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CRIME

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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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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