Madeleine McCann disappeared just days before her fourth birthday while sleeping in Apartment 5A of the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz, as her parents ate dinner at a tapas restaurant just metres away with their seven friends on May 3, 2007. After more than a decade searching for Maddie, prosecutors in Germany revealed a heartbreaking twist to the story last month, announcing the youngster is “assumed to be dead” and they have opened a murder investigation into a 43-year-old German man, named as Christian B. It came following an appeal for information from British, Portuguese and German police regarding the new prime suspect who was seen driving a camper van in the area of Praia da Luz around the time of the disappearance and a 30-minute call made to his phone in the area where Maddie vanished.
Last week, ITV aired its new documentary ‘Madeleine McCann: The Hunt for the Prime Suspect’ as an investigation into the convicted sex offender who is currently serving a long sentence in prison, laying bare his criminal history.
Presenter Julie Etchingham revealed why authorities are now so keen to speak to the individual who called their prime suspect on that fateful night.
She said: “The key to solving the mystery could now be in the crucial 30-minute phone call to Christian B’s phone on the evening of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.
“Who did he talk to? What did they talk about?
German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters discussed the evidence
“The normally-reserved German prosecutors are desperate for that information.”
A phone allegedly belonging to Christian B was “pinged” by a cell phone tower in Praia da Luz, close to where Madeleine disappeared, on the night she went missing.
The mystery call was received on a mobile phone that is believed to belong to the suspect at 7.32pm and finished at 8.02pm.
Madeleine was last seen at 9.05pm, when her father Gerry McCann checked the room and left via the unlocked patio doors.
Hans Christian Wolters, Braunschweig public prosecutor, discussed the development in the case during the ITV documentary.
He said: “We’re now looking for the other person who was on the call. We want to know what they talked about.
“But we also want the other person to tell us who they were talking to. The data only shows that the phone was there, not who used it.
“That’s why the other person on the call would be so important to us.
“They could tell us who they spoke to, possibly our suspect. In that regard, it could result in a conviction.”
But, Dr Alexander Stevens, a specialist in German law, explained why it could be a difficult task trying to find out who called Christian B.
He said: “The biggest challenge to the German prosecutor to get witnesses is the fact that any confident would have to incriminate himself.
“Once you are involved in a murder crime they’d have to at least be sentenced to 10 years in prison. So the chances of getting somebody to come forward are actually quite low.”
Criminal profiling expert Mark Hofmann said a witness account could potentially solve the case.
He added: “To solve this case, you need a body, witnesses or a confession.
“I don’t see a high chance that we get a confession or a body, so you need witnesses.”
The series also probed why more questions were not asked by the Portuguese police of Christian B, a known criminal working in the area who was arrested for theft just one year before Maddie disappeared.
It was not until June this year that investigators would make an appeal for information regarding his campervan seen driving in the area that Maddie went missing from and the suspects other vehicle, a Jaguar, which was transferred to someone else’s name the day after Maddie vanished.
Authorities linked the suspect to an early Eighties VW T3 Westfalia campervan – 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.
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.
Relations between officials investigating the case have also become strained as Scotland Yard continues to treat their investigation as a “missing persons” case and stated that German authorities have not revealed evidence that Maddie is dead.
Police in Portugal have also been searching wells in Vila do Bispo – just a 10-minute drive from the Ocean Club resort Maddie vanished from – but authorities in Germany and Britain are unaware of what prompted the operation.