MADELEINE McCann cops fear their new suspect murdered her – and that he had an accomplice who knows where her body is.
A new prime suspect in the infamous disappearance was yesterday revealed as a German paedo, in a huge breakthrough in the 13-year investigation.
The 43-year-old prisoner has not been named by British cops but was living in a campervan in Praia da Luz in Portugal around the time the youngster vanished on May 3, 2007.
Christian Hoppe, from Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), told the country's ZDF television channel the man is serving a prison sentence for a sex crime and has two previous convictions for "sexual contact with girls".
German newspaper Braunschweiger Zeitung reported the suspect is behind bars for seven years for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal in 2005.
The newspaper said he was convicted of the offence in Braunschweig district court in December last year.
Hoppe believes Madeleine may have been randomly targeted after the man broke into her family’s apartment.
He said: “We think that she might have become the victim of a homicide.”
Hoppe was also asked if the suspect could have had accomplices and replied: “We do not rule that out – besides the initial offender there might be others who have known about the crime, the location of Maddie’s body or even participated in the crime.”
The Metropolitan Police also revealed a 30-minute call was made to the suspect’s Portuguese phone around an hour before the three-year-old is feared to have been snatched from her holiday apartment as parents Kate and Gerry dined with pals nearby.
What we know…
- Madeleine McCann cops have sensationally revealed a new prime suspect in a major breakthrough
- The German paedophile, 43, was living in Praia de Luz, Portugal, when she disappeared
- He took a 30-minute call on his mobile around an hour before Maddie vanished
- The suspect is linked to a campervan he was reportedly living in at the time of the disappearance
- He also has links to a Jaguar XJR6 with a German plate seen in the area in 2006 and 2007
- German police are treating the disappearance as a murder inquiry and say the suspect is 'significant'
- Maddie's parents have welcomed the breakthrough and say they will 'never give up hope of finding her alive'
- Anyone with information for Operation Grange can ring 0207 321 9251 or email [email protected]
German cops believe the prolific burglar, who has previous convictions for sex crimes against young girls, may have initially gone to raid the McCanns' apartment before he "moved on to a sexual motive".
When asked whether the initial break-in was sexually motivated, Mr Hoppe said: “We cannot rule that out.
“But it is also possible that the suspect, after an initial intention of burglary, spontaneously moved on to a sexual motive.”
German cops are treating Maddie’s disappearance as murder – though the Met are still investigating the case as a missing person inquiry because there is “no definitive information” on whether she is dead or alive.
The man emerged as a “significant” suspect following a vital breakthrough in the case from a witness who came forward after a 10th anniversary appeal by the Met for information in 2017.
He was already known to British and Portuguese cops investigating the case but they had refused to disclose why the suspect is now in prison.
The suspect was aged 30 when Maddie vanished and at the time is said to have been living a “transient lifestyle” travelling between Portugal and Germany.
The man’s links to Portugal stretch back to 1995 when he was just 18, police said.
You can help by calling Operation Grange with information on 0207 321 9251 or email [email protected]
Scotland Yard said last night that the suspect has been linked to a 1980s VW T3 Westfalia white campervan with yellow skirting that was registered in Portugal and pictured in the Algarve in 2007 in another bombshell development.
Cops say he was driving the vehicle in the same town just days before Madeleine vanished and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after the date of her disappearance.
The German lag has also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and the surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.
German police believe one of the two vehicles was used in the disappearance of Maddie.
On May 4, 2007 – the day after Madeleine vanished – the man had the Jaguar re-registered in Germany under someone else's name although it is believed the vehicle remained in Portugal.
Cops refused to disclose if any forensic evidence was found linking either vehicle to Madeleine’s disappearance.
The suspect's mystery phonecall
The prime suspect took a mystery 30-minute call on his phone just one hour before Maddie vanished.
The suspect'ss number was +351 912 730 680.
DCI Cranwell said: “Extensive enquiries have led investigators to believe the suspect was using this number and received a call, starting at 7.32pm and finishing at 8.02pm on 3 May 2007.
“This call was received in the area of Praia da Luz.”
The number which called him is +351 916 510 683 – but cops have not found who was using it.
DCI Cranwell said: “This number is the phone number that made this call. We know the person was not in the area of Praia da Luz.
“Investigators believe the person who made this call is a highly significant witness and are appealing for them to get in touch.
“The Operation Grange team is also asking anyone if they recognise these numbers.
“Did you ever call them? Do you have them in your phone, an old phone or your electronic contacts?”
Scotland Yard has now launched a joint appeal with the BKA and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ) – with a £20,000 reward for information.
Met deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said: “The main line of inquiry is this suspect.
“All of us are determined to do whatever we can to establish what happened and to see if this man was involved in Madeleine’s disappearance.
“It is a significant development.
“As part of our investigation into this man, since 2017 we have been to Portugal and Germany.
“A huge amount of work has been carried out by the Met, BKA and PJ.”
The Met's £12million Operation Grange probe into the disappearance has identified more than 600 potentially significant suspects.
They were tipped off about the major new suspect, who was already known to police, following an appeal for information in 2017 – ten years after Madeleine vanished.
Detectives in Germany believe they have "almost enough evidence" to charge the new suspect, according to the Daily Mail.
The two cars used by the suspect – did you see them
The detective appealed for information on the vehicles used by the suspect.
He said: “The Operation Grange team is revealing details of two vehicles which the suspect is known to have had access to and used around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
“The first vehicle is a distinctive VW T3 Westfalia campervan. It is an early 1980s model, with two tone markings, a white upper body and a yellow skirting. It had a Portuguese registration plate.
“The suspect had access to this van from at least April 2007 until sometime after May 2007. It was used in and around the area of Praia da Luz.
“We believe he was living in this van for days, possibly weeks, and may have been using it on 3 May 2007.
“We are appealing for anyone who may have seen it in or around Praia da Luz on 3 May, the night Madeleine went missing, the days before, or weeks following the disappearance.
“The second vehicle is a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany.
“This car is believed to have been in the Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.
“The car was originally registered in the suspect’s name. On 4 May 2007, the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, the car was re-registered to someone else in Germany.
“To re-register the car in Germany you don’t have to have the car in the country or region. We believe the car was still in Portugal and would like information if you saw it.
“The Met is asking if anyone saw these cars together or individually during the spring and summer of 2007. Both of these vehicles are now held by the German authorities.”
Timeline of Maddie's disappearance
28 April 2007 The McCanns go on holiday at the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz.
3 May 2007 Madeleine disappears between 9.30pm and 10pm while her parents are out for dinner at a nearby tapas restaurant.
4 May 2007 Portuguese police investigation begins, the McCanns make an impassioned appeal for information – with Kate holding Madeleine's favourite toy, Cuddle Cat.
7 September 2007 During further questioning of Mr and Mrs McCann, detectives make them both suspects in their daughter's disappearance.
29 November 2007 Local pizza shop owner George Brook told British media he saw a "vicious looking" man and woman dragging a little blonde girl towards the marina at 6am. He said Portugese police ignored his report.
6 May 2009 After the McCann's appear on the Oprah Winfrey show, several witnesses come forward to say they had seen an "ugly" man with dark hair watching the McCann's apartment in the days leading up to Madeleine's disappearance.
6 August 2009 Police say they are looking for a "Victoria Beckham" lookalike in connection with Maddie's disappearance.
13 May 2011 Then prime minister David Cameron asks London's Metropolitan Police to help investigate the case.
9 March 2012 Portuguese police in Porto launch a review of the original investigation.
26 April 2012 Scotland Yard says Madeleine McCann may still be alive and release an artist's impression of what she may look like as a nine-year-old.
15 June 2013 The Home Office agrees to fund a full-scale investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
14 October 2013 Police release an e-fit of a man seen by witnesses carrying a small blonde child near the McCann's resort. The man was white with brown hair.
24 October 2013 Detectives in Portugal reopen the investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance after an internal review uncovers new lines of inquiry and witnesses who were never questioned during the original Portuguese investigation.
19 March 2014 British Police reveal they are looking for a man with tanned skin and unkempt long brown hair after a man of that description sexually abused five young girls in their beds between 2004 and 2010.
28 October 2015 The number of police officers devoted to the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance is reduced from 29 to four.
3 April 2016 Theresa May, then home secretary, grants Scotland Yard £95,000 in extra funding to continue the search for Madeleine.
12 March 2017 The Home Office gives police £85,000 to extend the search for Madeleine – known as Operation Grange – for a further six months. It takes the total spent on the investigation to beyond £11m.
2 May 2017 A secret Home Office report reveals Gerry and Kate McCann claimed they were treated badly by Portuguese police from the start of the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance – and they fell out with UK authorities too and later did not share with police information gathered by their own private investigators.
13 November 2018 Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine have received a further £150,000 in government funding.
4 May 2019 German child killer, Martin Ney,who matches an e-fit of man seen shortly after she vanished is named as a suspect in the case.
2 June 2019 Scotland Yard granted a further £300,000 for the investigation
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