £12million – with a further £300,000 pledged by the Home Office last year to continue the investigation.
So far, police have looked at more than 60 persons of interest and made inquiries about the whereabouts of 650 sex offenders.
There have been a number of potential suspects named by local media and police that have come to nothing – piling more anguish on Maddie’s parents.
Amaral last year sparked speculation notorious child killer Martin Ney was a prime suspect after revealing investigators were focusing on a German paedo in prison.
But he ruled the strangler out in an interview on Spanish TV after being shown a photo of Ney.
“A paedophile who is German and serving life for killing children has been spoken about,” he told a show about missing adults and children.
“What I know is that the suspect is not him, it’s another man. He’s also in prison in Germany. He’s also a paedophile.”
Maddie’s parents have never given up hope they will find out what happened to their daughter in the agonising 13-year search.
The couple, from Rothley, Leics, said they were driven by an “almost feral reaction” as they carried out a desperate search for their daughter on the night she vanished.
They have been the subject of backlash and had the finger pointed at them but their Catholic faith has never been shaken as they poured their energy into the search.
The couple have launched numerous appeals and seen millions of taxpayer money poured into the investigation to no avail.
Kate, who stopped working as a GP after the horror, is an ambassador for the Missing People charity and regularly campaigns for children who have vanished.
Her husband still works as a professor of cardiac imaging at the University of Leicester and a consultant cardiologist.
Gerry has bravely opened up about his mental health struggles since the night Madeleine went missing.
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, Kate 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.”
The couple say they have seen “the worst and the best of human nature” since the campaign to find their daughter thrust them into the spotlight.
But they have refused to shy away from public appeals as they continue the desperate hunt for information.
In 2017, Kate even heartbreakingly revealed 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 couple added: “We love her, we miss her, we hope as always.
“The search for Madeleine goes on with unwavering commitment.”
DCI Cranwell said: “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.
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“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.
“Our job as detectives is to follow the evidence, maintain an open mind and establish what happened on that day in May 2007.
“Please contact us without delay so we can get answers for Madeleine’s family.”
How many sightings of Maddie have there been?
Potential sightings of the British three-year old followed up by British cops total 8,685 across 101 countries and territories.
A list of sightings from each of the 101 countries – nearly all of which have been labelled NFA or No Further Action.
Most serious were the alleged sightings in the hours and days following Madeleine’s disappearance.
On the night she was taken, police received two separate potential sightings from members of the public – however one was fully ruled out as being a holidaymaker with his daughter.
There were six reported sightings between May 4-17, 2007, in Portugal, including CCTV footage that showed a girl matching Maddie’s description with two men and a woman at a petrol station in the town of Nelas.
Over the border in Spain, there have been three reported sightings but all were ruled out, along with eight major alleged sightings in Morocco.
There were as many as 29 in Malta in the month after the toddler’s disappearance which led to the capital Valletta being briefly locked down.
One of the most serious potential sightings in Amsterdam was revealed when Portuguese police released their case files in August 2008.
It showed a girl of blonde girl of Madeleine’s age and description told a shopkeeper her name was “Maddie” and she had been “taken from mummy”.