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Madeleine McCann's parents REFUSE to believe she is dead

Madeleine McCann's parents refuse to believe their daughter is dead until her body is found, a close friend said tonight.

Kate and Gerry cling onto a glimmer of hope that Maddie could still be alive as police probing her disappearance have sensationally revealed a prime suspect in a huge breakthrough in the 13-year mystery.

As police could be closing in on her kidnapper - a 43-year-old German who is currently in jail after committing other offences - the couple 'remain on tenterhooks' as they anxiously await updates.

Kate and Gerry McCann, pictured here in July 2014 have told friends they have not given up hope that their daughter Madeleine is still alive after police confirmed that a 43-year-old German is the prime suspect in the case

A pal of the couple from Rothley, Leicestershire, 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.

'This is the biggest police activity for many years, it appears to be a significant breakthrough after all this time. In 13 years never before has any police force said 'We believe this person to be the prime suspect.' There is tangible evidence, the suspect was in Praia da Luz when Madeleine went missing and he had been behaving suspiciously and is now serving a prison sentence.

'But 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?

'There are still many unanswered questions and we cannot speculate.

Madeleine McCann, pictured, vanished from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, just days before her 4th birthday in May 2007

'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.'

The friend said that heart doctor Gerry, 51, and ex GP turned medical worker Kate, 52, remained 'incredibly grateful' to the British force for its continuing work over nine years.

McCann spokesman Clarence Mitchell declined to make a comment, saying: 'Kate and Gerry have given a direct statement through police.'

Three-year-old Maddie vanished from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007, just nine days before her fourth birthday. She had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining with pals in a nearby tapas restaurant. She would now be aged 17.

The family have recently been buoyed up by news of a Chinese boy being found alive 32 years after being abducted. The pal said: 'This is the news they are dreaming of receiving themselves one day.'

The Operation Grange inquiry, which has cost the taxpayer nearly £12 million, is set to receive and extra £300,000 funding from the Home Office to keep it going until the end of March next year.

Kate and Gerry wrote in a 13th anniversary post: 'The investigation to find Madeleine remains open and continues, even though, in a way different to the ideal. We remain grateful for the ongoing efforts and commitment from all those involved in the search to find her and we hope and pray, as always, that our efforts will be fruitful.'

Police believe a German national, who is the prime suspect in the disappearance, could have been using this VW T3 Westfalia camper van

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