Police used sniffer dogs and pickaxes in their new search for Madeleine McCann on the banks of a reservoir in Portugal.
Today saw the start of a fresh hunt for Maddie in a man-made dam where the paedophile suspected of killing the then-three-year-old regularly visited.
Emergency service divers were seen on a rigid-hull inflatable boat early this morning at the Barragem do Arade – around 30 miles from Praia da Luz, where the little girl went missing in 2007.
Officers concentrated their search at one area of the reservoir – erecting white tents on a hill on the banks.
Further around the water, emergency services and officials from Portugal, Germany and the UK were seen holding briefings near blue police tents.
Plain-clothed officers spent multiple hours hammering away at the ground with pickaxes and combing through small rocks with rakes and spades while accompanied by sniffer dogs.
A track leading to the search area was cordoned off with police tape and marked vehicles from Portugal’s National Republican Guard.
On Monday, Portuguese police broke their silence on the search and confirmed reports about their co-ordinated searches in the Algarve – at the request of German police and in the presence of British officers.
The Metropolitan Police said officers will be there in order to inform Madeleine’s family if there are any developments.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said: ‘The Met continues to work with and support colleagues in Portugal and Germany, with their investigations into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
‘Met officers will be in Portugal and I am grateful to the Policia Judiciaria and Bundeskriminalamt for allowing us to be present whilst their work is ongoing, so that we can inform Madeleine’s family of any developments.’
A brief statement from the prosecutor’s office in the German city of Braunschweig confirmed the search, but did not reveal why it was taking place.
Braunschweig prosecutor Christian Wolters told reporters that investigators were acting on the basis of ‘certain tips’ but would not give further details.
Four teams of officers from the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria are involved in the operation, along with at least 20 of their German counterparts, Portuguese news outlet SIC said.
It has been reported that the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance, convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, 45, spent time in the area between 2000 and 2017.
A no-fly zone covering the whole of the dam has been put in place, leaving the airspace above the water and land near the water’s edge where today’s search focused open to police drones only.
Brueckner, who is currently serving time for the rape of a 72-year-old woman, reportedly called the reservoir his ‘little paradise’.
He is facing charges in Germany over a number of separate sex offences allegedly committed in Portugal. He has denied involvement in Maddie’s disappearance.
This is not the first time the reservoir has been searched. In 2008, Portuguese lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia paid for specialist divers to search it after he claimed to have been tipped off by criminal contacts that Madeleine’s body was there.
Madeleine’s parents Gerry and Kate McCann had previously dismissed Mr Correia as a self-publicist and said there was no evidence suggesting any link between their daughter and the reservoir.
The most recent search in Portugal in relation to her disappearance was in 2014, when British police were given permission to examine scrubland near where she vanished.
Earlier this month, Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann posted a short statement on their Find Madeleine Campaign website to mark the anniversary of her disappearance.
They said: ‘Today marks the 16th anniversary of Madeleine’s abduction. Still missing… still very much missed.
‘It is hard to find the words to convey how we feel. The police investigation continues, and we await a breakthrough.’
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