New Suspect Identified in Case of Madeleine McCann -- 13 Years After She Disappeared

Madeleine McCann
The Telegraph; Sky News via YouTube

It's been more than a decade since 3-year-old Madeleine McCann mysteriously vanished while on vacation with her parents and siblings in Portugal. But despite the 2007 case appearing to have gone cold, British police officers investigating her disappearance now say they've identified a new suspect who may have taken Madeleine, and describe it as a "significant new line of enquiry."

  • Madeleine was just a toddler when she disappeared from a resort in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.

    Her parents had been having dinner and drinks with three other couples they were traveling with, just 100 yards away. All of the children were asleep inside their hotel rooms, but the parents would reportedly take turns checking on the kids every 30 minutes, to ensure their safety. According to The Guardian, it was on the fifth night, while the parents were enjoying dinner at a tapas restaurant, that Kate McCann went to check on Madeleine and her twin siblings and discovered her daughter was missing.

    Authorities were alerted immediately and in the days, weeks, and months that followed, a large-scale investigation continued. But as the years ticked by, so did the confusion over where exactly Madeleine could be -- and why so many leads ran dry.

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  • But on Wednesday, British police announced that they've zeroed in on a credible new suspect: An unnamed German man.

    Investigators declined to share the suspect's identity, though they did describe him as a 43-year-old white man who lived a "transient lifestyle" in the region of Portugal where Madeleine disappeared. He was reportedly in the area at the same time she was taken.

    Metropolitan Police say the suspect is 6 feet tall with blond hair, and at the time of Madeleine's disappearance was about 30 years old, though he may have looked to be about 25. He is currently imprisoned on an unrelated matter, which police did not disclose.

  • While police say they're keeping an "open mind," it certainly sounds like the lead on this suspect is strong.

    "We know a lot about the suspect, but we need to know more about his movements on the night Madeleine vanished and in the days before and afterwards," Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said in a press conference on Wednesday. "We know he was in the resort on the night, about an hour before Madeleine was last seen about 9 p.m."

  • Now, police are reaching out to the public for more information.

    "He took a phone call on his Portuguese mobile from another Portuguese mobile," Cranwell stated. "The call lasted half an hour."

    In a rare move, police are now posting two cellphone numbers online, in the hopes that someone may recognize them. The first is +351-912-730-680, which was used by the suspect. Police say it was called by someone else from the number +351-916-510-683 on the night of Madeleine's disappearance at 7.32 p.m., and the conversation lasted until shortly after 8 p.m.

    “We are not saying the person making that call is a suspect in this case," noted Stuart Cundy, the Met's deputy assistant commissioner. "They are someone we need to identify as a key person and we need to get in touch with them."

  • Police are also asking if anyone remembers seeing two distinct vehicles in the area of Praia da Luz around the time Madeleine disappeared.

    One of them is a VW camper van, with a white and yellow body, and the other is a dark Jaguar, which the suspect had access to at the time. The Jaguar was reportedly re-registered in someone else's name the day after Madeleine disappeared.

    "You may be aware of some of the things he has done," said Cundy. "He may have confided in you about the disappearance of Madeleine. More than 13 years have passed and your loyalties may have changed. He is in prison and we are conscious that some people may have been concerned about contacting police in the past. Now is the time to come forward. We are appealing to you."

    Police have seized the VW camper and are checking it for forensic evidence.

  • As for the McCanns, they issued a statement after learning of the new lead.

    "We welcome the appeal today regarding the disappearance of our daughter, Madeleine," the statement read. "We would like to thank the police forces involved for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine. All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice. We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know, as we need to find peace."

    The McCanns came under intense scrutiny in the years after Madeleine's disappearance, but have never stopped searching for their daughter. According to ABC News, they were officially cleared as suspects 15 months after she went missing, in 2008.