German police looking for Madeleine McCann‘s body are about to begin a major search of a remote Algarve reservoir suspect Cristian Brueckner used to visit.
Police in Portugal are soon expected to start closing off roads leading to the man-made dam near the town of Silves in southern Portugal ahead of the official start of the search tomorrow.
Scotland Yard detectives are understood to have travelled to the area but only with a ‘watching brief.’ German police are expected to arrive later, having received permission to search the ‘area of interest’ that Brueckner called his ‘little paradise’.
The search is set to last for at least two days and beyond that if anything of relevance is found.
It will be the first major operation of its kind since June 2014 when British police were given permission to dig in Praia da Luz – where Madeleine disappeared – using sniffer dogs trained in detecting bodies and ground-penetrating radar.
Police will search the reservoir in southern Portugal for the body of Madeleine McCann
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
German police looking for Madeleine McCann’s body are about to begin a major search of a remote Algarve reservoir suspect Cristian Brueckner used to visit. Pictured: Barragem reservoir in Silves
Officials were pictured starting to gather at the site of the reservoir ahead of the search
Local police set up cordons ahead of the major search expected to last at least two days
It was not immediately clear what had prompted this week’s operation, and whether it was hastily-arranged after police in Germany received a new tip-off or had been organised over time as prosecutors there continue to try to build up a picture of sole suspect Christian Brueckner’s life on the Algarve and the places he frequented.
Portuguese broadcaster SIC reported that German police sought permission to search the damn in an official judicial request to Portugual after concluding it was ‘an area of interest’.
Who is sole suspect Christian Brueckner?
Christian Brueckner is a German native and sex offender named as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
He was officially named as a suspect in 2022 after his yellow and white VW T3 Westfalia campervan was reportedly spotted near the Praia da Luz resort in Portugal where Maddie vanished.
Brueckner has denied he was in the area at the time and distanced himself from the allegations against him.
He remains the sole significant suspect in the case since 2007.
Now, German police will search the area investigators believe to be a getaway from the offender.
A lorry driver says that 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 May 3 2007.
It was searched twice in February and March 2008 by divers hired by a Portuguese lawyer.
Expert divers are now set to explore the murky depths of the dam around the Barragem do Arade reservoir, but digs will also take place in woodland by the water.
A peninsula just over a mile long jutting into the reservoir was sealed off just after midday today, ahead of the dive.
Several local council lorries were also spotted on the land as tents were set up.
In another area, just under a mile away, Portuguese Civil Protection workers were seen setting up a tent alongside police.
There was no clear sign of German police on hand on Monday, although they are expected to arrive later today.
Portuguese officials have no yet made any official comment.
One well-placed source described the new search as a German-led operation which was being coordinated with the help of Portuguese police and was linked to information the authorities had gleaned pointing to regular trips Brueckner had made to the dam.
The insider said: ‘Portuguese police will offer logistical support but the initiative is German and they were the ones that requested the work that is going to take place this week.
‘Scotland Yard officers are due to travel to Portugal but theirs will be a watching brief.’
Marcos Aragao Correia organised the privately-funded operation after claiming he had been tipped off by underworld contacts that Madeleine had been murdered and her body thrown into the reservoir within 48 hours of her disappearance.
Two bags containing small bones were found during the second search after divers had earlier recovered several lengths of cord, some plastic tape and a single white cotton sock.
Portuguese police were alerted following the discovery but subsequently ruled out the possibility the bones were human because of their size.
Last year, suspect Christian Brueckner spoke out for the first time on the case, denying allegations he was involved in her disappearance in a letter seen by MailOnline.
Made an official suspect in the case in April 2022, he stressed that he was ‘not there at the time and that he was not living close to the place [of her disappearance].’
Brueckner, linked to four child murders across Europe since 1996, said: ‘I’m the most-known bad person in the world and I did nothing – well almost nothing.’
He added: ‘I wasn’t kidnapping anybody and of course I wasn’t killing anybody.
‘I’ll go further, I’ll tell you I wasn’t attacking anybody after I was 18.
‘I made some silly mistakes when I was younger but who hasn’t?’
Brueckner has yet to face any formal accusation over the youngster’s disappearance.
On 12 May, the family posted a video to mark their daughter’s 20th birthday.
The slideshow featured images of Madeleine and missing person posters put up since her disappearance.
‘We love you and we’re waiting for you. We’re never going to give up,’ it read.
Madeleine Beth McCann went missing from her bed while on holiday with her family on the evening of May 3 2007, aged three.
The McCanns were themselves given ‘arguido’ suspect status in September 2007, which was lifted when the case was archived in July 2008 for lack of evidence.
The family kept the investigation open with private detectives until Scotland Yard opened its own enquiry in 2011.
Nine years later, police in Braunschweig identified a convicted paedophile and German national as a new suspect.
In 2021, prosecutors said they were ‘100% sure‘ they had the right man.
Hans Wolters said evidence included phone analysis placing him at the Ocean Club resort the family was staying at when Madeleine went missing and an alleged confession Brueckner made to a friend.
In April, it was reported Christian Brueckner may not face charges in Germany over Madeleine’s disappearance after a court ruled prosecutors had no jurisdiction to pursue a case against him, however.
Officials were seen nearby earlier today, setting up tents ahead of the major search
Local police were pictured on scene. German police investigating are expected to arrive later
Handout picture of Madeleine McCann, who went missing in Portugal on May 3 2007
Barragem reservoir in Silves, southern Portugal, where police will start to look for the body
Expert divers are now set to explore the murky depths of the dam around the Barragem do Arade reservoir (pictured)
Police are aiming to build up a picture of sole suspect Christian Brueckner’s life on the Algarve and the places he frequented as they search the Barragem reservoir in Silves, Portugal
The Ocean Club in Luz in the Algarve, Portugal, where Madeleine McCann went missing
Madeleine’s parents Gerry and Kate McCann had previously dismissed Mr Correia as a self-publicist and said there was no evidence suggesting any link between their daughter and the reservoir.
It is not thought to have been searched since March 2008 as part of the ongoing investigation into her disappearance.
In July 2020 Portuguese police and firefighters searched three wells for Madeleine’s body but failed to find any trace of her.
Digs by Scotland Yard nearly nine years ago in Praia da Luz were linked to the leading UK police theory at the time Madeleine died during a break-in and burglars dumped her body nearby.