Officials Say Madeleine McCann Is Presumed Dead, Sharing New Details About ‘Sexual Predator’ Suspect

Madeleine McCann
BBC/YouTube

On Wednesday, more than 13 years after 3-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished from a resort in Portugal, a new lead suspect was named in the case. Although British police have not revealed the man's identity, they did confirm that he's a 43-year-old German national who lived a "transient lifestyle" at the time of Madeleine's disappearance, and was near the resort where she was last seen. Now, German prosecutors have also revealed that they do not believe the toddler will ever be found alive.

  • The statement was made shortly after British police announced the new suspect Wednesday.

    "We are assuming that the girl is dead," Hans Christian Wolters, a spokesman for the Braunschweig Public Prosecutor's Office, said in a statement. (It is important to note, however, that British police with Scotland Yard still consider this to be a missing persons case.)

    UK authorities had previously shared that the new suspect is a white male with blonde hair, currently imprisoned in Germany on a separate matter. He is 43 years old, but at the time of the crime he was 30 and may have appeared to be even younger.

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  • The statement by German officials shared even more information about the suspect, including a possible motive.

    "With the suspect, we are talking about a sexual predator who has already been convicted of crimes against little girls, and he's already serving a long sentence," the statement continued in a live broadcast on the BBC Wednesday evening.

    "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," British Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said in a press conference "We know he was in the resort on the night, about an hour before Madeleine was last seen about 9 p.m."

  • Multiple German media outlets have reportedly identified the suspect, who's being referred to as "Christian B."

    An informant came to police around the 10th anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, claiming that Christian B. had intimated to him that he was responsible for the crime, according to Sky News. (In fact, in a separate report by the Daily Mail, the suspect allegedly said he "knew all about" what happened to the missing 3-year-old.) The confession reportedly happened while the pair were sitting in a bar during a late-night drinking session, and a news report about the case came on the TV.

    The informant also told police that Christian B. confessed to the rape of an elderly American tourist in Portugal in 2005, and even showed the man a video of it happening.

    By the time police were tipped off about the man, he was already being investigated in Germany for other child abuse crimes.

  • Madeleine was just shy of her fourth birthday the night she disappeared, on May 3, 2007.

    The toddler had been vacationing with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and twin siblings at a resort in Praia da Luz when the McCanns decided to go to dinner at a tapas restaurant with several other couples. All of the children were left sleeping soundly in their hotel rooms as the parents socialized -- a fact that later brought widespread scrutiny as the case played out in headlines. 

    However, the McCanns maintained that they were no more than 100 yards away from their children throughout the night, and that the parents alternated shifts to check on the children every 30 minutes. It was during one final check, by Kate McCann, that Madeleine was discovered missing.

  • Police were called immediately, and a desperate search for the toddler began.

    In the 13 years that have passed since that night, no one has ever been charged in connection with the crime, and many leads have gone dry. The McCanns also faced a heavy amount of skepticism from the public but were officially cleared as suspects some 15 months later.

    In the meantime, they've continued to search for Madeleine.

  • Kate and Gerry McCann are said to be cautiously hopeful that this new suspect will finally bring them answers.

    Clarence Mitchell, a spokesperson for the family, said on BBC radio that this is "the first time in more than 13 years that I can recall [police] focusing on one individual," according to CNN.

    "Kate and Gerry do feel it's potentially very significant," Mitchell added. "This is another important chapter in the search for their daughter."

    Mitchell also told the Daily Mail that the couple still carry hope in their hearts that Madeleine will be found alive.

  • The McCanns issued a statement of their own Wednesday, thanking police for their efforts.

    "All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice," the couple's statement read. "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."

  • For now, British police are asking the public for help, and urge anyone with any information at all to come forward. 

    In a rare move, two phone numbers have been shared in the hopes that someone, somewhere, may recognize them.

    The first is +351-912-730-680, which was used by the suspect. Metropolitan 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 that the conversation lasted until after 8 p.m.

    “We are not saying the person making that call is a suspect in this case," said 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."

    The suspect also had access to two vehicles at the time of the crime, while he was living in Praia da Luz -- a white and yellow VW T3 Westfalia from the 1980s and a dark 1993 Jaguar, which was re-registered in someone else's name just one day after Madeleine's disappearance. Police are also asking the public for any information on either of those vehicles.