German prosecutors assume Madeleine McCann is dead, parents say they’ll ‘never give up hope’

By Bill Smith and Josie Le Blond Time of article published39m ago

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Berlin/London – The state prosecutor’s office in the northern German city of Braunschweig on Thursday said it was working on the assumption that Madeleine McCann, the British girl who went missing while on holiday with her parents in 2007, is dead.

The prosecutor’s office said it was investigating a 43-year-old German man who has been convicted of multiple sexual offences as a murder suspect in the case.

“We assume the girl is dead,” spokesman Hans Christian Wolters told journalists in Braunschweig on Thursday.

Wolters did not take press questions and said the authority would give no further details on the case while investigations were ongoing.

Police have said the suspect is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for another crime.

Madeleine, who was 3 years old at the time, vanished from her family’s holiday apartment in the Portuguese village of Praia da Luz in May 2007 while her parents were having dinner at a nearby restaurant.

British police said a German man has been identified as a suspect in the case of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann who disappeared 13 years ago while on a family holiday in Portugal. File picture: AP

The case made international headlines and, at one point, Portuguese police made her parents the suspects.

Meanwhile in Britain, Madeleine’s parents thanked police for their investigation and said they will “never give up hope” of finding her alive.

Parents Kate and Gerry McCann believed the identification of the German suspect on Wednesday was “potentially very significant,” Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for the couple, told the BBC.

“Of all the thousands of leads and potential suspects that have been mentioned in the past, there has never been something as clear cut as that,” Mitchell said.

A reporter takes a picture of the house where the suspect lived when three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2007, near Lagos, Portugal. Picture: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who leads an investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police, appealed for more witnesses to come forward, saying he retains “an open mind as to [the German suspect’s] involvement, and this remains a missing person inquiry.”

The McCanns welcomed the new appeal and thanked the police “for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine.”

“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,” the BBC quoted them as saying in a statement.

Police from Britain, Germany and Portugal launched a new joint appeal for information in the Madeleine McCann case. They asked to come forward anyone who had seen two vehicles linked to the suspect the Volkswagen camper van and a Jaguar. Picture: Bundeskriminalamt via AP

The current German suspect, who has served multiple jail sentences for child sex abuse, had lived in southern Portugal’s Algarve region between 1995 and 2007 at regular intervals, including in a house that was between Lagos and Praia da Luz for several years.

“Based on information available here, he had several odd jobs in the Lagos area during this time, including one in catering,” German police said on Wednesday.

They added there was information suggesting he committed criminal offences, such as burgling holiday flats, to earn his living.

A German man has been identified as a suspect in the case of 3-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann, who disappeared 13 years ago while on holiday in Portugal. Police from Britain, Germany and Portugal launched a new joint appeal for anyone who had seen two vehicles linked to the suspect – the Volkswagen camper van and a Jaguar – to come forward. Picture: Bundeskriminalamt via AP

The Braunschweiger Zeitung newspaper said the suspect was convicted of rape last year.

After dropping the case in 2008, Portuguese officials had reopened the investigation in October 2013 due to the presence of new leads.

dpa