A new suspect is being investigated in connection to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the British toddler who vanished from her family's vacation apartment in 2007, officials said. British and German authorities announced this week what they described as a "significant new line of inquiry."
Madeleine was last seen on May 3, 2007 sleeping in the apartment her family was staying in while vacationing in Portugal. She was just three years old. She has never been found and no one has ever been charged in her disappearance.
German and British officials on Wednesday both said the new suspect is a 43-year-old German man. He has previously been convicted of sexually abusing children and is currently serving a "long" jail sentence on an "unrelated matter," and now is being investigated for "possible murder" in connection to Madeleine's case, the German State Prosecutor's office of Braunschweig, State of Lower-Saxony said in a statement.
The suspect lived in Portugal's Algarve region from 1995 to 2007, residing in a house in Praia de Luz, the resort from which Madeleine vanished, the prosecutor's office said. Additionally, details surrounding two cars allegedly linked to the suspect around the time of Madeleine's disappearance have been released.
"The first vehicle is a distinctive VW T3 Westfalia campervan. It is an early 1980s model, with two tone markings, a white upper body and a yellow skirting. It had a Portuguese registration plate," Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom said in a statement. "The suspect had access to this van from at least April 2007 until sometime after May 2007. It was used in and around the area of Praia da Luz.
"The second vehicle is a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany," the statement continued. "This car is believed to have been in the Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007. The car was originally registered in the suspect's name. On 4 May 2007, the day after Madeleine's disappearance, the car 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. We believe the car was still in Portugal and would like information if you saw it."
Both of these vehicles are now in custody in Germany.
Metropolitan Police began reviewing Madeleine's disappearance in 2011 and launched a large-scale investigation known as Operation Grange. Their effort has cost at least £11.75m, or $14.7 million, as of June 2019.
"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," Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who leads Operation Grange, said in a statement Wednesday.
In November 2017, the Met engaged with Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA, which agreed to work on the case. “Since then a huge amount of work has taken place by both the Met, the BKA and the Polícia Judiciária," Cranwell said.
Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, on Wednesday thanked the "police forces involved for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine."
"All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice. We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace," they said in a statement
U.K. authorities are offering a reward for £20,000, or about $25,000, in exchange for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.
“Our job as detectives is to follow the evidence, maintain an open mind and establish what happened on that day in May 2007," Cranwell said. "Please contact us without delay so we can get answers for Madeleine’s family."