During a press conference held on Thursday June 4th, Hans Christian Wolters, from the Braunschweig Public Prosecutor's Office, said: “In connection with the disappearance of the then 3-year-old British girl Madeleine Beth McCann on May 3rd, 2007 from an apartment complex in Praia da Luz in Portugal, Braunschweig prosecutors are investigating a 43-year-old German citizen on suspicion of murder.”
“You can infer from that we assume the girl is dead.”
“With the suspect, we are talking about a sexual predator who has already been convicted of crimes against little girls and he's already serving a long sentence.”
The suspect has been named in German media as Christian B.
Madeleine, aged three, vanished from an apartment at a holiday complex in southern Portugal in 2007, sparking a huge investigation.
Portuguese police closed their case in 2008 but theories about what might have happened to the girl continue to swirl.
Detectives in Britain and Germany said on Wednesday night a 43-year-old German man with a history of child sex abuse was now a prime suspect, raising hopes of a breakthrough.
The parents of Madeleine, known as “Maddie” welcomed a new appeal for information about the suspect in her high profile disappearance, their spokesman said on Thursday.
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Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry, told the BBC: “They are grateful and they welcome this appeal.
“They have not given up hope of finding Madeleine alive, despite the length of time – they've never given up that hope.
“But they are realistic and they say that whatever the outcome of this appeal and the police work, they do need to know because they need to find peace.”
German suspect lived in the Algarve
The Metropolitan Police in London, which opened its own inquiry in 2013, said on Wednesday the new suspect was identified after a tip-off in 2017.
They alerted their German counterparts and police in Portugal were also contacted.
Madeleine McCann's parents in 2002. Photo: DPA
The man was initially convicted of drug trafficking and in 2019 for raping a senior citizen in Portugal. The convictions took place in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, reported Spiegel Online.
He regularly lived between 1995 and 2007 in the Algarve – the same region as the Praia da Luz resort the girl disappeared from – and did occasional jobs in the area, including in the catering industry, police said.
Police cited two vehicles the suspect was known to have used as well as two phone numbers.
Mitchell echoed British police in calling the suspect's identification “significant”.
“Of all the thousands of leads and potential suspects that have been mentioned in the past or discussed in the media, there has never been something as clear-cut as that from not just one, but indeed now three, police forces,” he said.
British police have insisted they are treating their probe as a missing persons case.
But lead investigator Christian Hoppe told Germany's ZDF television their inquiry had led police to suspect that the man had killed Madeleine.
Mitchell added the family wanted closure.
“They simply want to establish what happened to their daughter, to find out the truth and to bring whoever was responsible for her disappearance to justice,” he said.