Arade Dam, Portugal — Police renewed on Tuesday the look for Madeleine McCann, the British girl who disappeared in Portugal in 2007, while officers dug and scraped the surface of the ground next to a dam located not far from where she disappeared. About 20 officers with rakes and hoe-like tools fanned out in a line and began poking and raking the ground near the Arade dam, which is about 30 miles from Praia da Luz in southern Portugal, where the 3 year old girl she was last seen alive 16 years ago.
Earlier, a couple of firefighters could be seen in a boat at the reservoir.
There were no immediate details on the progress being made in the search.
The operation, led by Portuguese police with the help of German and British colleagues, was announced on Monday. Portuguese officials said it followed a request from German authorities.
Portuguese police set up two blue tents on Monday and cordoned off the area for the media and the public. More than a dozen police cars and trucks arrived early Tuesday morning. There were between 20 and 30 agents in the area, some in uniform. Witnesses said police began searching shortly before 8 a.m.
Portuguese media said it was the fourth search for McCann, following an initial one in 2007 in the Algarve area and then others in 2013 and 2014. Another search was conducted in Germany in 2020.
This week’s search is believed to be the first in the area of the dam.
German prosecutors in Braunschweig said in a written statement on Tuesday that “criminal procedural steps are currently being taken in Portugal as part of the investigation into the Madeleine McCann case.”
They added that “the measures are being implemented as mutual legal assistance by the Portuguese tax authorities with the support of agents of the Federal Criminal Police Office.”
“More detailed background information is not being released at this time for investigative tactical reasons,” the statement said.
In mid-2020, German officials said that a 45-year-old German citizen, identified by the media as Christian Brueckner, who was in the Algarve in 2007, was a suspect in the case. Brueckner has denied any role in McCann’s disappearance, but is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in Germany for a rape he committed in Portugal in 2005.
Brueckner spent many years in Portugal, including at the Praia da Luz spa at the time of the disappearance of madeleine of the tourist city in 2007.
Last year, a German prosecutor announced charges against Brueckner “for several sexual crimes that he allegedly committed in Portugal between December 28, 2000 and June 11, 2017”, unrelated to the McCann case.
He is under investigation on suspicion of murder in the McCann case, but has not been charged.
The case aroused worldwide interest for several years, with reports of sightings of her stretching as far as Australia, along with a large number of books and television documentaries on the case.
The rewards for finding McCann, who would now be 20 years old, have reached several million dollars.
British, Portuguese and German police are still piecing together what happened the night she disappeared from her bed in the southern Portuguese resort on May 3, 2007. She was in the same room as her twin brother and sister, who had 2 years in time, while his parents were having dinner with friends at a nearby restaurant.
Referring to the latest searches, Braunschweig prosecutor Christian Wolters said on Tuesday that “we are investigating there in Portugal based on certain leads” but declined to elaborate.
Wolters said the search would “take a little bit of time.” Portuguese officials said the search would take place in the next few days.