Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann now believe she was killed in Portugal by German suspect Christian Brueckner.
Detectives initially feared the convicted rapist had moved Madeleine to Germany from Praia da Luz, where the three-year-old vanished 14 years ago.
But now prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the McCann investigation in Germany, claims the police are convinced she died in Portugal, reports the Sunday Mirror.
He has previously said he has ‘concrete evidence’ Bruckner, 44, killed Madeleine.
It comes after Madeleine’s parents said this month they ‘hang on to hope, however small’ that they will see their daughter again on what would have been her 18th birthday.
Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (left) now believe she was killed in Portugal by German suspect Christian Brueckner (right)
Three-year-old Madeleine, known as Maddie, vanished from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007. Pictured: Praia da Luz beach (file)
But now prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the McCann investigation in Germany, claims the police are convinced she died in Portugal
The disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann, known as Maddie, disappeared from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.
She was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann; her two-year-old twin siblings; and a group of family friends and their children.
She and the twins had been left asleep at the apartment, while the McCanns and friends dined in a restaurant 55 metres (180 ft) away.
The parents checked on the children throughout the evening, until Kate discovered she was missing at 10pm.
What followed is widely regarded as one of the most reported on missing person investigations in the world.
Portuguese authorities closed their enquiries in July 2008 but Maddie’s parents continued with private detectives.
Scotland Yard launched their own investigation – Operation Grange – in 2011 and enquiries are ongoing.
Brueckner is currently serving a prison term in Germany for raping a pensioner in Portugal and is thought to be the man responsible for her abduction.
Three-year-old Madeleine, known as Maddie, vanished from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.
She had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas restaurant with friends.
Mr Walters earlier this week revealed that new evidence has been gathered in recent days, though he declined to reveal specifics.
Investigators believe convicted child sex offender Brueckner – referred to as Christian B in Germany due to the country’s strict privacy laws – murdered Madeleine after abducting her from the holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.
When asked where he believed Maddie was killed, Mr Wolters told the newspaper: ‘In Portugal. I am optimistic we will solve this case.’
Authorities hope to be in a position to charge Brueckner by the end of the summer, with a reconstruction soon due to take place in the Praia da Luz resort following a tip-off from a key witness.
Mr Wolters told the Sun on Wednesday: ‘We are still building the case and at some time in the future we shall share the details with the suspect and his lawyer — but now is not the time.
‘I cannot disclose the type of evidence we have been given, it is not forensic I can tell you that but it is new circumstantial evidence which all adds to the working theory that he is the man responsible.
‘We have always insisted that the man we identified as the main suspect is the man we believe committed the crime and we are not looking for anyone else. I am optimistic that we will solve this case.’
Last July, German police found a hidden cellar at an allotment near Hanover where Brueckner allegedly lived in 2007.
Police discovered the basement in the foundations of a building which had been demolished later that year.
Mr Walters told the Sunday Mirror: ‘Since Christian B did not have the allotment at the time of Maddie’s disappearance, he could not have buried a body there.’
Police officers were seen carrying large blue bags away from a German allotment where kidnapping suspect Christian Brueckner allegedly lived in 2007
Kate and Gerry (pictured in 2017) will lay presents and cards in her bedroom which is understood to remain as a shrine to her and unchanged since she was snatched 14 years ago
It comes after Madeleine’s parents said this month they ‘hang on to hope, however small’ that they will see their daughter again as they marked the 14th anniversary of her disappearance alone.
In a message shared online earlier this month, Kate and Gerry McCann noted that this year’s anniversary was even more poignant because it would have been missing Maddie’s 18th birthday.
The message, which was shared on the Find Madeleine website, read: ‘Every May is tough – a reminder of years passed, of years together lost, or stolen.
‘This year it is particularly poignant as we should be celebrating Madeleine’s 18th birthday. Enough said.’
On Friday, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick vowed to continue the search for Madeleine.
The Met has so far spent more than £12.5 million since 2011 investigating Madeleine’s disappearance as part of Operation Grange.
Interviewed on LBC by Nick Ferrari, Commissioner Dick said the investigation will ‘continue until there is nothing left do do’.
She said: ‘We are working closely with Portuguese authorities and the German authorities, and we will continue until there is nothing left to do.’
Asked if there are funding issues with the investigation, she said: ‘There is not a funding issue. So far (we have) received support every time we have felt there was a line of inquiry to pursue.’
To continue the investigation, the Met has to secure a special grant from the Home Office to continue the probe.
Detectives received a further £300,000 in March to continue the investigation until 2022.
Brueckner was identified as a suspect in June, but prosecutors do not have enough evidence to charge him.
At the time, the Met said its active investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, Operation Grange, is a missing person inquiry as there is no ‘definitive evidence whether Madeleine is alive or dead’.
Brueckner is currently serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking and is expected to remain behind bars until 2026 after losing a bid to overturn a rape conviction.
He was last year found guilty of the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in the same Portuguese resort from which Madeleine vanished and sentenced to seven years in jail, at a court in Brunswick, Lower Saxony.