German public prosecutors investigating a 43-year-old German man on suspicion of murder have said they believe that Madeleine McCann is dead.
Hans Christian Wolters, a spokesman for the Braunschweig Public Prosecutor’s Office, said: “In connection with the disappearance of the three-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann on May 3 2007 from an apartment complex in Praia da Luz, in Portugal, the Braunschweig prosecution is investigating against a 43-year-old German on suspicion of murder.
“We are assuming that the girl is dead.
“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.”
He said the suspect was regularly living in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, where he worked jobs in the gastronomy business, but funded his lifestyle by committing crimes, including thefts in hotel complexes and apartments, as well as drug dealing.
He added: “The Braunschweig prosecution is now concerned because before going abroad he last had his residence in Braunschweig.”
The man, who has been partially identified as Christian B by German media, was described as white with short blond hair, possibly fair, and about 6ft with a slim build at the time she vanished on May 3 2007.
Christian Hoppe, from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), told the country’s ZDF television channel the 43-year-old is serving a prison sentence for a sex crime and has two previous convictions for “sexual contact with girls”.
The German national is known to have been in and around the area on the Algarve coast at the time Madeleine went missing shortly before her fourth birthday.
A half-hour phone call was made to his Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing.
The suspect has been linked to an early 1980s VW T3 Westfalia camper van – with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal – which was pictured in the Algarve in 2007.
Scotland Yard said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Madeleine’s disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3.
He has also been linked to a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with a German number plate seen in Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007.
The day after Madeleine went missing, the suspect had the car re-registered in Germany under someone else’s name, although it is believed the vehicle was still in Portugal.