Madeleine McCann: Key developments in the 16-year investigation you may have missed

Police are searching a reservoir close to the hotel where the three-year-old disappeared in 2007

Madeleine McCann's parents declined to participate in forthcoming Netflix documentary
Madeleine McCann's parents declined to participate in forthcoming Netflix documentary. (PA)

Police are currently searching a reservoir in Portugal as part of the 16-year-long investigation into the disappearance of missing Madeleine McCann, who disappeared from a hotel room in Praia da Luz in May 2007.

The development comes more than a year after police named German national Christian Brueckner as a suspect in the case in April 2022.

Brueckner is a convicted paedophile, currently in prison for the rape of a 72-year-old woman, who was living close to the area where the McCanns went on holiday in 2007.

He has not been charged in the case but has been named as an "arguido", or suspect, and has denied being involved in the Madeleine's disappearance.

The public attention on Madeleine has been unique for missing person's case – but there are still some elements to the case that may have been forgotten, particularly given how long it has been active for.

Here are some of the biggest moments you may have not been aware of:

Restaurant kept note of children being unattended

General view of the resort and apartment, first floor on the right, where British girl Madeleine McCann disappeared one year ago from their holiday hotel, Friday May 2, 2008, at Praia da Luz beach, Lagos, Portugal. Madeleine McCann disappeared from her family's hotel room during a vacation in Portugal's southern Algarve region on May 3, 2007. (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)
The resort and apartment where Madeleine McCann disappeared during a family holiday. (AP)

The McCanns were dining with friends at a tapas bar in the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz the night of Madeleine's disappearance, with members of the party going back to the bedrooms 100 yards away to check on their sleeping children.

According to Madeleine's mother Kate McCann, the party had requested a group booking close to their apartments so they could check on the kids – something that to her horror she saw was noted in the reservations book left open for anyone to see.

In Kate McCann's book Madeleine, she wrote: "This book was by definition accessible to all staff and, albeit unintentionally, probably to guests and visitors, too.

"To my horror, I saw that, no doubt in all innocence, the receptionist had added that we wanted to eat close to our apartments as we were leaving our young children alone there and checking on them intermittently."

Reservoir has been searched before

SILVES, PORTUGAL - MAY 24: German and Portuguese Judiciary police members observe the search area by the waterline for remains of Madeleine McCann at Arade reservoir at Barragem do Arade Reservoir on May 24, 2023 in Silves, Portugal. British girl, Madeleine McCann, aged 3, went missing from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia Da Luz on the Portuguese Algarve in May 2007. German Prosecutors believe that a German national convicted of child sex offences was responsible for her abduction and possible death. The suspect is known to have visited the Portuguese reservoir several times in 2007. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos/Getty Images)
The area around the Arade reservoir has been searched previously as part of the police case into missing Madeleine McCann. (Getty Images)

Police are now searching a reservoir around 31 miles from the resort where the McCanns were staying in what appears to be a response to "tip offs" about the area that may provide a development in the investigation.

German prosecutor Christian Wolter said: "We are investigating in Portugal on the basis of certain tips.

"I can't disclose the background at the moment, like why we are searching there and what we hope to find there. That shall remain our secret for the moment."

The area, which key suspect Brueckner allegedly referred to as his "paradise" has been searched previously – back in 2008, when specialist divers checked the area. However, they did not find anything.

Police currently have around 30 officers in the area, while a search boat was also deployed.

Newspaper group paid McCanns £550,000 in damages

Spokesman for the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann, Clarence Mitchell,  holds a copy of the Daily Express outside the High Court in London March 19, 2008. Two British tabloid newspapers 
made unprecedented front page apologies on Wednesday to the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann for suggesting they might have killed their daughter and covered up her death. 
  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN)
The Daily Express was one of two tabloids which made front page apologies to the McCanns after suggesting they were responsible for their daughter's disappearance. (Reuters)

The McCanns' story was plastered all over newspapers in the UK and further afield as the family desperately attempted to find the missing girl.

However, some newspapers' coverage of the parents – Kate and Gerry McCann – suggested they were responsible for her death.

The Daily Express and Daily Star had to print front page apologies after the couple successfully sued for libel.

The papers said: "We acknowledge that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this theory and that Kate and Gerry are completely innocent of any involvement in their daughter's disappearance."

Express Newspapers, which owned both publications at the time, had to pay £550,000 in damages.

The McCanns said in a statement: "We are pleased that Express Newspapers have today admitted the utter falsity of the numerous grotesque and grossly defamatory allegations that their titles published about us on a sustained basis over many months."

Police believe Madeleine was 'killed in Portugal'

MILAN, ITALY -  This undated handout image supplied by the Carabinieri Milano shows a police mug shot of Christian Brueckner, a suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann in 2007 from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal. The image was taken in 2018 in Milan where Brueckner was arrested and extradited to Germany for the rape he is currently imprisoned for. (Photo by Carabinieri Milano via Getty Images)
A police mug shot of Christian Brueckner, whom police have named as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. (Carabinieri Milano via Getty Images)

In 2021, police said they believed that Madeleine was killed in Portugal, changing their theory that she had been taken abroad following her disappearance.

After naming Brueckner as a suspect in the case, police said they initially thought he had might have taken Madeleine to Germany – prompting a search of places he had lived previously.

However, in 2021, prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said he believed he would eventually be able to charge Brueckner with Madeleine's death.

When asked where he believed she had been killed, Wolters responded "in Portugal".

The Metropolitan Police are continuing to treat Madeleine's case as a missing person's investigation, while her parents said they "hang on to the hope, however small, that we will see Madeleine again".

Police widening search area

Police are reportedly set to widen their search following a three-day search in May 2023 of a Portuguese reservoir once described by prime suspect Brueckner as his "paradise".

According to the Sun, investigators looked through more than 8,000 photographs belonging to Brueckner and believe there are other locations that could yield further clues in Madeleine's disappearance.

A source told the newspaper that the photographs led investigators to the reservoir but that "there are other places that have come up in the pictures too.

“Detectives are seeking to work out where they are and why Christian B was taking pictures of those places.”