Police will today start searching a reservoir in Portugal in a fresh hunt for Madeleine McCann.
The vast space of water was regularly visited by the paedophile suspected of killing Maddie.
Officers sealed off a mile-long stretch of Barragem do Arade, near Silves in the Algarve – 25 miles from where the three-year-old vanished in 2007.
And overnight a no-fly zone covering the whole of the man-made dam was put in place, leaving the airspace above the water and land near the water’s edge where today’s search will focus open to police drones only.
Police divers were seen entering the water earlier this morning, and a police motor boat has also been sent into the water with two officers on it.
Jailed sex offender Christian Brueckner, 45, has called the man-made lake his ‘little paradise’.
Divers will explore water close to a dam, with digs also expected in woods close by.
The Policia Judiciaria force said in a statement: ‘In view of the news made public, the Judiciary Police confirms that, regarding the investigation into the disappearance of an English child, which occurred in the Algarve in 2007, steps are still being taken to fully clarify the situation.
‘Within the scope of international cooperation, in the next few days in the Algarve region, new searches will be carried out, coordinated by the Judiciary Police, at the request of the German Authorities (BKA) and with the presence of the British Authorities.
‘Information will be provided in due course on the outcome of the proceedings.’
Local Portuguese reports, partly confirmed by police sources, claimed the searches were requested and authorised after German police obtained videos and photos of Brueckner close to the planned dig site.
The request was made via an international letter of request sent to Portugal’s Attorney General’s office and passed on to prosecutors in Portimao.
Portuguese officials have not yet said when it was received but it is believed to have been about two months ago.
Although this week’s operation has been initiated by German police, Portuguese detectives are showing with the manpower and logistical support they are providing that they are fully on board.
Scotland Yard representatives will be in the area for what has been described as a ‘watching brief.’
Respected Portuguese broadcaster SIC has said the searches, due to last for at least two days and longer if anything of relevance is found, will be 80 per cent land-based and 20 per cent water-based.
In a lunchtime broadcast yesterday it said: ‘Investigators know suspect Cristian Brueckner used to come to this dam regularly.
‘He would call it his little paradise and would often spend the night here. He was seen here often.
‘The German authorities considered this reservoir to be an area of interest and ended up sending an International letter of request or letter rogatory.’
Brueckner is in prison for the rape and murder of a 72-year-old woman, but German police have charged him with multiple child sex offences between 2000 and 2007.
They claim to have ‘concrete evidence’ that Madeleine is dead, and say they found links to her in a van belonging to him.
The German worked in Portugal for years. Prosecutors say phone analysis puts him at the Ocean Club resort she vanished from on May 3, 2007.
Madeleine was taken from a hotel room, where her twin two-year-old siblings were sleeping.
Portuguese police officially made Brueckner a suspect in April 2022.
The reservoir was searched twice in February and March 2008 by divers hired by Portuguese lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia, who claimed he had an underworld tip-off she was dumped there.
Small bones were found but police said they were not human.
The new search will be the first major operation in the case since June 2014 when UK police were given permission for digs in Praia da Luz using cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar.
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