Madeleine McCann: Key updates during search for missing girl
Authorities said a number of items were seized following search of reservoir
Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have confirmed they found a number of items during their three-day search of a reservoir last month.
Authorities had searched the area around the Barragem do Arade reservoir in Portugal that was described by suspect Christian Brueckner as his "paradise", following a reported tip off from a German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) informant.
The reservoir is around a 40-minute drive from the hotel where Madeleine disappeared in 2007 while on holiday with her family.
"A previously precisely defined area along the reservoir was completely searched for possible evidence," according to Braunschweig Public Prosecutor's Office. "A number of items were seized as part of the operation. These will be evaluated in the coming days and weeks.
"It is not yet possible to say whether some of the items are actually related to the Madeleine McCann case."
The German-led investigation began in May after they requested access to the Barragem do Arade reservoir, with teams using diggers and divers to carry out the search.
According to Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha, a clue was found during digging after teams focused on a specific area of the reservoir - with sources saying pieces of clothing and plastic were among items found on the site that are set to be sent for forensic analysis.
However, the McCann family may face a wait of months before the results of the analysis return, according to The Mirror, which reported that evidence had been sent to Germany in a process that may not yield results for many weeks.
Madeleine McCann detectives investigating ‘number of items’ seized from reservoir (Evening Standard, 2 mins)
What happened in reservoir search?
On the first day of the reservoir search, teams were seen scouring the banks – hammering away at the ground with pickaxes and combing through small rocks with rakes and spades.
The second two days saw police focused on an area of woodland on the peninsula.
Officers used shovels to excavate their area of focus, and sniffer dogs and pickaxes were also deployed over the course of the searches.
As some concentrated on the digging site, others used rakes and shovels to scour the surrounding area, slowly making their way through the recently trimmed undergrowth.
Divers were also spotted investigating the water.
The woodland showed pathways had been cut by heavy machinery, leading to the main, flattened 160 square foot excavation area. Holes dug by police had been left around 2ft deep.
Following the reservoir investigation, police are reportedly set to widen their search area.
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.”
Kate and Gerry forced to wait ‘weeks’ for reservoir search results (Independent, 5 mins)
Why did police begin the search?
German authorities have not revealed why they have requested access to the site, only to say it is in relation to the McCann case.
The prosecutor for the city of Braunschweig, Christian Wolters, said they were acting on the basis of "certain tips".
Authorities in Braunschweig were the ones to identify Brueckner as a suspect in the case in 2020.
Wolters told German public broadcaster NDR the new information had not come from the suspect and they did not have a confession or "any indication from the suspect of where it would make sense to search."
The Sun reported that investigators previously found photos and video of Brueckner at the reservoir. Citing a source close to the investigation, the MailOnline reported that police were looking for a gun and a camcorder belonging to Brueckner. Neither report has been confirmed by investigators.
What is the latest on the Madeleine McCann case?
Convicted paedophile Brueckner, 45, remains the prime suspect in the McCann case, but he has yet to face any charges and denies involvement.
The German national is currently serving a seven-year sentence for raping a 72-year-old US woman in 2005 in the Algarve – the same region of Portugal from where McCann disappeared.
In 2020 German police named a man they thought was "probably" responsible for the girl's abduction and murder – describing him only as "Christian B" due to the country's strict privacy laws.
He was then declared an official suspect by Portuguese police in April 2022, with subsequent reports suggesting authorities in Germany were poised to charge him.
In 2005, he raped a 72-year-old US widow at her home in Praia da Luz, which he is currently serving a prison sentence for.
Brueckner was convicted in 2017 of sexually abusing a child and "creating and possessing child pornographic material" in Germany and sentenced to 15 months in jail.
This week's search was the first major operation of its kind since June 2014 when British police were given permission to do digs in Praia da Luz that involved sniffer dogs trained in detecting bodies and ground-penetrating radar.
The reservoir being searched is near Silves where a lorry driver says he saw a woman handing a child-like Madeleine McCann over to a man two days after she went missing from her Praia da Luz holiday apartment on 3 May 2007.
It was searched twice in February and March 2008 by divers hired by a Portuguese lawyer.
Madeleine was just three years old when she vanished, and her disappearance has remained a high-profile case throughout, with detectives from the UK, Portugal and Germany trying to find the person responsible or her abduction.
Sex offences trial of Madeleine McCann suspect cancelled in Germany (The Guardian, 2 mins)
What else do we know about Christian Brueckner?
Born in Germany in 1976, Brueckner was 17 when he was convicted of molesting a six-year-old girl in a playground in his hometown of Wuerzburg, Bavaria, in 1994.
The following year, after he'd turned 18 and got his driving licence, he moved to the Algarve with his then-girlfriend in 1995, escaping a youth custody sentence and abandoning a car mechanic apprenticeship.
Brueckner, whose relationship soon ended, took on a variety of odd jobs at the Portuguese resort.
He was convicted in 2017 of sexually abusing a child and "creating and possessing child pornographic material" in Germany and sentenced to 15 months in jail.
In December 2019, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for the rape of an American woman. He is also being investigated for the rape of an Irish tour rep in 2004.
However, the serial sex offender, who is in his mid-40s, is yet to face any charges related to the McCann case so far due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
In April this year, five unrelated charges of rape and sexual assault against Brueckner were thrown out by a German court because he lived in a different region of the country at the time of the alleged offences.
The court’s decision means legal authorities in Braunschweig have no jurisdiction over Madeleine’s case.
Who is Christian Brueckner? (The Independent, 4 min read)