At eight o'clock in the morning, the search operations began. According to the Portuguese news agency Lusa, several dozen officials were deployed at the Arade reservoir in Silves in the district of Faro – looking for clues to the whereabouts of Madeleine McCann. The girl had disappeared in May 2007 at the age of three from a hotel complex in Praia da Luz on the Portuguese Algarve coast.

Reinhard Bingener

Political correspondent for Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Bremen, based in Hanover.

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Hans-Christian Rößler

Political correspondent for the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb, based in Madrid.

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On Monday, the Portuguese Criminal Investigation Department, together with firefighters, had made initial preparations at the lake, which is about 50 kilometers from the place where Maddie was last seen. Several tents have been pitched on the shore of the water reservoir, which has relatively little water, which could make the search easier. In addition to Portuguese police vehicles, a civilian vehicle with a Wiesbaden license plate could also be seen, where the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is based. Scotland Yard staff are also present. The new developments also made headlines in the British press.

Suspect is said to have spent the night there

The search operation is expected to last at least two days and focus only on a specific stretch of shore. Divers are available, as well as sniffer dogs. The German police are said to have given one of the places where Christian B. had spent the night as a clue. Photos of the Arade reservoir, which he liked to visit, were found on his laptop. According to press reports, he is said to have described the area as his "little paradise" and was often seen there. He had repeatedly stayed in the barren area near a run-down restaurant on a hill.

The public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig only announced on Tuesday that "criminal procedural measures" were currently taking place in Portugal. The Portuguese authorities carried out this by way of mutual legal assistance with the support of the Federal Criminal Police Office. The Braunschweig public prosecutor's office has been investigating Christian B. for several sexual offenses, including the Maddie case, for a long time. However, the Braunschweig investigators have so far seen no reliable basis for an indictment in the Maddie case.

In October 2022, they brought charges against Christian B. for other sexual offenses, but this was only recently rejected by the Braunschweig Regional Court. The court does not consider itself competent to hear the allegations, since Christian B. had not lived in Braunschweig but in Saxony-Anhalt before fleeing Germany in the meantime. Christian B. is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for raping a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal, to which he was sentenced by the Braunschweig Regional Court at the end of 2019

Can the search still be successful after such a long time?

Prior to the search operation, the Portuguese Judicial Police had confirmed that "within the framework of international cooperation, new searches will be carried out in the Algarve region in the coming days, coordinated by the Judicial Police, at the request of the German authorities (BKA) and in the presence of the British authorities". There must be solid evidence to justify such a major operation, a legal expert suspected on CNN Portugal. Former detective André Inácio told the station that he was skeptical that a search could still be successful after more than a decade. He also expressed fears that "tricks are being used to keep people in custody".

The reservoir had been searched twice in February and March 2008 by divers hired by a Portuguese lawyer, whom Maddie's parents dismissed as a busybody and self-promoter. Marcos Aragao Correia organized this privately funded action based on an alleged tip from the underworld and theories of a fortune teller. According to the report, Maddie was murdered within 48 hours of her disappearance and her body was thrown into the reservoir. On the second dive, bags of bones were found. According to the police, however, they were not human bones, but cat skeletons.

The last known major search operation took place in the summer of 2020. As in previous operations, virtually every stone had been turned. At that time, with the help of divers, among other things, searches were carried out unsuccessfully in three wells in Vila do Bispo, which had been shut down for years.

On May 12, Maddie would have turned twenty years old. On the Facebook page for the search for her, the parents congratulated their daughter that day with the words: "We love you, and we are waiting for you. We will never give up.".