German authorities investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann are working on the basis that she is dead.
“The public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig is investigating a 43-year-old German national on suspicion of murder,” Hans Christian Wolters, Braunschweig state prosecutor, said.
“From this you can see that we assume that the girl is dead.”
The press conference was held after details about the new suspect were revealed this week. He is serving time in prison for a sex crime.
The prosecutor said the suspect is a repeat sex offender who lived regularly in the Algarve – where Madeleine disappeared on holiday – between 1995 and 2007, the year she went missing.
You can read the prosecutor’s statement below.
The suspect is also thought to have spent a few years at a house between Lagos and Praia Da Luz, the resort the McCanns stayed at, among other places.
The accused, who was not named, is said to have committed break-ins at hotels, holiday homes and was involved in drug trafficking.
The German state of Braunschweig is involved because the man last lived there.
He has appealed for witnesses to get in touch with the German Federal Criminal Police Office online. A €10,000 reward (£8,935) has been posted.
The McCanns have said the lead could be “very significant”.
Madeleine disappeared in May 2007 during a family holiday in the Algarve, Portugal, with parents Kate and Gerry McCann and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie. Her parents were eating with friends nearby when she went missing.
It happened shortly before her fourth birthday.
The man is said to be white, with short blonde hair and about six feet tall, and had a slim build when Madeleine went missing.
Christian Hoppe, from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, told the country’s ZDF television channel the 43-year-old is serving time for a sex crime.
Hoppe said the suspect may have broken into the apartment at the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz before spontaneously kidnapping her.
He is known to have been around the area during that time, having worked odd jobs in the area, and a half-hour phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile about an hour before Madeleine is thought to have disappeared.
He was linked to an early 1980s VW T3 Westfalia camper van. The Metropolitan Police said he drove it in the Praia da Luz area not long before Madeleine vanished.
The day after she went missing, he re-registered the car in Germany under another person’s name but the vehicle is thought to have still been in Portugal.
That van, and a 1993 Jaguar XJR6, which he was also linked to and was seen in the area in 2006 and 2007, have been seized by German police.
They said that other people may have “concrete knowledge” of her disappearance.
On 03/05/2007, then 3-year-old Madeleine (Maddie) Beth McCann disappeared without a trace from a hotel complex in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
In this connection, on behalf of Braunschweig Public Prosecutor's Office, the Bundeskriminalamt is conducting investigative proceedings for suspected murder against a 43-year-old German national currently in detention in a different matter.
The suspect lived more or less permanently in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007. For several years, he lived in a house between Lagos and Praia da Luz, among other places. He had several occasional jobs, among other things in the gastronomy business, in the Lagos area in this time period.
In addition, there is information suggesting that he also earned his living by committing criminal offences, such as burglaries of hotel complexes and holiday flats as well as trafficking in narcotic drugs.
Furthermore, the suspect was sentenced on numerous occasions to prison terms for sexual abuse of children in the past. This fact is probably not known to most of the contact persons.
The investigating authorities know of several vehicles used by him, his points of contact and a Portuguese mobile phone number.
The Bundeskriminalamt and Braunschweig Public Prosecutor's Office ask for your assistance in further clarifying the circumstances of the offence.