There has been a “significant development” in the investigations into the disappearance of British three-year-old Madeleine McCann after authorities identified a new suspect.
British and German police on Wednesday announced a German man as their lead suspect in the 2007 disappearance of Kate and Gerry McCann’s daughter – appealing for information on the 43-year-old who is currently imprisoned in Germany on an unrelated matter.
Madeleine disappeared from her bedroom on May 3 during a family holiday in the Algarve, Portugal, while her parents were dining with friends nearby in the resort of Praia da Luz.
Her fate remains a mystery despite a massive international search and media coverage which prompted reported sightings from across the globe.
British police described Wednesday's appeal – the latest of several issued since her disappearance – as a "significant development."
Jaguar and VW camper at the centre of investigations
They want to speak to anyone who has relevant information on the man, whom they did not name, or the movements of two vehicles linked to him during the period around the disappearance.
Both cars, a Volkswagen camper van and a Jaguar, are now in the possession of German police.
The man transferred the Jaguar to someone else's name the day after Madeleine vanished.
An appeal on German television was broadcast on Wednesday evening (local time).
"Someone out there knows a lot more than they're letting on," senior investigating officer Mark Cranwell, who is leading the Met inquiry, said.
DCI Cranwell said the prisoner, then aged 30, regularly visited the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, where he stayed for "days upon end" in his camper van, living a "transient lifestyle".
He was in the Praia de Luz area where the McCann family was staying the night Madeleine disappeared.
They also asked for anyone who was familiar with two Portuguese phone numbers to come forward.
One of the phones was known to be used by the suspect, and received a 30-minute phone call from the second number whilst in the Praia da Luz area on the night of the disappearance shortly before Madeleine was last seen.
"You may know, you may be aware of some of the things he has done, he may have confided in you about the disappearance of Madeleine,” DCI Cranwell said.
"More than 13 years have passed, and your loyalties may have changed. This individual is in prison ... now is the time to come forward."
British police said they retained an open mind about the man's involvement and did not have any definitive evidence whether Madeleine was alive or not.
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