Madeleine McCann: Police and divers surround Portugal dam in search for missing girl

ITV News correspondent Emma Murphy reports from the scene of the police search at a dam in a remote area of the Algarve, Portugal

Police divers have been spotted at a dam in Portugal as part of an investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, police in the country have confirmed.

A Policia Judiciaria statement said it is co-ordinating searches in the Algarve at the request of German police and in the presence of British officers.

They broke ground on Tuesday morning with pickaxes, creating long lines leading down towards the water.

Police work on the banks of the Arade dam near Silves, Portugal, on Tuesday. Credit: AP

The search, expected to take at least two days, will be carried out in an area near the Barragem do Arade reservoir, around 50km from Praia da Luz where Madeleine went missing in 2007.

The area has been searched previously in 2008, in the hunt for Madeleine.

It was sealed off ahead of searches, as investigators descended on the area with white tents on the edge of the waterway, and diving equipment.

Police divers were seen by the water early on Tuesday at the Barragem do Arade reservoir.

A police motor boat was seen with two officers aboard, while white tents were set up on the reservoir's banks.

The Metropolitan Police said officers are in Portugal so they can inform Madeleine’s family of any news.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said: “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.”

In 2010, Jim Gamble, a child protection expert and former police officer, was asked by the government to conduct a review into how the Madeleine McCann investigation was handled.

A timeline of events since Madeleine McCann went missing 16 years ago

On this latest search, Mr Gamble said: "The German authorities are positive, I think they have information that quite rightly they're not sharing with the wider public."

"And that's why it'll be interesting to see whether this search is very focused and deliberate or whether it's simply needle in a haystack, searching everywhere.

"I think it's going to be focused and deliberate."

Police erected tents around the dam search site on Tuesday. Credit: AP

The official suspect in the British girl's disappearance, convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, spent time in the area between 2000 and 2017. He has not been charged by authorities.

Investigators believe Madeleine, then aged three, was abducted from a holiday apartment and then killed.

Brueckner, who has denied involvement in the youngster's disappearance, was identified as a suspect by Portuguese officials in June 2020, then officially named last year.

In 2020, German police said they were investigating a man in connection with the case called Christian Brueckner. Credit: Police handout

On Tuesday morning, German prosecutors released a statement saying they were working with Portuguese counterparts on criminal procedures related to the McCann case, but were not able to comment on the search.

In 2008, Portuguese lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia paid for specialist divers to check the waterway after he claimed to have been tipped off by criminal contacts that Madeleine's body was in the reservoir.

Drone footage captures the Portugal dam and wider area where the police search will begin

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.

Last October, prosecutors in the northern German city of Braunschweig charged Brueckner in several separate cases involving sexual offences allegedly committed in Portugal between 2000 and 2017.

Earlier this month, Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry issued a short statement on their Find Madeleine Campaign website to mark the anniversary of her disappearance.

Portuguese police at the Arade dam on Tuesday, around 50km from where Madeleine McCann went missing. Credit: AP

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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