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Investigators are looking for a body, but also for anything that could help the investigation, such as clothing
A three-day search of a remote Portugal reservoir has resulted in the reported discovery of a “relevant clue” linked to the disappearace of Madeleine McCann.
Officers concluded their search of the Algarve reservoir on Thursday, where key suspect Christian Brueckner reportedly visited “some days” after the three-year-old vanished on May 3, 2007.
Using sniffer dogs and a tractor-based tree-cutter, authorities scoured Barragem do Arade reservoir in the Algarve - around 50km inland from where the McCanns were staying in the Praia de Luz resort.
Police in Portugal said: “[The search] resulted in the collection of some material that will be subject to the competent expertise. The material collected will be handed over to the German authorities.”
During the search, a “relevant clue” was found that led to police officers concentrating on a specific item, according to the Correio de Manhã newspaper.
A source close to the investigation told Reuters there was nothing tangible to report, while German prosecutor Christian Wolters played down hopes of a breakthrough, saying: “Of course, there is a certain expectation, but it is not high.”
He added that the investigators were looking for a body, but also for anything that could help the investigation, such as clothing.
Mr Wolters said he did not expect the results of the studies of the collected samples to be announced any time soon.
Madeleine was three when she vanished while on holiday with her parents in Praia da Luz, after they left her and her twin siblings asleep in their apartment while they went out to dinner with friends.
The new search operation was carried out at the request of German investigators who believe their prime suspect, convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner (45), kidnapped and murdered the youngster.
He is in prison in Germany for the rape of a woman in Praia da Luz in 2005, and is suspected of further rapes and child sexual abuse committed in the area between 2000 and 2017.
German authorities have not revealed what triggered the latest search operation, but the prosecutor for the city of Braunschweig, Christian Wolters, said they were acting on the basis of “certain tips”.
He told German public broadcaster NDR the new information had not come from the suspect and they did not have a confession or “any indication from the suspect of where it would make sense to search”.
The Sun newspaper reported that investigators previously found photos and video of Brueckner at the reservoir.
He has reportedly denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.
British police who assisted their Portuguese and German counterparts at the Arade reservoir had left by early Thursday afternoon, followed by German investigators who packed up their tents at a camp on a hill.
As part of this latest three-day investigation, police dug holes of around 60cm and these have been left, along with piles of soil, now that authorities have left thearea.
The surrounding woodland showed pathways had been cut by heavy machinery, leading to the main flattened 15-square-metre excavation area. A no-fly zone was also imposed over the reservoir for the first two days.
Broken rocks were also scattered around the site in Portugal after pickaxes were used by personnel over the course of three days.
The small area close to the banks of the Barragem do Arade has been clearly marked out. The cordon around the site has since been lifted, and evidence of attempts to cut the vast undergrowth was clear, with large branches and bushes lining freshly made pathways.
In a statement, police in Portugal said: “[The search] resulted in the collection of some material that will be subject to the competent expertise. The material collected will be handed over to the German authorities.”