ARADE RESERVOIR, Portugal — Police officers digging near a dam in southern Portugal near the site where British girl Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2007 resumed the search Tuesday.
About twenty policemen formed a line with tools such as rakes and spades and began removing mud near the Aradé Dam, about 50 kilometers (30 mi) from Praia da Luz, the site where the girl, who had been killed, was found. Samay was 3 years old, she was last seen alive 16 years ago.
Earlier, a few firefighters could be seen in a rubber boat in the reservoir.
Officials did not immediately report progress in the search.
The operation, led by Portuguese police with the assistance of German and British agents, was announced on Monday. Portuguese officials stated that it was produced at the request of Germany.
The day before, the Portuguese police put up two blue tents and cordoned off the area. More than a dozen police cars and trucks arrived at the scene in the early hours of Tuesday.
There were 20 to 30 police officers in the area, some of them in uniform. According to eyewitnesses, the search started shortly before 8 am.
Portuguese media reported that this is the fourth time McCann has been found in the Algarve, following an initial operation in 2007, and two more in 2013 and 2014. The last search was in 2020 in Germany.
It is believed that this is the first time that the surroundings of the reservoir have been surveyed.
The prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig, Germany, said in a statement Tuesday that “criminal proceedings are ongoing in Portugal as part of the investigation into the Madeleine McCann case.”
“The measures are being implemented through mutual legal assistance by the Portuguese Prosecutor’s Office with the support of agents of the Federal Criminal Police Office,” the note said.
According to the statement, officials are not disclosing “more detailed background information (…) for investigative tactical reasons”.
In mid-2020, German police identified Christian Brueckner, a 45-year-old German who had been in the Algarve since 2007, as a suspect in the case. Bruckner has denied any involvement.
Brueckner is serving a seven-year prison sentence in Germany for a rape committed in Portugal in 2005.
The suspect in the McCann case is being investigated on suspicion of murder, but has not been charged. He spent several years in Portugal, including in Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Madeleine’s disappearance has sparked worldwide interest over the years, with public claims she has been sighted as far away as Australia, and has spawned several books and television documentaries.
The reward for information leading to the discovery of Madeleine, who will now be 20 years old, has already reached several million dollars.
British, Portuguese and German police are still investigating what happened when the girl disappeared from her bed in a southern Portuguese resort on May 3, 2007. She was in the same room as her 2-year-old twin brother and sister while her parents ate dinner with friends at a nearby restaurant.
Referring to the latest discoveries, Braunschweig prosecutor Christian Wolters said on Tuesday that “we are conducting an investigation in Portugal based on some leads,” but gave no further details.
According to Wolters, the search “will take some time.” Portuguese officials indicated that the operation would continue in the coming days.