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Madeleine McCann hunt: Police officers fight tears during key dig in German allotment

The search for the missing youngster is ongoing in the Seelze, with the public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig confirming the operation, which began yesterday, will last several days. The office has also confirmed the investigation is related to the disappearance of Madeline, who disappeared at the age of three in 2007 while on holiday in Portugal with her parents and siblings. On Tuesday, dozens of officers dug at soil with shovels and rakes at the allotment between Hanover-Ahlem and Seelze-Letter.

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They also used an excavator, with forensic officers and a sniffer dog also at the scene.

German newspaper Haz.de said the search is a joint operation between the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office and the Federal Criminal Police Office.

But police have yet to say what they suspect might be at the scene they are searching.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said: “I do not comment on the background and aim of this measure.”

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Madeleine McCann: Police officers fight back tears as they dig at an allotment in Hanover (Image: MIRROR / MADELEINE MCCANN FAMILY)

Madeleine McCann: A police officer appears overcome with emotion during the search (Image: MIRROR)

A neighbour has now claimed the suspect lived off-grid at the allotment being dug up by investigators in the same year Madeleine disappeared.

The neighbour claimed the 43-year-old German lived at the vegetable garden with a shed and cellar, but failed to register this with local authorities.

Wolfgang Kossack, 73, who owns the neighbouring plot on the allotment, said buildings on the suspect’s own plot of land were demolished in 2008.

He told MailOnline: “I remembered his face from the pictures in the news. And I remember his van and his dogs.

“I had completely forgotten about him up until then.”

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Madeleine McCann: Police are continuing to search an allotment in Hanover (Image: MIRROR)

Mr Kossack added: “He arrived in 2007 and left within a year. He told me that he was living off the grid, that he had not registered with the authorities – no one knew he was there.

“He never did any gardening. He did not plant anything or try to grow anything. He just sat around drinking beer.

“At the time there was a building in the garden. It was a small wooden structure with only one room to keep tools and other things but it had a kitchen.

“The building was not really a house, you might call it a shed. But it had a cellar and underneath there would be foundations. This building was destroyed in 2008.”

Mr Kossack said the suspect disappeared in 2008 and he never saw him again.

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Madeleine McCann: Dozens of officers are digging at soil with shovels and rakes (Image: MIRROR)

Madeleine McCann: Dozens of police officers and forensic experts are at the scene (Image: MIRROR)

Last month, Scotland Yard detectives revealed a German prisoner had been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine.

The Metropolitan Police did not name the 43-year-old man, but he was described as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and about 6ft tall with a slim build.

The suspect, who is a German national, is known to have been in and around the area of Praia da Luz on the Algarve at the time Madeleine disappeared on May 3, 2007.

The youngster was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie.

Madeleine McCann: The investigation at the allotment is likely to last several days (Image: MIRROR)

Madeleine McCann: Ground is dug up at the site in Hanover (Image: MIRROR)

Scotland Yard said a 30 minute phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile phone around 60 minutes before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing.

The suspect was also linked to a 1980s camper van.

It has a white upper body and yellow skirting and was registered in Portugal. It was pictured in the Algarve the same year Madeleine vanished.

Scotland Yard said he was driving the van in the Praia da Luz area in the days before the youngster’s disappearance.

The suspect was believed to have been living in the vehicle for a number of days before and after May 3 – the evening Madeleine vanished.

The male had also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate.

This vehicle was also seen in Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.

Just 24 hours after Madeleine went missing, he had the car re-registered in Germany under someone else’s name, but the vehicle was still believed to have been in Portugal.

Scotland Yard launched a joint appeal with the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ).

Operation Grange is the team of officers leading the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine.

The German suspect has instructed his lawyers to deny any involvement in the case.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

This is a breaking story. More to follow…

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