Madeleine McCann latest: soil found at Portugal reservoir to be compared with dirt found at main suspect's van

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Madeleine McCann was three-years-old when she went missing while on a family holiday in Portugal in 2007

Madeleine McCann investigators are reportedly comparing soil they found at a reservoir in Portugal to samples of dirt found in main suspect Christian Brueckner’s camper van. Detectives believe they may be able to use the soil to prove that Brueckner’s VW Westfalia was at the Arade dam reservoir in Portugal, where police have recently searched, at around the time the three-year-old vanished in 2007.

The latest update comes days after the police were said to be preparing to search two more areas which have been linked to Brueckner, as the hunt for the missing toddler goes on. At the same time, it was confirmed that "a number of items" were found during a recent search of the Portuguese reservoir.

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One "well-placed" source told The Mirror that police hope to "close the net around Brueckner" by showing through soil sample analysis that his van was there. They added: "A positive match of the soil they already have from the vehicle with the earth they removed during the search last week will be another important piece of evidence against him. It will be a slight setback if the forensics people don’t get a match but at this stage investigators remain hopeful."

Police spent three days last month looking for clues into the three-year-old’s disappearance at a remote reservoir near Praia De Luz, the Portuguese holiday resort where Madeleine went missing 16 years ago. They also now want to look at at least two different areas in the resort where Brueckner allegedly visited, according to The Sun.

Police officers from Portugal, the UK and Germany searched the Arade dam, which is 50km from Praia da Luz, between Tuesday (23 May) and Thursday (25 May) and revealed that they found “materials” which have now been sent for testing. No information has yet been released about what that material was, or what the results of the tests have been.

The Braunschweig Public Prosecutor's Office said on 1 June: "A number of items were seized as part of the operation. These will be evaluated in the coming days and weeks. It is not yet possible to say whether some of the items are actually related to the Madeleine McCann case," as reported by Sky News. Portuguese police also confirmed that the search concluded on Thursday, and said that materials which had been found had been sent to Germany for testing, as confirmed by the PA news agency. Portuguese daily Expresso said earlier this week that police had collected some objects including fabrics and garments during their search, but said that the first day of searching on Tuesday had ended with no significant results.

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At the same time, it was reported that a British couple found a 'shrine' to the missing child in an area close to the isolated site. The retired pair then said they discovered a makeshift memorial, consisting of a photograph of the missing toddler surrounded by flowers and stones, at Christmas in 2007, the same year that Madeleine went missing. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Ralf said: “I immediately contacted the BKA in Germany and told them what we had and I had a reply back within a few hours.

“They wanted to know everything that we had seen and then they asked me to send them the pictures and they sent a map of the reservoir, asking me to point out where the stones were. As the crow flies, it was just half a mile across the water from the picnic spot where the police were digging last week.”

It is thought that the dam became a place of interest in the case after it was revealed that the prime suspect in the disappearance, Brueckner, allegedly visited the area days after she was taken from her bed on 3 May 2007, according to a police informant, as reported by The Times

A source told The Sun: “German officers have gone through more than 8,000 pictures belonging to Christian B. That forensic work led them to Barragem - but there are other places that have come up in the pictures too. Detectives are seeking to work out where they are and why Christian B was taking pictures of those places.”

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Madeleine McCann, who would now be 20-years-old, has been missing for 16 years.Madeleine McCann, who would now be 20-years-old, has been missing for 16 years.
Madeleine McCann, who would now be 20-years-old, has been missing for 16 years. | PA

A tip-off about the dam supposedly came from a former friend of Brueckner and search teams were said to have been given maps showing detailed locations to excavate based on the information that person gave to police. The police informant also said that investigators believe Madeleine could have been alive for two or three days after she vanished.

As part of the search, a police motorboat was sent into the water with two officers on it and the banks of the reservoir were searched with the help of sniffer dogs, rakes and pickaxes. Trees surrounding the reservoir were also cut back, with shovels being used to excavate the area in the search for the missing girl. Specialist forest workers used strimmers and heavy machinery to cut back the woodland. Expert divers are also thought to have entered the water.

Officers concentrated their search at one area of the reservoir and erected white tents on a hill on the banks, which have now been taken down. Further around the water, emergency services and officials from all three countries were seen holding briefings near blue police tents which have also been removed. A small section of woodland was clearly marked out during the search, and uniformed and plain-clothed officers spent many hours in that area scouring the banks, hammering away at the ground with pickaxes and combing through small rocks with rakes and spades.

German authorities have not publicly revealed what specifically triggered the search of the Arade dam, but Christian Wolters, prosecutor for the city of Braunschweig, has said that the search was prompted by "certain tips". Portuguese police have confirmed that it is German police who requested for the search of the reservoir, as it is allegedly a site that suspect Christian Brueckner would visit. German authorities found photos of the reservoir at Brueckner's home when he was arrested six years ago, according to The Times.

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Police have been searching a reservoir in Portugal as the search for missing Madeleine McCann continues.Police have been searching a reservoir in Portugal as the search for missing Madeleine McCann continues.
Police have been searching a reservoir in Portugal as the search for missing Madeleine McCann continues. | PA/NationalWorld/Kim Mogg

Brueckner has always denied involvement in Madeleine's disappearance, but he has been a main suspect in the case for the last year. He is currently in prison for the rape of a woman in the same area of Portugal were Madeleine went missing but he has not been charged with any crime related to the youngster's disappearance.

German prosecutor Christian Wolter said last week that the search had taken place on the basis of "certain tips", according to The Mirror. He said: "I can't disclose the background at the moment, like why we are searching there and what we hope to find there. That shall remain our secret for the moment". He said he was unable at this stage to give more detail on what prompted the search, and what officials were hoping to find, but said that such details would be released "if we . . . think the results are publishable."

Portuguese authorities from the Judicial Police criminal investigation unit work during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann at the Arade dam, in Silves, near Praia da Luz, on 23 May, 2023. (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images)Portuguese authorities from the Judicial Police criminal investigation unit work during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann at the Arade dam, in Silves, near Praia da Luz, on 23 May, 2023. (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images)
Portuguese authorities from the Judicial Police criminal investigation unit work during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann at the Arade dam, in Silves, near Praia da Luz, on 23 May, 2023. (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Portuguese firefighterOfficials are seen during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in the Arade dam, in Silves, near Praia da Luz, on 23 May, 2023.  (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images)Portuguese firefighterOfficials are seen during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in the Arade dam, in Silves, near Praia da Luz, on 23 May, 2023.  (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images)
Portuguese firefighterOfficials are seen during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in the Arade dam, in Silves, near Praia da Luz, on 23 May, 2023. (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Portuguese Judicial Police criminal investigation unit members prepare at the base camp near the Arade dam, in Silves, on 24 May, 2023 on the second day of a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images)Portuguese Judicial Police criminal investigation unit members prepare at the base camp near the Arade dam, in Silves, on 24 May, 2023 on the second day of a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images)
Portuguese Judicial Police criminal investigation unit members prepare at the base camp near the Arade dam, in Silves, on 24 May, 2023 on the second day of a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM / AFP) (Photo by FILIPE AMORIM/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Mr Wolter told German TV station RTL in a separate statement: "They are not tips that come from the accused... but you can imagine that we don't start searching somewhere in Portugal on the off chance, but that there must be a good reason for it. We do have [a clue], but I ask for your understanding that I cannot disclose it here at the moment for tactical reasons."

Sources close to Brueckner's legal team, however, said any new searches will be a “waste of time”. A source told the Sun: “He didn't kill Madeleine and all of this is taking attention away from the job of finding out who really did”.

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The dam was searched previously in the early days of the investigation into the tot's disappearance on at least two occasions in 2008. At the time, Lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia paid thousands of pounds for the private search at the dam as he said he was convinced that the huge expanse of water was "the perfect hiding place" for an abductor to conceal a body, according to the Evening Standard. He added that underworld contacts told him Madeleine was raped, murdered and then her body was dumped there within 48 hours of her disappearance.

He also said he believed the abductor killed the child, weighed down her body and then threw it from a pumping tower into the murky water beneath. Two bags containing small bones were then found during the second 2008 search of the dam after divers earlier recovered several lengths of cord, some plastic tape and a single white cotton sock. The discovery was subsequently ruled out by Portuguese police, however, as it was determined that the bones could not be human due to their size.

A map showing where new searches for Madeleine McCann took place at Arade Dam in 2023, and also where the todder went missing in 2007 in Praia da Luz.A map showing where new searches for Madeleine McCann took place at Arade Dam in 2023, and also where the todder went missing in 2007 in Praia da Luz.
A map showing where new searches for Madeleine McCann took place at Arade Dam in 2023, and also where the todder went missing in 2007 in Praia da Luz. | NationalWorld/Kim Mogg

Madeleine's parents Gerry and Kate McCann had previously dismissed Correia's claims and have said they do not believe there was any evidence of a link between their missing daughter and the reservoir, as reported by the Daily Mail. The McCann's have not yet commented publicly on this latest development.

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