‘Unbelievably difficult’ McCanns face ‘massive dilemma’ as Maddie revelations emerge

Madeleine McCann: A timeline of key dates and developments

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At the end of April, Christian B, a convicted child sexual abuser currently imprisoned in Oldenburg, was named an “arguido”, or main suspect, in Maddie’s disappearance by Portuguese authorities. Charlie Hedges, a former UK police officer who was previously head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection unit at the National Crime Agency, told that the legal move, though “common sense” on behalf of investigators, left the McCanns in an “unbelievably difficult” situation.

Christian B was named as prime suspect by German public prosecutors investigating Madeleine’s disappearance in Braunschweig in 2020.

He has always denied all allegations in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

However, in a letter purportedly penned by Christian B, he told MailOnline: “I did nothing – well almost nothing”.

Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, welcomed the latest news as reflecting “progress in the investigation”.

Writing on the official Find Madeleine Facebook page, the couple said: “Even though the possibility may be slim, we have not given up hope that Madeleine is still alive and we will be reunited with her.”

Mr Hedges suggested that the forces investigating the case and Madeleine’s parents may have differing objectives.

The Portuguese authority’s naming of Christian B as a prime suspect suggests a confluence of opinion among investigators on someone German prosecutors believe is ultimately responsible for Madeleine’s death.

A recent report claiming the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Grange is to be shut down in the autumn also alleged that officers investigating the case had been unable to gather sufficient evidence against Christian B – suggesting UK police also likely view him as a suspect.

Mr Hedges said: “It’s one of those massive dilemmas for parents in these situations. As long as Madeleine or whoever is missing, is not found, they can hang on to the hope that she will one day be found, because it does happen occasionally – it’s very, very rare, but it does happen.

“They will always hang onto that hope even if it’s an unrealistic hope. They will always want to believe that maybe she’ll just pop up.”

He added that revelations like these that the McCanns had been receiving for the last 15 years meant they would be “on a rollercoaster” emotionally.

Mr Hedges continued: “There’s a dilemma [in] that they don’t want him to have done it because that then cancels out the chances of finding her – they know, finally, that she’s dead. So they’re caught in this dreadful dilemma.

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“And that’s the horror of the situation: for 15 years, they’ve been living that. And every time there’s some sort of new speculation, or some new information comes to light, they’ll think: ‘Yes, great, it will be resolved’.

“But it also means that if it is resolved, then we know she’s dead, and we’re never going to see her again. Really, a horrible, horrific situation to be in and I think it’s just unbelievably difficult.”

Hans Christian Wolters, spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig, has previously said they hope to “solve” the disappearance, and recently told this website that their investigation remained “ongoing” and appeared unlikely to end soon.

While some hoped the arguido status may lead to a charge in Portugal ahead of next Tuesday’s May 3 cut-off date, investigators and experts alike poured cold water on an immediate charge.

Mr Hedges explained the arguido status had been enacted so that investigations into Christian B could continue after the statute of limitations had run out. “It doesn’t mean anyone’s going to be charged, but without it, you can’t move to a charge,” he added.

“I wouldn’t expect him to be whisked off there straightaway. I think people will say it’s only been done because of the deadline.

“And if they haven’t got enough to charge him, and he is a suspect, it just seems common sense that you would actually go through that process so as not to lose everything all together, rather than some of the speculation [that] they’ve been forced to do it by the deadline approaching.

“If I were investigating a case, and I knew that was looming, I’d have to seriously think: would it be sensible to invoke that status to ensure that everything doesn’t grind to a halt now, when there’s still the prospect of getting more evidence and potentially being able to charge him?”

Meanwhile, Mr Wolters told the Guardian he believed it was “rather unlikely there will be an indictment in Portugal”. He agreed the move had been made so that “the statute of limitations can be prevented” when speaking to last week.

Aagje Ieven, secretary general of Missing Children Europe, previously stressed “how important that is, for parents to be able to close such cases” as the uncertainty of the fate of a missing child breeds “complex grief” among family members.

The 15th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance is next Tuesday, May 3.

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