Madeleine McCann’s parents face agonising wait after ‘clues were found’ at Algarve


Madeleine McCann‘s parents face months of agony as they wait for the results of forensic testing after a ‘relevant clue’ was reportedly found during a three-day search operation in Portugal.

Investigators cleared a large area of woodland at the Algarve reservoir and dug eight deep holes to collect samples, which have been sent for forensic and DNA testing in Germany.

Scientists are expected to have initial results next week, sources say, but it is feared it could take months for a full analysis to be completed.

The Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha said a ‘relevant clue’ was found during the search on Thursday, leading police to focus on a specific area of the secluded beauty spot.

Several items were removed from the site, which may or may not be of relevance to the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, the publication said. They include a bra strap, pieces of clothing and plastic items. 

The development came after MailOnline told yesterday how investigators had been looking for a gun and camcorder stolen from prime suspect Christian Brueckner’s house.

A criminal informer tipped off German prosecutors that items taken in the 2007 raid at Brueckner’s isolated home were then thrown into the reservoir.

Madeleine McCann

Prime suspect Christian Brueckner

 Madeleine (left) was aged three in May 2007 when she vanished from her bedroom in the apartment her family were staying at in the Praia da Luz resort on the Algarve coast. German prosecutors believe Christian Brueckner (right) may be behind her disappearance

Investigators cleared a large area of woodland at the Algarve reservoir and dug eight deep holes to collect samples, which have been sent for forensic and DNA testing in Germany

Investigators cleared a large area of woodland at the Algarve reservoir and dug eight deep holes to collect samples, which have been sent for forensic and DNA testing in Germany

Scientists are expected to have initial results next week but it is feared it could take months for a full analysis to be completed. Pictured: Investigators at the Algarve on Thursday

Scientists are expected to have initial results next week but it is feared it could take months for a full analysis to be completed. Pictured: Investigators at the Algarve on Thursday

Portuguese police have confirmed the three-day search resulted in 'the collection of some material that will be subject to expertise analysis'. Pictured: Officials at the scene on Thursday

Portuguese police have confirmed the three-day search resulted in ‘the collection of some material that will be subject to expertise analysis’. Pictured: Officials at the scene on Thursday

An area of around 160 square feet had been flattened and cleared of grass and shrubs with several holes dug into the ground to a depth of around two feet.

There were also other holes dug into the foreshore close to the waterline and path close to the edge of the reservoir had been cleared by the rotovator.

It is thought the soil removed was taken away by German officials for closer analysis at a lab in Wiesbaden where the country’s investigative force, the BKA, are based.

Axel Peterman, a criminal profiler and former German detective, told The Mirror that the ‘evidence will be examined and evaluated by experts’ within days at an ‘accredited DNA laboratory’.

He argued that the examination of the land may identify the form of a ‘ditch or dug-out hole’ that could lead to ‘clothing or hidden objects’ tying the suspect to the area.

However, former Met Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kirkham claimed the search was carried out ‘more in hope than expectation’ due to the amount of time that has passed since Madeline went missing in May 2007.

Portuguese police have confirmed that the three-day search resulted in ‘the collection of some material that will be subject to expertise analysis’ but, according to The Telegraph, it could be weeks or months to analyse all the samples. 

German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters has said a statement would be released soon if investigators find nothing of significance. But if the samples prove relevant, the statement would be delayed.

Investigators have been combing the shores of the reservoir rather than searching under the water, as it is considerably lower than usual due to lack of rain.

Just after 5pm on Thursday police lifted the cordon and allowed media through to the site that had been searched the last three days.

Police were desperate to find the video camera as they believe it may contain images of Madeleine, but also of other sex attacks Brueckner is said to have carried out on at least two unidentified women.

The informer has backed up information from key witnesses Manfred Seyferth and another man called Helge Busching, who have already told German investigators they broke into the house while Brueckner was in jail.

Seyferth said the pair had found a gun and a video camera at the isolated house in Foral where Brueckner lived, a few miles from the reservoir at Silves on Portugal’s Algarve, the focus of the latest police search.

Portuguese police investigators dismantle base camp at the end of the three-day search for remains of Madeleine McCann at Barragem do Arade Reservoir on May 25 in Silves, Portugal

Portuguese police investigators dismantle base camp at the end of the three-day search for remains of Madeleine McCann at Barragem do Arade Reservoir on May 25 in Silves, Portugal

An area of around 160 square feet had been flattened and cleared of grass and shrubs with several holes dug into the ground to a depth of around two feet

An area of around 160 square feet had been flattened and cleared of grass and shrubs with several holes dug into the ground to a depth of around two feet

It is thought the soil removed was taken away by German officials for closer analysis at a lab in Wiesbaden where the country¿s investigative force, the BKA, are based

It is thought the soil removed was taken away by German officials for closer analysis at a lab in Wiesbaden where the country’s investigative force, the BKA, are based

There were also other holes dug into the foreshore close to the waterline and the path close to the edge of the reservoir had been cleared by the rotovator

There were also other holes dug into the foreshore close to the waterline and the path close to the edge of the reservoir had been cleared by the rotovator

Detectives leave the scene of the search for clues in the Algarve

Detectives leave the scene of the search for clues in the Algarve 

Portuguese police have been told they will no longer be needed after 4pm Thursday at the reservoir where the search for clues into Madeleine McCann's disappearance is unfolding

Portuguese police have been told they will no longer be needed after 4pm Thursday at the reservoir where the search for clues into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance is unfolding

Members of the search team were pictured packing up their equipment after they were told they were no longer needed

Members of the search team were pictured packing up their equipment after they were told they were no longer needed

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann pack up their equipment on Thursday as the search draws to a close

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann pack up their equipment on Thursday as the search draws to a close 

Detectives pack up their equipment on Thursday as the search draws to a close

Detectives pack up their equipment on Thursday as the search draws to a close

Germans Seyferth and Busching, who tipped off the police, were living in the Algarve at the same time as Brueckner, and the two were involved in petty theft with him before having a falling out.

Footage on the video camera was said to show Brueckner torturing and raping an American woman, with footage of a girl around 15 years old also subjected to the same horrific ordeal.

In 2019, Brueckner was convicted by a German court of the rape of an elderly American woman in her home at Praia da Luz close to where Madeleine vanished, and was given a seven-year sentence.

It is not known if this is the same woman on the missing video tape but investigators are keen to track it down to build up a more damning case against Brueckner.

A source close to the investigation told MailOnline: ‘Both men have told the BKA (German investigation police) they broke into Brueckner’s home.

‘They had all been part of a network of petty criminals in the Algarve back in the early 2000s around the time Madeleine went missing but then fell out.

‘Seyferth has told police that he and Busching found a video camera and a gun at the house after they broke in.

‘When the video camera was played they said it showed a masked man carrying out a sex attack on a woman and the voice they heard was Brueckner’s.

‘Seyferth said a gun was also found and that after finding the video camera they panicked, drove off and later threw both items in the lake.

‘Seyferth has told investigators the material on the video tape was evil and if this can be found will be vital to building a case against Brueckner.

‘Now another witness has come forward to confirm the story of the first two men and this has prompted intensification of the investigation.’

Last year police in Germany charged Brueckner with a variety of historical sex crimes including rapes against two unidentified women and Irish tour guide Hazel Behan between 2000 and 2006.

Meanwhile, Portuguese and German police left the scene this afternoon. In a sign that the search was over, blue tents that had been set up earlier this week were dismantled and packed away.

Officers could be seen shuttling back and forth, packing tables and chairs and carrying them to vans.

A truck used to empty portable toilets also arrived at a forward operating area that had been set up near the investigation site.

The last vehicles to leave were the German-registered black Mercedes vans belonging to the BKA investigative police.

Sources close to the investigation said that material found at the scene, mainly soil samples, would be taken back to Germany for analysis.

In a statement issued after the end of the search, the Portuguese Judicial Police said: 'The Judiciary Police informs that the steps requested by the German authorities, through a request for international cooperation, have been fulfilled, which resulted in the collection of some material that will be subject to the competent expertise'

In a statement issued after the end of the search, the Portuguese Judicial Police said: ‘The Judiciary Police informs that the steps requested by the German authorities, through a request for international cooperation, have been fulfilled, which resulted in the collection of some material that will be subject to the competent expertise’ 

'The operation was coordinated by the Judiciary Police, which involved investigators, criminal experts and security personnel. The works had the participation of the German authorities (BKA) and were attended by British authorities (MPS),' the statement continued

‘The operation was coordinated by the Judiciary Police, which involved investigators, criminal experts and security personnel. The works had the participation of the German authorities (BKA) and were attended by British authorities (MPS),’ the statement continued

The statement said: 'Safeguarding the interests of the investigation still under way in Portugal, the collected material will be delivered to the German authorities'

The statement said: ‘Safeguarding the interests of the investigation still under way in Portugal, the collected material will be delivered to the German authorities’

Forensic biologist Dr. Mark Benecke told German media: ‘Soil samples contain stones, pollen and a few other small components that can be transmitted during an act.’

‘This means that if I find old shoes, for example, that now contain exactly the same components as in the earth, I know the person was there.’

He added that traces of textile fibres, pebbles or pollen could still be used even centuries later.

He told RTL: ‘The only question is whether no one walked around there and left other traces that disturb the whole thing.

‘If other people celebrated at that point, maybe urinated, vomited, somehow left their own skin, then of course it will be more difficult.’

Meanwhile, Mr Wolters told MailOnline: ‘We will see how successful we were after the search is complete.

‘If necessary, we will then issue a short press release in the coming week. But that also depends on the result of the action.

‘If we don’t find anything, we will certainly tell you quickly. If there were any finds, this would probably not be possible.’

Just before 1.30pm local time on Thursday there was a noticeable increase in activity as machinery and equipment brought to the search site was driven away.

Shameless Portuguese former detective Goncalo Amaral has slammed the current search for Madeleine McCann as an attempt to 'pin the case' on the prime suspect

Shameless Portuguese former detective Goncalo Amaral has slammed the current search for Madeleine McCann as an attempt to ‘pin the case’ on the prime suspect

Amaral was kicked off the original investigation in 2008, after suggesting Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry (pictured in 2017) were responsible for their daughter's disappearance

Amaral was kicked off the original investigation in 2008, after suggesting Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry (pictured in 2017) were responsible for their daughter’s disappearance

Detectives pack up their equipment on Thursday as the search draws to a close

Detectives pack up their equipment on Thursday as the search draws to a close

A large rotavator used for cutting away thick bushes and shrubs was seen being driven away on a trailer along with strimmers, wheelbarrows, pick axes and spades.

A driver in one truck shouted ‘Finito’ as he made his way back up the dirt track from the reservoir leading to the main road.

In a statement issued after the end of the search the Portuguese Judicial Police said: ‘Following the statement of May 22, 2023, the Judiciary Police informs that the steps requested by the German authorities, through a request for international cooperation, have been fulfilled, which resulted in the collection of some material that will be subject to the competent expertise.

‘The operation was coordinated by the Judiciary Police, which involved investigators, criminal experts and security personnel.

‘The works had the participation of the German authorities (BKA) and were attended by British authorities (MPS).

‘It also had the collaboration of the Faro Command of the National Republican Guard in various aspects, as well as the Regional Command of Emergency and Civil Protection of the Algarve and the Municipality of Silves, with regard to the logistics necessary for the development of the works.

‘Safeguarding the interests of the investigation are still under way in Portugal, the collected material will be delivered to the German authorities.’

It comes as shameless former police detective Goncalo Amaral slammed the current search for Madeleine as an attempt to ‘pin the case’ on the prime suspect.

Amaral was kicked off the original investigation in 2008, after suggesting Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry were responsible for the then three-year-old’s disappearance, and later wrote two books on the mystery.

Speaking for the first time since police began searching the area around the Arade Dam, just 35 miles from the resort of Praia da Luz, he claimed the fresh hunt was just an attempt to make prime suspect Christian Brueckner a ‘scapegoat’.

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann pack up their equipment on Thursday as the search draws to a close

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann pack up their equipment on Thursday as the search draws to a close

Detectives gather in Silves, Portugal, to conduct a search for Madeleine McCann

Detectives gather in Silves, Portugal, to conduct a search for Madeleine McCann

A police watches as a man cuts the bushes in the area being searched for remains

A police watches as a man cuts the bushes in the area being searched for remains 

Investigators hold spades and forks as the searches continue around the reservoir on Thursday

Investigators hold spades and forks as the searches continue around the reservoir on Thursday

Investigators search the undergrowth near the reservoir on Thursday

Investigators search the undergrowth near the reservoir on Thursday

Kate and Gerry McCann hold pyjamas similar to those of their daughter's during a press conference in Berlin on June 6, 2007

Kate and Gerry McCann hold pyjamas similar to those of their daughter’s during a press conference in Berlin on June 6, 2007

He told respected Portuguese news weekly Sabado: ‘The question should be how are the German police involved? How did the (Portuguese) Judicial Police agree to this and why?

‘In simple analysis I see that there is no new investigation, what is happening is an act of building the profile of a scapegoat and a virtual blaming.’

He then suggested the search was an attempt to show the public ‘Brueckner must be guilty’ as a lot of ‘ time, money and human hours have been invested’.

When asked what would be found he said: ‘If there was anything there, it would be possible to find bones, perhaps hair and even part of the missing girl’s pyjamas.

‘On the other hand, finding the child’s remains would only be possible if she had not been cremated, as seems to have happened.’

In the interview, which came as a joint police team from Portugal, Germany and the Metropolitan Police continued their hunt for a third day, Amaral again pushed his theory Brueckner was a ‘convenient scapegoat’.

He said: ‘When British police began to consider Christian Brueckner as a suspect, he was living in Portugal and walking freely around.

‘The investigation should have focused on the individual through special techniques, namely telephone and computer interceptions, personal and electronic surveillance, undercover agents etc, in order to advance the investigation of the suspect’s possible responsibility and subsequent death of the child.

‘But astonishingly, the German police put him in a German jail, isolating him from the outside world, making any kind of investigation centred on the suspect impossible.

‘Little by little, the Germans built up the suspect’s profile as a rapist, paedophile and murderer, gathering similar Portuguese cases, accusing him of them, and then the great moment came and they named him to the world.

Investigators search the undergrowth near the Arade reservoir in the Algarve on Thursday

Investigators search the undergrowth near the Arade reservoir in the Algarve on Thursday

Authorities gather at a Judiciary Police makeshift base camp in the Arade dam area on Thursday during their investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

Authorities gather at a Judiciary Police makeshift base camp in the Arade dam area on Thursday during their investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

German search teams arrive at the reservoir on Thursday for the third day of the search

German search teams arrive at the reservoir on Thursday for the third day of the search

Investigators are hoping to find evidence of other potential victims targeted by the prime suspect in the case as well as clues about the missing girl

Investigators are hoping to find evidence of other potential victims targeted by the prime suspect in the case as well as clues about the missing girl

Investigators at Barragem do Arade reservoir as searches continue as part of the investigation

Investigators at Barragem do Arade reservoir as searches continue as part of the investigation 

‘In conclusion they did not allow a professional and serious investigation and made this individual a scapegoat as a suspect without any evidence or proof.’

Amaral ended his interview by claiming the case was being pushed by senior figures and said: ‘If the political pressures end, this case will end and there will be answers.’

Last year the McCanns lost a lengthy 13-year court battle against Amaral for the claims he made in his two books which shamelessly suggested they had been involved in her disappearance.

Amaral’s 2008 book Maddie: The Truth About The Lie, implicated the McCanns in their daughter’s abduction and accused them of hiding her body.

Their fight took him to the European Court of Human Rights and it rumbled on for years before coming to an end last September.

Their lawyers argued that the Portuguese authorities had breached their right to respect for a private and family life in the way the court in Lisbon dealt with their libel claim against Amaral.

Initially they had won their case in 2015 and Amaral was ordered to pay 500,000 euros in damages but he appealed and the case was overturned and eventually thrown out by the Portuguese supreme court in 2017.

It was then that Kate and Gerry decided to take the case to the ECHR in Strasbourg but judges there ruled against them and they later issued a statement saying they were ‘naturally disappointed’ with the ruling.

In another interview with Portuguese outlet Renascenca, Amaral even outrageously claimed detectives had contacted the factory where Madeleine’s pyjamas had been made, hinting this could be used to plant evidence against Brueckner.

He said how investigators had ‘these pyjamas from the factory that produced them and they were now in the hands of English authorities’.

Amaral controversially went on: ‘I don’t know under what conditions the pyjamas are kept and what could happen to them

‘The parents and friends cannot be held responsible so a scapegoat is needed and here it is. The Germans just want to prove that this individual has something to do with the case.’

He also blasted the German investigation that saw Brueckner convicted of the 2005 rape of an elderly American woman in Praia da Luz and for which he was jailed for seven years in 2019.

Amaral said: ‘The gynecological examination carried out at the Portimão Hospital, on the night the alleged crime took place, shows that there was no rape.

‘The individual is convicted for something that did not exist. The sheets etc were also collected from the woman’s house and nothing was found that had traces of this German.’

Investigators search the undergrowth for more evidence

Investigators search the undergrowth for more evidence

Investigators take pictures as they continue their search for Madeleine McCann

Investigators take pictures as they continue their search for Madeleine McCann

Portuguese authorities conduct a new search operation at Arade dam area on Thursday

Portuguese authorities conduct a new search operation at Arade dam area on Thursday

Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2007 while her parents were out for dinner

Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2007 while her parents were out for dinner

Brueckner was convicted after DNA was found on the sheets but he insists this was because he had stroked the victim’s cat and they had been transferred onto the bedclothes. 

Madeleine was aged three in May 2007 when she vanished from her bedroom in the apartment her family were staying at in the Praia da Luz resort on the Algarve coast. The reservoir is about 31 miles inland from the resort. 

The probe this week was first major search for the toddler in nine years and comes after German police discovered photos of Brueckner at his self-described ‘little paradise’ in the Portuguese region, it is understood.

German prosecutors last year named convicted child abuser and drug dealer Brueckner as the prime suspect in McCann’s disappearance. 

He is currently behind bars in Germany for raping a 72-year-old woman in the same area of the Algarve region from where McCann went missing.

The case, unsolved for the past 16 years, remains a mystery as no body has ever been found. It sparked a media frenzy in Britain, with developments also followed by outlets around the world and celebrities joining appeals to help find Madeleine.

The reservoir was searched by divers hired by a Portuguese lawyer in February and March 2008. Back then, the diving team leader described the ‘long process’ his team faced navigating the ‘black’ waters.

Marcos Aragao Correia organised the privately funded operation after claiming he had been tipped off that Madeleine had been murdered and her body thrown into the reservoir within 48 hours of her disappearance.

Two bags containing small bones were found during the second search after divers had earlier recovered several lengths of cord, some plastic tape and a single white cotton sock.

Portuguese police were alerted following the discovery but subsequently ruled out the possibility the bones were human because of their size.

Madeleine’s parents Gerry and Kate McCann had previously dismissed Mr Correia as a self-publicist and said there was no evidence suggesting any link between their daughter and the reservoir.

=Brueckner referred to the site as a 'little piece of paradise'

=Brueckner referred to the site as a ‘little piece of paradise’ 

Search teams arrive at the site as the search of the reservoir entered its third and final day

Search teams arrive at the site as the search of the reservoir entered its third and final day 

A group of detectives arrive at the reservoir on Thursday

A group of detectives arrive at the reservoir on Thursday

Police are aiming to build up a picture of sole suspect Christian Brueckner’s life on the Algarve and the places he frequented as they search the Barragem reservoir in Silves, Portugal

The dam, near the town of Silves where a lorry driver says he saw a woman handing a child like Madeleine over to a man two days after she went missing from her Praia da Luz holiday apartment on May 3, 2007, is not thought to have been searched since March 2008 as part of the ongoing investigation into her disappearance.

The search is the first major operation of its kind since June 2014 when British police were given permission to do digs in Praia da Luz that involved sniffer dogs trained in detecting bodies and ground-penetrating radar.

The Scotland Yard digs nearly nine years ago in Praia da Luz were linked to the leading UK police theory at the time Madeleine died during a break-in and burglars dumped her body nearby.

The searches failed to find any trace of the missing youngster.

In a smaller operation in July 2020 Portuguese police and firefighters searched three wells for Madeleine’s body but failed to find any trace of her.

The abandoned wells are a 15-minute drive from a cottage Brueckner rented on the outskirts of Praia de Luz, on a narrow road leading down to a beach where the paedophile used to park his VW camper van.

German prosecutor Wolters has consistently said he is convinced Madeleine is dead and caged paedophile Brueckner has been named as the sole suspect.

The deviant, currently serving time for the September 2005 rape of an American elderly woman in the resort where Madeleine vanished, has yet to face any formal accusation over the youngster’s disappearance.

Last April he was made an official suspect or arguido in Portugal over Madeleine’s disappearance, although his defence lawyer Friedrich Fulscher labelled it a ‘procedural trick’ linked to statute of limitations legislation at the time.

A group of detectives investigating Madeleine's disappearance arrive at the reservoir in the Algarve on Thursday

A group of detectives investigating Madeleine’s disappearance arrive at the reservoir in the Algarve on Thursday

The reservoir is located near the town of Silves, where a lorry driver had claimed to see a woman passing off a child resembling Maddie's description to a man two days after the toddler disappeared

The reservoir is located near the town of Silves, where a lorry driver had claimed to see a woman passing off a child resembling Maddie’s description to a man two days after the toddler disappeared

Police tents pitched up next to the reservoir on Thursday

Police tents pitched up next to the reservoir on Thursday

Investigators searching the area around the reservoir

Investigators searching the area around the reservoir

People cut down trees and shrubbery as they search for clues

People cut down trees and shrubbery as they search for clues 

Last autumn Bruecker was charged in Germany with several sex crimes on the Algarve against women and children including the rape of an Irish holiday rep in 2004 and the sexual abuse of a ten-year-old girl on a beach near Praia da Luz in 2007.

Brueckner’s lawyer revealed in April those charges had been dropped against him in a bombshell development after successfully arguing prosecutors had no jurisdiction over him in Braunschweig where the Madeleine case was being brought.

The case could end up with prosecutors in Saxony-Anhalt instead but an appeal lodged by the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office has yet to be decided.

Braunschweig prosecutor Mr Wolters has insisted they are still in control of the Madeleine McCann investigation and Brueckner, who denies any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance, remains in custody.

The Arade Dam, the Barragem do Arade in Portuguese, is fed by the watercourse of the Arade River whose source lies to the south-west of the Serra do Caldeirao mountain range and runs through the municipalities of Silves, Lagoa and Portimao before reaching the ocean.

Construction was completed in 1955 and it began operating the following year.



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