Detective says 'significant development' in hunt for Madeleine McCann

‘It’s a significant development’: UK detective leading the hunt for Madeleine McCann says his team ‘know a lot about the suspect, but we need to know more’ – amid suggestions accomplices could be at large

  • Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell described 43-year-old prime suspect
  • He said the man was a ‘German national, white and about six foot in height’
  • Police appealed for anyone who may have seen a VW T3 Westfalia camper van 
  • Suspect also had a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with German number plate

Scotland Yard detectives investigating the case of Madeleine McCann have appealed to the public for information on a new prime suspect, 13 years after her disappearance.

Investigators established that the latest male suspect lived on and off in the Algarve, Portugal, between 1995 and 2007 – in what they are calling a ‘significant development’.

The German man, currently in a German prison for an unrelated offence, is connected to the area of Praia da Luz and surrounding regions, and spent some short spells in Germany, police said in a briefing today.     

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who leads Operation Grange,  told the press briefing: ‘He is a German national, he’s currently in a German prison for an unrelated matter. He’s white, he’s about six foot in height. 

‘He’s 43 now. At the time he was 30, but he could have looked aged somewhere between 25 and 32.

‘There may be people in the past, who have been quite fearful of coming forward to the police, and my message is to anybody that has information. 

‘Did, did he speak to you in confidence, and tell you what happened that night? And that is my message and the message really is associated with fact he is currently in prison.

‘And this might be a good time, this is a good time, to come forward and talk to, whether it’s the UK police, whether it’s the German police or the Portuguese police.’ 

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell (pictured) told the press briefing: ‘He is a German national, he’s currently in a German prison for an unrelated matter. He’s white, he’s about six foot in height’

The suspect, who is in prison in Germany for an unrelated matter, has been linked to an early 1980s camper van – with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal – which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007

It is believed that the suspect, a convicted paedophile, was living in the 1980s camper van at the time of Maddie’s disappearance

Police released these pictures of the VW T3 Westfalia campervan, used in and around Praia da Luz, Portugal, by a new suspect

Police are appealing for anyone who may have seen a a distinctive VW T3 Westfalia camper van in or around Praia da Luz on 3 May, the night Madeleine went missing, the days before, or weeks following her disappearance.

It is an early 1980s model, with two tone markings, a white upper body and a yellow skirting, with a Portuguese registration plate. 

The second vehicle is a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany.

This car is believed to have been in the Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007 and was originally registered in the suspect’s name, the Met said today.

He has also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007

The Jaguar was originally registered in the suspect’s name, but the day after Madeleine’s disappearance it was re-registered to someone else in Germany. To re-register the car in Germany you don’t have to have the car in the country or region

Both vehicles have been seized by German police, who say they are leading a murder investigation, although British police still insist it’s a missing person inquiry

On 4 May 2007, the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, the car was re-registered to someone else in Germany, detectives said.

To re-register the car in Germany you do not have to have the car in the country or region. Police believe the car was still in Portugal in the spring and summer of 2007.

The Met is asking for anyone who saw these cars together or individually at this time to come forward. Both these vehicles are now being held by the German authorities.

Mr Cranwell added: ‘The [campervan] colour tone is quite distinctive is quite old and probably described as a bit beaten up but it was a white upper body, and a yellow sort of lower body.

‘We know that that vehicle was in the area. Certainly the days leading up to it. And the week afterwards, I’m really interested if anybody can place that vehicle in certain areas or anywhere around Praia da Luz or surrounding areas. And did they see a German male, with that vehicle, was there anything suspicious about that? 

Madeleine McCann (left and right) would have turned 17 last month 

‘What we do now is that at various times he used the vehicle to live in, and certainly the week preceding he was in there, living. So he would he would move around the area using that van as probably his base.’ 

He added: ‘It’s a distinctive vehicle and i’m hoping that somebody will recognise it, even put a date to it, particularly campervan enthusiasts or anybody who just remembers the colour tone.’

German police are now in possession of the van, Mr Cranwell was unwilling to reveal whether the van had provided any forensic evidence.

Detective Mr Cranwell, said: ‘It’s more than 13 years since Madeleine went missing and none of us can imagine what it must be like for her family, not knowing what happened or where she is.

The news today has given hope to comes as a shot in the arm to her parents Kate and Gerry McCann, who have never given up hope in the search for their daughter

‘Following the ten- year anniversary, the Met received information about a German man who was known to have been in and around Praia da Luz.

‘We have been working with colleagues in Germany and Portugal and this man is a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.

‘The Met conducted a number of enquiries and in November 2017 engaged with the BKA who agreed to work with the Met.

‘Since then a huge amount of work has taken place by both the Met, the BKA and the Polícia Judiciária.

Madeleine vanished from this holiday apartment in the popular Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz – Apartment 5a – while her parents were with friends nearby and regularly checking on their three sleeping children

Scotland Yard is launching a ‘major’ joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ), just over 13 years after she vanished

‘While this male is a suspect we retain an open mind as to his involvement and this remains a missing person inquiry.

‘Our job as detectives is to follow the evidence, maintain an open mind and establish what happened on that day in May 2007.

‘Please contact us without delay so we can get answers for Madeleine’s family.’

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said: ‘Madeleine’s disappearance has attracted huge international interest. We are appealing for the public to help us establish what happened.

‘It is a complex investigation bringing challenges in different legal systems.

‘We are committed to do everything we can to establish what happened and to find Madeleine.’

How the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann unfolded over 13 years  


May 3: Gerry and Kate McCann leave their three children, including Maddie, asleep in their hotel apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, as they eat with friends in a nearby restaurant. When they return, they find Maddie missing from her bed

May 4: A friend of the McCanns reports of seeing a man carrying a child away in the night.  Meanwhile, airports and borders are put on high alert as search gets underway

May 14: Robert Mural, a property developer who lives a few yards from the hotel, is made a suspect by Portuguese police

May 30: The McCanns meet the Pope in Rome in a bid to bring worldwide attention to the search

August 11: Police in Portugal acknowledge for the first time in the investigation that Maddie might be dead. 

September 7: Spanish police make the McCanns official suspects in the disappearance. Two days later the family flies back to England


July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved


May 1: A computer-generated image of what Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns 


May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May 


April 25: After a year of reviewing the case, Scotland Yard announce they belief that Maddie could be alive and call on police in Portugal to reopen the case, but it falls on deaf ears amid ‘a lack of new evidence’

Kate and Gerry McCann mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine with the publication of the book written by her mother in 2011


July 4: Scotland Yard opens new investigation and claim to have identified 38 ‘people of interest’

October 24: A review into the investigation is opened by Portuguese police and new lines of inquiry are discovered, forcing them to reopen the case


January 29: British officers arrive in Portugal as a detailed investigation takes place. During the year, several locations are searched, including an area of scrubland near the resort 


October 28: British police announce that team investigating Maddie’s disappearance is reduced from 29 officers to just four, as it is also revealed that the investigation has cost £10million 


April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months  


March 11: Cash is once again pumped into keeping the investigation alive, with £85,000 granted to keep it running until September, when it is extended once again until April next year


March 27: The Home Office reveals it has allocated further funds to Operation Grange. The new fund is believed to be as large as £150,000

September 11: Parents fear as police hunt into daughter’s disappearance could be shelved within three weeks by the new Home Secretary amid funding cuts

September 26: Fresh hope in the search for Madeleine McCann as it emerges the Home Office is considering allocating more cash for the police to find her


April: Controversial new Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie’s kidnap is released, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls. They pair, who refused to take part in the eight hour programme series, slammed it for ‘potentially hindering’ the search for their daughter while an active police hunt is ongoing

June 5: The Home Office gives the Metropolitan Police enough funding to investigate for another year

June 22: Detectives say they are ‘closer than ever’ to solving the disappearance as they look into a new suspect. A joint effort by British and Portuguese police narrowed in on a ‘foreign’ man who was in the Algarve when she went missing in 2007

December 7: Paulo Pereira Cristovao, a long-time critic of Maddie’s parents who angered them with a controversial book about the mystery disappearance, was convicted of participating in the planning of two violent break-ins at properties in Lisbon and the nearby resort of Cascais. He is jailed for seven and a half years

December 11: Maddie’s revealed a touching list of what they miss most about their daughter as they spent their 13th Christmas without her


February 22: Scotland Yard detectives questioned a British expat about her German ex-boyfriend. Carol Hickman, 59, claims police entered her bar in Praia da Luz, Portugal to ask questions about her former partner 

March 27: Detectives requested extra money to continue their investigation into the disappearance of the toddler in Portugal back in 2007, with funds for the operation set to run out at the end of the month

 June 3: Police reveal that a 43-year-old German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.

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