Sunday 8/9/20

Madeleine McCann investigators end two-day search of German allotment

The German suspect was sentenced to seven years in prison for aggravated rape following a 2005 attack in in Praia da Luz on a US woman, who was aged 72 at the time.
A police officer with a dog searches inside a garden as part of an investigation to find Madeleine McCann. Photo: Peter Steffen/dpa.
A police officer with a dog searches inside a garden as part of an investigation to find Madeleine McCann. Photo: Peter Steffen/dpa.

German police in the outskirts of the northern city of Hanover ended their search on Wednesday of a garden allotment used by the main suspect in the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

The operation that began Tuesday was part of a murder investigation involving a 43-year-old German suspect, prosecutors said, without revealing what they were looking for.

A drone and mini-excavator were used while several investigators were seen combing through the dirt with shovels and rakes.

On Wednesday evening the privacy screens that had been erected around the site came down and a police officer said the search had ended. It was not known if anything of interest was found.

The Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper reported that on Tuesday the foundations of an old building were found on the site and that a sniffer dog was used to search a space underneath a concrete slab. Police have not commented on the find and its significance is unclear.

The tenant of the neighbouring plot told no one had been on the allotment in the past two years. There was no garden house on the plot. Only blackberry bushes and a cherry tree were growing there.

The suspect, currently in custody for a drug dealing offence in Kiel, northern Germany, is suspected of having kidnapped Madeleine, then 3, from the Portuguese seaside resort of Praia da Luz in 2007, in a case that was met with an international media frenzy.

"Child is dead"

German investigators have said they believe the child is dead, but have not given their reasoning.

After Madeleine's disappearance, the suspect lived in Hanover. According to media reports, he lived in a van and worked not far from the allotment plot.

Federal criminal investigators have been looking into the German suspect on the basis of witness reports since 2013 but were until recently unable to gather a case against him.

The man is thought to have spent time living in the Algarve region of southern Portugal between 1995 and 2007.

In late 2019, the German suspect was sentenced to seven years in prison for aggravated rape following a 2005 attack in in Praia da Luz on a US woman, who was aged 72 at the time. The judgement is pending appeal.

The man also has a criminal record for child abuse.

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