Police search garden allotment in Hanover in ‘Maddie’ case

Police were on Tuesday searching an allotment plot in the northern German city of Hanover in connection with the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann, deploying an excavator and sniffer dogs to the scene.

Police search garden allotment in Hanover in 'Maddie' case
The parents of Madeleine McCann hold up a photo of their daughter in London in 2012. Photo: DPA

“I can confirm that the search is being carried out in connection with our investigations into the Maddie McCann case,” Brunswick prosecutor Julia Meyer told AFP, when asked about the move first reported by local newspaper Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

Police began searching the site in the early hours of Tuesday morning, clearing trees and using an excavator to dig up the area.

Several police vehicles were parked along the side, while officers with spades were shovelling in the cordonned-off zone. Police also used a forklift to transport large stones out of the area.

Meyer gave no details of how the plot was connected to the case or what they were hoping to find.

Police raised hopes in June that the mystery over the 2007 disappearance of three-year-old “Maddie” could finally be solved when they revealed they are investigating 43-year-old German Christian B.

READ ALSO: German 'Maddie' suspect refuses to speak about case

Police revealed in June that they were investigating a 43-year-old German man over the 2007 disappearance of three-year-old “Maddie”, saying they believe he killed her.

Madeleine went missing from her family's holiday apartment in the Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday, as her parents dined with friends at a nearby tapas bar.

Despite a huge international manhunt, no trace of her has been found, nor has anyone been charged over her disappearance.

The suspect, who was not named by police but identified by German media as Christian B., has a history of previous sex offences including child sex offences and rape. He is currently serving a sentence for drug trafficking in Kiel.

He has applied to be released early on probation after having completed two-thirds of the sentence, with a decision still pending.

READ ALSO: 'Concrete evidence' that Madeleine McCann is dead, say German prosecutors

A court in Brunswick had separately sentenced Christian B. to seven years in prison last December for an assault against a 72-year-old American tourist in 2005 — in the same seaside village of Praia da Luz where Maddie went missing.

But that sentence has not yet been finalised pending an appeal by the defendant's lawyers over extradition technicalities.

'Concrete evidence'

According to police, the suspect lived in the Algarve region of Portugal between 1995 and 2007.

He made a living doing odd jobs in the area where Madeleine was taken, and also burgled hotel rooms and holiday flats.

German prosecutors said in June they had “concrete evidence” that Madeleine is dead, despite British police continuing to treat her disappearance as a missing persons case.

However, despite repeated appeals for information, prosecutors have no forensic evidence and have so far not filed any formal charges.

In a recent TV appeal, investigators said they were looking for the owner of a Portuguese mobile phone number that Christian B. had called in May 2007.

Following the stunning revelation from German police that Christian B. could be linked to the missing British girl, investigators elsewhere in Europe were once again looking at cold cases of missing children or teens.

Belgium reopened an investigation into the 1996 murder of a German teenager Carola Titze, 16, who was found dead and mutilated in July 1996 in the resort town of De Haan on the Belgian coast.

In the Netherlands, investigators are taking a closer look at the unexplained disappearance in 1995 of Jair Soares, a seven-year-old Portuguese child.

While living in Hanover, Christian B. received fines for forgery in 2010 and for theft in 2013, according to a report by German news agency DPA.

He split his time between Germany and Portugal from 2013 to 2015, the report said, citing prosecutors in Hanover.

At the end of 2012, he reportedly opened a small shop in Brunswick with his then girlfriend.

After they split up, he continued to run the shop alone until he gave it up 18 months later, along with the adjacent apartment.

Investigators have said Christian B. would only be questioned in connection with the Madeleine McCann case after the investigation is concluded, so that they could present him with the findings of the probe.

By Marion Payet and Femke Colborne

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101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard on Monday once again denied being complicit in war crimes during the Holocaust as his trial drew to a close in Germany.

101-year-old former Nazi guard pleads innocent in German trial

Josef Schütz, the oldest person so far to face trial over Nazi crimes during World War II, is accused of involvement in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, has pleaded innocent throughout the trial, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said again at the close of the proceedings, his voice wavering.

Dressed in a grey shirt and pyjama bottoms and sitting in a wheelchair, Schütz insisted he had had nothing to do with the atrocities and was “telling the truth”.

READ ALSO: Ex-Nazi death camp secretary who fled trial to face court in Germany

Prosecutors say he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the crimes as a guard at the camp and are seeking to punish him with five years behind bars.

But Schütz’s lawyer, Stefan Waterkamp, said that since there were no photographs of him wearing an SS uniform, the case was based on “hints” of his possible involvement.

“As early as 1973, investigators had information about him but did not pursue him. At the time, witnesses could have been heard but now they are all dead or no longer able to speak,” Waterkamp said.

Former Nazi guard

The 101-year-old former Nazi guard covers his face at the Neuruppin courthouse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

It would be a mistake for the court to try to “make up for the mistakes of a previous generation of judges”, the lawyer said.

Antoine Grumbach, 80, whose father died in Sachsenhausen, told AFP Schuetz “does not want to remember”, calling it “a form of defence”.

The trial was not just about “putting a centenarian in prison”, he said. It had also produced evidence that Sachsenhausen was an “experimental extermination camp”.

“All the cruellest methods were invented there and then exported,” Grumbach said.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor