A GERMAN sex offender at the heart of the Madeleine McCann probe is a burglar who abused young girls and was first investigated in 2013, German police have revealed.
The 43-year-old, who hasn't been named, is now a "significant" chief suspect in the three-year-old's disappearance following a vital breakthrough in 2017.
He has been revealed as a child sex offender who is currently in jail in Germany for drug offences by cops in the country.
The suspect has twice been charged with sex offences against young girls and is also a prolific burglar at hotels and holiday apartments, BKA crime director Christian Hoppe said.
He believes Madeleine may have been randomly targeted after her killer broke into her family’s apartment in Praia de Luz.
The officer also said the suspect could have had an accomplice who may know where Maddie’s body is.
When asked whether the attack was sexually motivated, Christian Hoppe, leading crime director at the Federal Crime Agency 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.”
Mr Hoppe identified two houses in the Praia da Luz area where he said Maddie could have been taken after she was abducted.
The chief also said: “We think that she might have become the victim of a homicide.”
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."
German cops are treating Maddie’s disappearance as a murder inquiry - though the Met are still investigating the case as a missing person inquiry.
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The man emerged as a “significant” suspect following a vital breakthrough in the case from a witness who came forward following a 10th anniversary appeal by the Met for information in 2017.
He was first flagged to police in 2013 but there was not enough evidence to arrest him, police said.
Scotland Yard said tonight he 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.
The German lag 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.
German police believe 1 of the two 2 vehicles were used in 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.
German police have seized both vehicles and described the major new prime suspect as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and around 6ft tall with a slim build.
He also received a 30-minute call on his phone just one hour before Maddie vanished from her bed.
Cops refused to disclose if any forensic evidence was found linking either to Madeleine’s disappearance.
Scotland Yard is now launching a joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ) - with a £20,000 reward for information.
The breakthrough - revealed in a press conference by Scotland Yard tonight - could be the biggest leap forward in the £12million investigation so far.
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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.