Portuguese police to search reservoir for Madeleine McCann
An active search for Madeleine McCann is to be carried out for the first time in nearly a decade in a reservoir in Portugal.
Police officers are to search Barragem do Arade reservoir near the town of Silves in the Algarve, about 25 miles (40km) from Praia da Luz where Madeleine disappeared aged three from her family’s holiday apartment on 3 May 2007.
The search is to be conducted by Portuguese officers at the behest of German authorities. The public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig is investigating a convicted paedophile, Christian Brückner, 45.
The German newspaper Bild first reported that Brückner may have had friends in the area. It is understood the prosecutor’s office is to issue a statement on Tuesday when the search of the reservoir and surrounding forest will begin in earnest. It is estimated it will take two days.
On Monday, a road leading to Barragem do Arade reservoir, which has an average depth of about 14 metres, was blocked and police tents were seen. The reservoir was reportedly searched in 2008 and bones found in a bag were judged to be of “non-human origin”. It remains unclear why the police have chosen to search the reservoir again at this point.
Images of Portuguese officers walking along dry tracks near the reservoir and sealing off areas with police tape began emerging on Monday afternoon.
On Monday evening Portugal’s judicial police released a statement confirming local media reports that they would conduct the search at the request of the German authorities and in the presence of British officials.
This will be the first major operation of its kind since June 2014, when the Metropolitan police received permission from Portuguese officials to search the holiday resort of Praia da Luz with search dogs and ground-penetrating radar.
Kate and Gerry McCann were dining at a nearby tapas restaurant when Madeleine disappeared, triggering one of the most highly publicised missing person cases in British history.
German police said in June 2020 that the girl was assumed dead and Brückner was probably responsible for her disappearance. He has not been charged with any offences connected with Madeleine’s disappearance, and has denied any involvement.
However, the Met police continue to treat it as a missing person case under Operation Grange, the multimillion-pound investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance. The Met referred all media inquiries to German authorities.
Brückner is now in a German prison serving a sentence for rape. Last month, a German court said it was cancelling a sexual offences trial against Brückner on charges unrelated to McCann’s disappearance, on the grounds that the region where it is located is not the last place he lived in Germany.
He was charged last year by German prosecutors in Braunschweig with three offences of aggravated rape of women and two offences of sexual abuse of children. The alleged offences took place in Portugal between December 2000 and July 2017. They are not linked to Madeleine’s disappearance.
Earlier this month, the McCanns issued a short statement on their Find Madeleine campaign website to mark the 16th anniversary of her disappearance. “Today marks the 16th anniversary of Madeleine’s abduction,” they said. “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.”
Last year, the McCanns lost a European court of human rights (ECHR) challenge to the Portuguese supreme court’s decision to throw out a libel case against a former detective who claimed they were implicated in their daughter’s disappearance.
The couple sued Gonçalo Amaral, who led the botched police search for Madeleine in 2007, over statements he made in a book, documentary and newspaper interview alleging their involvement.
In 2015, a Lisbon court ordered Amaral, a former detective inspector, to pay €500,000 (£440,000) to Madeleine’s parents. However, an appeal court overturned the decision the next year and, in 2017, the supreme court also found against the McCanns.
The couple went to the ECHR to seek redress but a chamber of seven judges unanimously decided there had been no violation of their rights.