This afternoon, in a heartbreaking development in the search for Madeleine McCann, German authorities announced that they now believe the youngster is dead and have opened a murder investigation. The latest press conference comes following an appeal for information yesterday after police in Britain, Germany and Portugal revealed a child sex offender, who is currently serving a long sentence in German prison, is their new prime suspect in the disappearance. Investigations are ongoing into two vehicles owned by the 43-year-old male, which were seen in the area of Praia da Luz, as well as a half-an-hour phone call he received on his Portuguese mobile around an hour before Maddie vanished on the night of May 3, 2007.
The McCann family were not granted access to original Portuguese investigation files until August 2008, when they were released to the public, and Kate revealed during her book ‘Madeleine: Our daughter’s disappearance and the continuing search for her’ how she spent six months scrutinising the 5,000 pages of information.
She wrote: “It wasn’t until a year later, when I was combing through the Portuguese police files, that I discovered the note.”
In the book, Kate explains how the booking at the tapas restaurant, where the McCanns and their group of friends would have their meal each evening, was slightly unusual.
The restaurant was small and the group of nine friends was a large party to accommodate.
Kate McCann made a horror discovery
Kate and Gerry McCann still hope to find their daughter
However, the group managed to get a block booking for 8.30pm “pencilled in” for the rest of their holiday week, “after having a word with the receptionist at the pool and tapas area”.
Kate added: “The note requesting our block booking was written in a staff message book, which sat on a desk at the pool reception for most of the day.
“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 and simply to explain why she was bending the rules a bit, the receptionist had added the reason for our request: we wanted to eat close to our apartments as we were leaving our young children alone there and checking on them intermittently.”
Kate details how the family, on holiday with their seven friends and their children, “collectively decided to do our own child-checking service” when they were at the resort’s nearby tapas restaurant for dinner.
READ MORE: Kate McCann: Why Maddie’s ‘worrying’ comment left mother ‘puzzled’ on day of disappearance
Maddie went missing while the family were on holiday in Portugal
She writes: “We now bitterly regret it and will do so until the end of our days.”
The new prime suspect is believed to have been near the Ocean Club complex, where Maddie was asleep in Apartment 5A while her parents ate dinner with friends at the restaurant.
The German authorities said the suspect is thought to have had jobs in catering, but also committed burglaries in hotels and holiday resorts and dealt drugs.
Authorities have linked him to an early Eighties VW T3 Westfalia camper van – with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal – which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007.
Scotland Yard said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Maddie’s disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3.
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German police have seized this minivan
Police are appealing for more information on the German suspect
The suspect 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.
DCI Mark Cranwell, who is leading the Met inquiry, said yesterday: “Someone out there knows a lot more than they’re letting on.”
He added that the prisoner, then aged 30, frequented the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, staying for “days upon end” in his camper van and living a “transient lifestyle”.
Police said the German authorities had taken the lead on this aspect of the case because the suspect was in custody in their country and an appeal on German television was broadcast last night at 7:15pm.
Maddie went missing in 2007
The suspect is one of 600 people that detectives on the inquiry, known as Operation Grange, originally looked at.
After an appeal in 2017, “significant” fresh information about him was provided.
Since then, Met detectives have carried out “extensive inquiries” in Portugal and Germany in order to gather more details about him.
Scotland Yard said they were trying to “prove or disprove” his involvement in the case and retained an “open mind”.
‘Madeleine: Our daughter’s disappearance and the continuing search for her’ was published by Transworld Publishers Ltd and is available here.