United Kingdom

'Major' breakthrough in hunt for Madeleine McCann as police identify German suspect

A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in what could be a major breakthrough in the case. Pictured: An e-fit of Maddie showing her aged nine

A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in what could be a major breakthrough in the case.

Metropolitan 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 Praia da Luz on the Algarve coast at the time Madeleine vanished on May 3 2007 while on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie.

A half-hour phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing.

It is reported that the suspect is going to be named by German police on national television this evening.

The suspect, who is in prison 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.

Scotland Yard said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Madeleine's disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3. 

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

The news today comes as a shot in the arm to her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, who have never given up hope in the search for their daughter

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.

Scotland Yard is launching a 'major' joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ), just over 13 years after she vanished. 

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

Madeleine McCann (left and right) would have turned 17 last month 

The news today comes as a shot in the arm to her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, who have never given up hope in the search for their daughter. 

Last month, the couple penned an impassioned letter ahead of what would have been their daughter's 17th birthday. 

They wrote: 'It is now 13 years since we were last with Madeleine. Her 17th birthday is to follow in the next couple of weeks….the latter tangibly, painfully, bringing it home to us what we have missed and continue to miss as a family.'

Three-year-old Madeleine vanished after she had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas restaurant at their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in 2007.

The Metropolitan Police took over the hunt in 2011 after the parents made a personal plea to then-Prime Minister David Cameron. Her parents subsequently set up a website to help their search 

Scotland Yard is launching a 'major' joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ), just over 13 years after she vanished

The couple, from Rothley in Leicestershire, have always maintained they made regular checks on the children throughout that evening. 

The Metropolitan Police took over the hunt in 2011 after the parents made a personal plea to then-Prime Minister David Cameron. 

Their subsequent investigation, Operation Grange, has received more than £11m in funding, despite calls from some police chiefs for the search to end. 

A controversial Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie's kidnap was released last year, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls. 

The pair, who refused to take part in the eight hour programme series, slammed it for 'potentially hindering' the search for their daughter while an active police hunt is ongoing.

How the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann unfolded over 13 years  

2007

May 3: Gerry and Kate McCann leave their three children, including Maddie, asleep in their hotel apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, as they eat with friends in a nearby restaurant. When they return, they find Maddie missing from her bed

May 4: A friend of the McCanns reports of seeing a man carrying a child away in the night.  Meanwhile, airports and borders are put on high alert as search gets underway

May 14: Robert Mural, a property developer who lives a few yards from the hotel, is made a suspect by Portuguese police

May 30: The McCanns meet the Pope in Rome in a bid to bring worldwide attention to the search

August 11: Police in Portugal acknowledge for the first time in the investigation that Maddie might be dead. 

September 7: Spanish police make the McCanns official suspects in the disappearance. Two days later the family flies back to England

2008

July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved

2009

May 1: A computer-generated image of what Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns 

2011

May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May 

2012

April 25: After a year of reviewing the case, Scotland Yard announce they belief that Maddie could be alive and call on police in Portugal to reopen the case, but it falls on deaf ears amid 'a lack of new evidence'

Kate and Gerry McCann mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine with the publication of the book written by her mother in 2011

2013

July 4: Scotland Yard opens new investigation and claim to have identified 38 'people of interest'

October 24: A review into the investigation is opened by Portuguese police and new lines of inquiry are discovered, forcing them to reopen the case

2014

January 29: British officers arrive in Portugal as a detailed investigation takes place. During the year, several locations are searched, including an area of scrubland near the resort 

2015

October 28: British police announce that team investigating Maddie's disappearance is reduced from 29 officers to just four, as it is also revealed that the investigation has cost £10million 

2016

April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months  

2017

March 11: Cash is once again pumped into keeping the investigation alive, with £85,000 granted to keep it running until September, when it is extended once again until April next year

2018

March 27: The Home Office reveals it has allocated further funds to Operation Grange. The new fund is believed to be as large as £150,000

September 11: Parents fear as police hunt into daughter's disappearance could be shelved within three weeks by the new Home Secretary amid funding cuts

September 26: Fresh hope in the search for Madeleine McCann as it emerges the Home Office is considering allocating more cash for the police to find her

2019  

April: Controversial new Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie's kidnap is released, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls. They pair, who refused to take part in the eight hour programme series, slammed it for 'potentially hindering' the search for their daughter while an active police hunt is ongoing

June 5: The Home Office gives the Metropolitan Police enough funding to investigate for another year

June 22: Detectives say they are 'closer than ever' to solving the disappearance as they look into a new suspect. A joint effort by British and Portuguese police narrowed in on a 'foreign' man who was in the Algarve when she went missing in 2007

December 7: Paulo Pereira Cristovao, a long-time critic of Maddie's parents who angered them with a controversial book about the mystery disappearance, was convicted of participating in the planning of two violent break-ins at properties in Lisbon and the nearby resort of Cascais. He is jailed for seven and a half years

December 11: Maddie's revealed a touching list of what they miss most about their daughter as they spent their 13th Christmas without her

2020

February 22: Scotland Yard detectives questioned a British expat about her German ex-boyfriend. Carol Hickman, 59, claims police entered her bar in Praia da Luz, Portugal to ask questions about her former partner 

March 27: Detectives requested extra money to continue their investigation into the disappearance of the toddler in Portugal back in 2007, with funds for the operation set to run out at the end of the month

 June 3: Police reveal that a 43-year-old German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in Madeleine's disappearance.

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