Tonight, in a possible breakthrough in the 13-year-long case, Scotland Yard detectives have identified a new suspect in the disappearance – a white male, with short blonde hair, around six-feet-tall and of slim build. The unnamed 43-year-old German, who is currently in prison for an “unrelated matter,” is thought to have been in and around Praia da Luz on the Algarve coast around the time Maddie vanished on May 3, 2007. A half-an-hour phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing and Police are appealing for information about a van and the suspects other vehicle, a Jaguar, which was transferred to someone else’s name the day after Maddie vanished.
Kate and Gerry McCann have always supported the theory that Madeleine was snatched by a criminal working in the local area and this idea was popularised after it was claimed several other apartments in the holiday complex had been robbed in the weeks leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance.
Kate explained during her book 'Madeleine: Our Daughter's Disappearance and the Continuing Search for Her' why she thought someone may know something that could help police.
She wrote in 2011: “We are hopeful that this book may help the investigation in other ways.
“Perhaps it might prompt someone who has relevant information – maybe without knowing it – to come forward and share it.
Kate McCann identified the 'key piece of the jigsaw'
Kate and Gerry McCann have always held out hope to find their daughter
“Somebody holds that key piece of the jigsaw.
“Indirectly, it may boost out search simply by enlightening those who, for whatever reason, believe Madeleine is no longer alive, or that there is nothing else that can be done to find her.”
Kate went on to explain how she hoped this information would help put to bed any misconceptions about her daughter’s disappearance.
She added: “We trust it will put to rest some of the myths that have sprung up around her abduction.
“As will become clear in the book, while we still do not know what happened to Madeleine, there remains no evidence whatsoever to suggest that she was killed.”
READ MORE: Madeleine McCann: Why Kate McCann feared ‘someone was watching’ holiday apartment
Maddie disappeared from her apartment room
Maddie disappeared from Apartment 5A of the Ocean Beach complex, while her parents ate dinner with friends at a Tapas restaurant just metres away.
Over the last 13 years, investigators have worked tirelessly to find out what happened, with no luck to date, but are hoping this new appeal for help could help shine a light on the events.
DCI Mark Cranwell, who is leading the Met inquiry, said today: "Someone out there knows a lot more than they're letting on.”
DCI Cranwell said the prisoner, then aged 30, frequented the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, staying for "days upon end" in his camper van and living a "transient lifestyle".
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Police have released images of the vehicles
A Jaguar is said to have changed ownership
He has been linked to an early Eighties VW T3 Westfalia 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 Maddie's disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3.
The suspect 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.
Scotland Yard said the German authorities had taken the lead on this aspect of the case because the suspect was in custody in their country.
The McCanns have appealed for help over the years
Kate and Gerry McCann were just metres away from their daughter when she went missing
Police have released details of the suspect's phone number and the number he dialled saying any information about them could be "critical" to the inquiry.
They have also asked the person who called the suspect to come forward.
DCI Cranwell added: "They're a key witness and we urge them to get in touch.
"Some people will know the man we're describing today, you may be aware of some of the things he's done.
Police in Germany are leading the investigation
Maddie went missing 13 years ago
"He may have confided in you about the disappearance of Madeleine.
"More than 13 years have passed and your loyalties may have changed.
"Now is the time to come forward."
The suspect is one of 600 people that detectives on the inquiry, known as Operation Grange, originally looked at.
Alleged sightings of Maddie
After an appeal in 2017, "significant" fresh information about him was provided.
Since then, Met detectives have carried out "extensive inquiries" in Portugal and Germany in order to gather more details about him.
Scotland Yard said they were trying to "prove or disprove" his involvement in the case and retained an "open mind".