Madeleine McCann: Material found in Portugal research sent for analysis | Madeleine McCann

Portuguese police said material found in a tank in the Algarve would be sent to Germany for analysis after the first major search for Madeleine McCann in a decade was completed.

After three days of excavations on a spit of land jutting into the Barragem do Arade reservoir in southern Portugal, officers were removed from their posts and a Polícia Judiciária spokesman said the “material collected” would be handed over to the German authorities.

The search had been requested by German authorities who are seeking to prove that Christian Brückner, 45, a convicted rapist, killed Madeleine, who was three when she disappeared from her parents’ holiday apartment in the Portuguese town from Praia da Luz in 2007.

The operation, completed by Portuguese and German officers but with the presence of Metropolitan Police officers, had consisted of clearing a number of areas on one bank of the reservoir.

A plot of land of 10 square meters seems to have been the subject of the investigation. The embankment of the bank had been deforested and cut. A series of deep potholes had been dug in the ground and soil samples had obviously been taken.

There were signs of past human habitation, including a rusty chair and a blue suitcase. German police only said ‘indications’ and ‘clues’ led them to seek the search, but it has been suggested that photographs found in 2016 provided evidence that Brückner had regularly visited the tank he described as “my little paradise”.

Kate and Gerry McCann, who were eating a tapas meal in preparation for their holiday apartment when their daughter disappeared on May 4, 2007, are now facing a tense wait for the results.

German prosecutor Christian Wolters, whose force requested the operation, said there would be a period of silence.

Wolters said that “as the defendant has not yet had access to the records,” authorities would not yet release new evidence that could implicate Brückner, a German national who is the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Holes dug for soil samples in the area where authorities searched for Madeleine McCann. Photograph: Daniel Boffey/The Guardian

A spokesperson for the Polícia Judiciária said: “The steps requested by the German authorities, through a request for international cooperation, have been completed, which has resulted in the collection of certain documents which will be submitted to the competent expertise.

“The operation was coordinated by the judicial police, which involved investigators, criminal experts and security agents.

“Safeguarding the interests of the ongoing investigation in Portugal, the material collected will be handed over to the German authorities.”

The operation was the biggest search for a decade into the disappearance of the then three-year-old. It was due to end on Tuesday but it took an extra day to complete the scheduled work. Wolters said they had a search warrant for a “specific area” and the area was “to be searched in its entirety”. He said: “If we don’t find anything, we will certainly tell you quickly.”

There was no further statement on Thursday. The search site was 30 miles from where Madeleine disappeared 16 years ago.

Former Portuguese detective Gonçalo Amaral, who led the botched Portuguese investigation in 2007, claimed it was a waste of resources and a sham.

Amaral, who successfully fought a defamation case in 2016 after claiming Madeleine died in her parents’ holiday apartment, predicted it would come to nothing.

“In a simple analysis, I see there is no new investigation and what is happening is more a case of profile building and scapegoating,” he said. Amaral lost a libel battle with lawyers representing Kate and Gerry McCann after his book was published, but he later had the result overturned on appeal.

German police were keen to point out that their main suspect did not confess or offer help as they swept the area.

Brückner, who was jailed in 2019 for the rape of a 72-year-old American tourist a mile from the McCanns’ vacation apartment in Praia da Luz, has been officially named by Portuguese police as a suspect, or arguedlast year in the disappearance of the British child.

Her cellphone signal had been located in the immediate vicinity of the Mark Warner Oceans resort where the McCanns had been staying the day Madeleine went missing. He has not been charged with any offense in connection with Madeleine’s case and has denied any involvement.

Last month, a German court announced it was quashing a sex offenses trial against Brückner on charges unrelated to McCann’s disappearance but which also allegedly took place in Portugal, on the grounds that the region where he is is not the last place he lived in Germany.

He was facing prosecution in Braunschweig for three offenses of aggravated rape of women and two offenses of sexual abuse of children. The alleged offenses took place in Portugal between December 2000 and July 2017. The Braunschweig force contests the decision.

Mark Hofmann, a criminal profiler in Germany, said Brückner, who is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence, used to keep “trophies” of his crimes. He said: “From chat histories with like-minded people and other crimes, it is known that Christian B tends to do just that: document his crimes.”

theguardian Gt

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