Kate and Gerry McCann’s daughter was only three when she disappeared from their vacation apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal on May 3, 2007, kicking off an international hunt. It has never been found and no one has ever been accused of his disappearance.
On Wednesday, police in Britain and Germany identified a new suspect as a 43-year-old German man. UK authorities described the development as a “significant new investigation line”, while German authorities revealed that the suspect had previously been convicted of child sexual abuse.
Family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said on Thursday that the British and German police appeal was “the first time in more than 13 years that I can remember [police] focusing on an individual. “
“Kate and Gerry think it’s potentially very significant,” Mitchell said on BBC radio. “This is another important chapter in finding the daughter,” he added.
The prosecutor of Braunschweig, in the state of Lower Saxony, said in a statement Wednesday that the suspect is serving a “long” prison sentence “for an unrelated matter.” He is now being investigated for “possible murder” in relation to McCann, the office said.
Public prosecutor spokesman Hans Christian Wolters told CNN on Thursday that his office assumes McCann is dead. Wolters said they would not elaborate the evidence that must support this since it is an ongoing investigation.
Wolters also explained that if the investigation involves charges and a trial, the suspect would be tried in Germany, as murder is a crime in Germany, as it is in Portugal, regardless of where the crime was conducted.
In German broadcaster ZDF’s “Aktenzeichen XY Unsolved” on Wednesday evening, Christian Hoppe of Germany’s Federal Criminal Investigation Office stated that no organs were found, but “investigations by the Federal Criminal Investigation Office instead led to the assumption that McCann became the victim of a murder. “
In a statement sent to CNN on Wednesday, the missing girl’s parents thanked the “police forces involved for their continued efforts to find Madeleine.”
“All we have always wanted is to find it, discover the truth and bring those responsible to justice. We will never give up the hope of finding Madeleine alive, but whatever the result, we must know why we must find peace.”
Mitchell, in his interview with BBC Radio 4, pointed out that although German police are classifying it as a murder investigation, British police are still treating it as a case of missing persons.
“There is still one British citizen missing and the British police have gone out of their way to say that there is no evidence that she has come to harm, whether she is dead or even alive, so they are literally keeping an open mind,” he explained.
The suspect had lived in the Portuguese Algarve region from 1995 to 2007, and also resided in a house in Praia de Luz, the tourist resort from which McCann had disappeared, according to the prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig.
London Metropolitan Police also revealed details of two cars linked to the suspect in the disappearance period on Wednesday and called on the public to come forward with any information about them.
“The first vehicle is a distinctive VW T3 Westfalia camper. It is a model from the early 1980s, with two tone markings, a white top and a yellow baseboard. It had a Portuguese number plate,” said the British note.
“The suspect had access to this van at least from April 2007 until some time after May 2007. It was used in and around the Praia da Luz area.”
“The second vehicle is a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with German registration and registration in Germany,” added the note. “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 May 4, 2007, the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, the car was been re-registered to someone else in Germany. “
Asked if this could be another example of an apparent turnaround that goes nowhere, Mitchell admitted that there have been “countless quotes, suggestions, rumors, hypotheses” that “have unfortunately come to nothing”. “But as I said, in my memory of being involved in the case, the police have never been more specific about an individual than in this appeal,” he continued.
Kate and Gerry McCann are not doing interviews because they want attention to focus on the police request for information on the phone numbers and cars used by this new suspect, Mitchell added.
Metropolitan police began reviewing McCann’s disappearance in 2011, in a large-scale investigation known as Operation Grange which cost at least £ 11.75 million ($ 14.7) in June 2019.
“After the ten-year anniversary, the Met received information about a German man who was known to have been to Praia da Luz and the surrounding area. We have worked with colleagues in Germany and Portugal and this man is a suspect of the disappearance of Madeleine, “Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said in a statement Wednesday.
UK authorities offer a £ 20,000 (approximately $ 25,000) prize for information leading to conviction.
Fred Pleitgen of CNN in Berlin, Mia Alberti in Lisbon, Zamira Rahim, Max Ramsay, Milena Veselinovic and Isa Soares in London contributed to this report.
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