Madeleine McCann latest: What we know and don't know about hunt for missing girl

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
Madeleine McCann is thought to be dead and a suspect has been arrested on suspicion of murder, German authorities say. (PA)
Madeleine McCann is thought to be dead and a suspect has been arrested on suspicion of murder, German authorities say. (PA)

German police investigating Madeleine McCann’s disappearance have been searching a garden plot in the north of the country.

Further details on what they are looking for there have not been revealed but it is the latest development in the search for the missing girl, who vanished in 2007.

The case was brought back into the spotlight after German authorities announced in June they had identified a new suspect in the case – a man called Christian B – who is being investigated for her murder.

Here is what we know about the case so far.

What’s happened today?

Prosecutors said police in Germany are searching a garden plot near the northern city of Hanover.

Julia Meyer, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig, confirmed reports in the German press that police had been at the site since Monday and have been using an excavator.

Police are searching an allotment garden plot near Hanover. (Picture Alliance via Getty Images)
Police are searching an allotment garden plot near Hanover. (Picture Alliance via Getty Images)
Police search a patch of land in relation to the Madeleine McCann investigation. (Picture Alliance via Getty Images)
Police search a patch of land in relation to the Madeleine McCann investigation. (Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

“The procedure is taking place in connection with our investigation regarding Maddie McCann,” she has said.

Meyer said she could not give any further details, adding that police would “still need some more time to finish”.

Who is the main suspect?

The suspect’s name has not been officially released by German authorities but he was widely identified by German media as Christian B.

He is said to have been in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz when Madeleine went missing in 2007.

He is in a German prison for drug dealing, and is appealing against a conviction for the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old woman, also at Praia da Luz.

His last registered address was in Braunschweig, about 40 miles from Hanover.

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How did Madeleine McCann disappear?

Madeleine was three when she went missing during a family holiday in Praia da Luz, a seaside resort in the Algarve on 3 May 2007.

Parents Kate and Gerry left her asleep in their holiday apartment with her two siblings while they ate at a nearby tapas restaurant.

The ground floor apartment in Praia Da Luz from where Madeleine McCann went missing. (PA)
The ground floor apartment in Praia Da Luz from where Madeleine McCann went missing. (PA)

Gerry McCann checked on the children shortly after 9pm but when Kate went about an hour later, Madeleine was gone.

Her parents have spent the intervening 13 years searching for her and investigators have identified dozens of persons of interest.

However, it was earlier this year that German authorities announced a new suspect and sparked renewed media attention on the case.

What evidence do police have about Madeleine’s disappearance?

In June, German authorities said they had identified a new suspect – later identified as Christian B – and discussed the evidence they were working with.

They said a half-hour call was made to their suspect’s mobile about an hour before Madeleine is thought to have gone missing.

He has also been linked to an early 1980s VW T3 Westfalia camper van, which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007.

The Metropolitan Police has said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days leading up to the disappearance.

Madeleine has been missing since 2007. (PA Images)
Madeleine has been missing since 2007. (PA Images)

He has also been connected to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate which was seen in Praia da Luz and nearby places in 2006 and 2007.

Authorities have released photos of properties linked to the suspect and have asked for people to come forward if they have information – including people who may have been a victim and holidaymakers who took photos in that area around the time when Madeleine went missing.

Is this a murder investigation?

The British and German officials appear to be saying different things on the matter.

The Braunschweig state prosecutor, Hans Christian Wolters, said in June: “The public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig is investigating a 43-year-old German national on suspicion of murder.”

Hans Christian Wolters, a spokesman for Brunswick prosecutor's office, addressed the media about the McCann case. (Photo by AXEL BRUNOTTE/AFP via Getty Images)
Hans Christian Wolters, a spokesman for Brunswick prosecutor's office, addressed the media about the McCann case. (Photo by AXEL BRUNOTTE/AFP via Getty Images)

The German Federal Criminal Police Office released a statement that said there is “reason to assume that there are other persons, apart from the suspect, who have concrete knowledge of the course of the crime and maybe also of the place where the body was left”.

However, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who leads the Met’s contribution to the search for Madeleine, said: “While this male is a suspect we retain an open mind as to his involvement and this remains a missing person inquiry.”

What does the family say?

Kate and Gerry McCann last month denied media reports that they had received a letter from German investigators which said there is evidence their daughter has died.

In a statement posted online, they said: “Since the recent police appeals regarding Madeleine’s disappearance there have been many inaccurate stories reported in the media.

The McCanns have said they did not receive a letter from German investigators saying there is proof Madeleine is dead. (PA Images)
The McCanns have said they did not receive a letter from German investigators saying there is proof Madeleine is dead. (PA Images)

“The widely reported news that we have a received a letter from the German authorities that states there is evidence or proof that Madeleine is dead is false.

“Like many unsubstantiated stories in the media, this has caused unnecessary anxiety to friends and family and once again disrupted our lives.

“As we have stated many times before, we will not give a running commentary on the investigation – that is the job of the law enforcement agencies and we will support them in any way requested.”