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Police end search at Portugal dam in Madeleine McCann case

Police have used sniffer dogs and a drone to search the reservoir banks
Police have used sniffer dogs and a drone to search the reservoir banks - Copyright AFP FILIPE AMORIM
Police have used sniffer dogs and a drone to search the reservoir banks - Copyright AFP FILIPE AMORIM

Police scouring a reservoir in southern Portugal hoping to shed light on the 2007 disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann said Thursday they had finished their three-day search.

The child was three years old when she went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in the Algarve 16 years ago, while her parents were dining at a nearby tapas bar.

Despite an international manhunt, no trace of the girl has been found and no one has been charged over her disappearance.

Police from Portugal, Germany and Britain as well as Portuguese firefighters have been involved in the search of the banks of the Arade dam, which got under way on Tuesday.

“The material collected will be handed to the German authorities,” Portuguese police said in a statement.

They gave no details on what had been collected, nor on what the goal of the operation had been.

The search resumed this week at the request of German authorities, who have said since 2020 that they are convinced the British girl is dead.

They suspect the involvement of a German multiple sex offender, who is in prison in Germany for a rape in Portugal.

On Wednesday, investigators had used a brushcutter on caterpillar tracks to raze bushes and trees from the dry banks of the reservoir, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from where Maddie went missing in the tourist resort of Praia da Luz.

Local media have said they had taken samples of earth and collected shreds of cloth from the cordoned-off area but had not found anything connected to the case.

Police had combed the site, in the Silves area, in 2008 but divers had found only animal remains, the media said.

German judicial authorities say the man in question is Christian Brueckner, considered the chief suspect in the Maddie case after spending several years living in the Algarve.

According to Portuguese magazine Expresso, testimony from a “credible” informer found by German investigators had prompted the new searches near the Arade reservoir.

Newspaper Correio da Manha said police were searching for a pink blanket or the pyjamas Maddie was wearing the night she disappeared on May 3, 2007, just before her fourth birthday.

They have used tracker dogs, probes and a drone to comb the area, which local media said Brueckner visited regularly.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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