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Portugal police end latest search for clues of missing British girl

Police search teams prepare to set out from an operation tent near Barragem do Arade, Portugal, Wednesday May 24, 2023.
Joao Matos
Police search teams prepare to set out from an operation tent near Barragem do Arade, Portugal, Wednesday May 24, 2023.

LISBON, Portugal — Police in Portugal have ended the latest search for clues regarding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the British child who went missing in 2007 in southern Portugal.

Authorities gave no details about the results of the search Thursday. A statement by Portugal's Judiciary Police said some material had been collected and would be handed over to German authorities for examination.

The search around a dam some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Praia da Luz resort, where the 3-year-old girl was last seen 16 years ago, began Tuesday following a request by German authorities.

A German man who is a suspect in the case is currently in jail in Germany for a different case.

Portuguese, German and British police took part in the three-day operation during which detectives probed the banks of the Arade reservoir and also used sniffer dogs and a drone.

Germany prosecutor Christian Wolters told the Associated Press Thursday authorities would gauge the success of the search after its conclusion, adding that a statement may be issued next week.

Portuguese media said this was the fourth police search for McCann, following the initial one in 2007 in the southern Algarve area and further efforts in 2013 and 2014. Another search was held in Germany in 2020.

The reservoir is less than half full because of a drought affecting Portugal and neighboring Spain. The search would've been below the water line under normal rainfall.

In mid-2020, German officials said that a 45-year-old German citizen, identified by media as Christian Brueckner, who was in the Algarve in 2007, was a suspect in the case. Brueckner has denied any involvement.

Brueckner is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in Germany for raping a 72-year-old woman in Portugal in 2005.

He is under investigation on suspicion of murder in the McCann case but hasn't been charged. He spent many years in Portugal, including in Praia da Luz, around the time of Madeleine's disappearance.

The case of Madeleine McCann stirred worldwide interest for several years, with reports of sightings of her stretching as far away as Australia, along with a slew of books and television documentaries about the case.

British, Portuguese and German police are still piecing together what happened on the night when the toddler disappeared from her bed in the southern Portuguese resort on May 3, 2007. She was in the same room as her twin brother and sister, who were 2 years old at the time, while her parents had dinner with friends at a nearby restaurant.

Madeleine's parents did not comment due to the active investigation, according to an email response from the website set up for the search for the child, findmadeleine.com.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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