The Portuguese authorities confirmed on Thursday evening that a search in the case of Madeleine McCann, a British girl who was 3 when she disappeared in 2007 from her family’s vacation apartment in the Algarve region, has ended.
The search of the Arade Dam reservoir and surrounding areas in southern Portugal “resulted in the collection of some material,” which will be expertly analyzed, the Portuguese police said in a statement, but there was no indication that anything conclusive had been found. The search was prompted by a request from the German authorities.
Madeleine’s case had captivated and horrified the British public, and soon much of Europe, after she vanished 16 years ago, while vacationing with her family in the Portuguese seaside village of Praia da Luz.
Soon, Madeleine’s face was plastered across the front pages of Britain’s tabloid press, her bright blue-green eyes and blonde bob haircut becoming instantly recognizable amid the endless speculation about her whereabouts and who could be responsible for her disappearance.
Divers and police officers with sniffer dogs had been searching the reservoir and surrounding areas, around 31 miles from Praia da Luz.
Madeleine, who was days from her 4th birthday, and her siblings, 2-year-old twins, were left asleep in the family’s vacation apartment while their parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, ate with friends in a neighboring restaurant.
Mr. McCann left dinner to check on the children around 9 p.m. and everything appeared fine. But when his wife checked an hour later, at around 10 p.m., Madeleine was nowhere to be found.
Rumors swirled about her whereabouts and what had happened that night, as the case prompted an international search for a suspect and sent shock waves across Europe. Madeleine’s parents were later paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in libel damages because of stories that baselessly suggested the couple was responsible for Madeleine’s death.
The initial investigation by the Portuguese police in the area near the vacation apartment was roundly criticized. The search soon grew to the surrounding area, but no trace of Madeleine was found.
In 2012, after the London police reviewed the investigation at the order of David Cameron, then Britain’s prime minister, British officers said Madeleine might still be alive.
It would be nearly 10 years before the focus in the investigation shifted in 2020 to a German man, whose name was not released at the time. Last year, the Portuguese police named him as a formal suspect.
The suspect was later identified as Christian B., 45, by the German media. He lived in Portugal on and off from 1995 to 2007, has a criminal record including convictions for sexual abuse of children, and is serving a sentence in a German prison for an unrelated sex crime.
The Portuguese police confirmed earlier this week that they were carrying out searches relating to Madeleine’s disappearance with international cooperation in the country’s southern Algarve region. The German prosecutor’s office also confirmed that criminal investigations were taking place into the Madeleine McCann case.
Earlier this month, Madeleine’s parents held a vigil in their village in the English Midlands to mark 16 years since her disappearance, and issued a short statement noting that their daughter was “still missing” and “still very much missed.”
“It is hard to find the words to convey how we feel,” the McCann family statement added before thanking people for their support. “The police investigation continues, and we await a breakthrough.”