KATE and Gerry McCann refuse to believe their daughter Madeleine is dead until her body is found, a close friend said tonight.
It comes after the the heartbroken mum and dad said all they want is to "uncover the truth" and "bring those responsible to justice" as a new prime suspect was revealed in the case.
Kate and Gerry have been searching for their missing little girl for 13 years after she vanished during a family holiday to Praia du Luz in Portugal.
Detectives tonight revealed a German prisoner has been identified as a new suspect in Maddie's disappearance - along with a raft of new clues.
He is believed to been a drifter in the area around Praia du Luz who had prior convictions for child sex offences.
German cops have said he may have made his living by stealing from holiday apartments.
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."
A pal said the couple "remain on tenterhooks” as they anxiously await updates - hopeful this could be a breakthrough to bring their daughter home.
They said: "German police are now leading on this inquiry and are treating it as murder.
"But what proof officers have got has not been spelt out at this stage. Until a body is found and it is proved to be Madeleine’s, Kate and Gerry are not giving up hope."
The pal added while the couple remain hopeful there are many "unanswered questions" - such as how it has taken 13 years to identify the suspect so well linked to Praia da Luz.
They said: "Does it make him Madeleine’s abductor and, if it does, where is she and why now has he suddenly come to light when his name was given to police three years ago. And has he had any involvement in paedophilia?
"Kate and Gerry want answers more than anyone but while the Metropolitan Police are still treating Madeleine’s disappearance as a missing people’s inquiry, it gives the family hope that she could still be alive. Nothing has changed for them.
"They will continuing hoping until they know for sure."
Met Police have not named the man, 43, who is described as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and about 6ft tall with a slim build.
The German national is known to have been in and around the town on the Algarve coast at the time Madeleine vanished on May 3, 2007.
A half-hour phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing.
The suspect, who is in prison in Germany for an unrelated matter, has been linked to an early 1980s camper van - with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal - which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007.
Kate and Gerry have staged a ceaseless campaign to find their daughter since the day their "perfect nuclear family" was hit by "horror".
The couple had left Maddie, 3, with her twin siblings Sean and Amelie, asleep in their holiday apartment while they had dinner at a tapas restaurant with pals just just a one minute walk away.
Doing regular checks on the children, Gerry found nothing amiss when he looked in on the youngsters just after 9pm.
But when his wife returned at about 10pm she discovered three-year-old Madeleine was missing - and the family's life changed forever.
She vanished shortly before her fourth birthday and would have turned 17 last month.
The mum and dad - both doctors - have poured their into efforts finding her.
But so far they have been fruitless despite a huge UK police operation worth around £11.75million.
Over the years the McCann family have launched numerous public appeals and won high-profile backers, all to no avail.
In 2017, ten years since Maddie vanished, the McCanns said they had been forced to adjust to a "new normality" of being a family-of-four with their twins.
The parents said their focus was on giving the two children "a very normal, happy and fulfilling life".
Scotland Yard have said the new suspect was driving the camper van in the Praia da Luz area.
The suspect is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after Maddie vanished on May 3.
He 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.
The day after Madeleine went missing, the suspect got the car re-registered in Germany under someone else's name, although it is believed the vehicle was still in Portugal.
Both vehicles have been seized by German police.
Cops also took the "really unusual" step of releasing two mobile phone numbers as part of the appeal.
The first, (+351) 912 730 680, is believed to have been used by the suspect and received a call from another Portuguese mobile, (+351) 916 510 683, while in the Praia da Luz area, starting at 7.32pm and ending at 8.02pm on the night Maddie vanished.
The caller, who is not thought to have been in the Praia da Luz area, is not being treated as a suspect, but is said to be a "key witness" in the case.
Mr Cranwell said: "Some people will know the man we are describing today, the suspect in our investigation. I'm appealing to you directly.
"You may know, you may be aware of some of the things he has done. He may have confided in you about the disappearance of Madeleine.
"More than 13 years have passed and your loyalties may have changed.
"This individual is in prison and we are conscious that some people may have been concerned about contacting police in the past. Now is the time to come forward.
"I'm appealing to you to contact us, or the German authorities or the Portuguese authorities.
"I should be very, very clear on this - while this male is a suspect, we retain an open mind as to his involvement."
The suspect is known to have been linked to the Praia da Luz area between 1995 and 2007, with some short spells in Germany, and is described as having a "transient lifestyle", living in his camper van for days at a time.
Police are appealing for anyone who may have seen the camper van in or around Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine went missing, the days before or weeks after.
Detectives also want to speak with anyone who saw the van together with the Jaguar, or individually, during the spring and summer of 2007.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the investigation into the suspect had seen Met detectives sent to Portugal and Germany.
He added: "This is a significant development, which is why we've made the decision to take this significant step of making a public appeal on some information that we would not normally talk about in our major investigations."
Scotland Yard tonight launched a joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany BKA and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria.
It includes a £20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible of Madeleine's disappearance.
The Met's investigation has identified more than 600 people as being potentially linked to the case.
Detectives were tipped off about the German national, already known to cops, following the appeal on the tenth anniversary of her disappearance.
German police are treating the case as a murder investigation but the Met's Operation Grange, launched in 2013, has always considered the case a missing person inquiry.
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
Kate and Gerry are both from close-knit working-class Catholic families and have found solace through their relatives and their faith in the years since Madeleine's disappearance.
Gerry is from Glasgow and his wife from Liverpool, and they met while working as junior doctors at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow.
Kate stopped working as a GP after her daughter went missing to focus on campaign work and her two other children, twins Amelie and Sean, aged just two when Madeleine disappeared.
She poured her energies into charity work, including as an ambassador for the Missing People charity, before returning to work in another area of medicine.
Gerry is a professor of cardiac imaging at the University of Leicester and a consultant cardiologist.
He has been open about his mental health struggles since the night Madeleine went missing.
Over the years, the McCanns have built up a close bond with the Portuguese town where they last saw Maddie.
The couple were regular visitors to the church of Our Lady of Light in Praia da Luz after she vanished as they prayed for her return.
It has since been revealed that villagers in Praia da Luz have prayed for Madeleine every Sunday since.
In a letter written in 2017, Kate thanked local friends and supporters "for being strong enough.
She also thanked them for being brave enough to keep Madeleine and the family in their "prayers and hearts".
Speaking to the BBC on the 10-year anniversary of her daughter's disappearance, Kate said they have tried to be as "open" as they can with Maddie's siblings.
She said: "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."
Madeleine's parents admitted they have been shocked by hurtful online abuse.
They said they had seen "the worst and the best of human nature" since the campaign to find their daughter thrust them into the spotlight.
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Previously, Kate has blasted the "misinformation, half-truths and downright lies" that had circulated around her daughter's case.
But her husband has insisted that overall they had "been overwhelmingly seeing the better side of human nature" and received "fantastic support".
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 McCanns added: "We love her, we miss her, we hope as always.
"The search for Madeleine goes on with unwavering commitment."