Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann 16 years ago have ended their new search of a Portuguese reservoir.
The German-led investigation began on Tuesday after they requested access to the Barragem do Arade reservoir, with teams using diggers and divers to carry out the search.
German authorities have yet to reveal why they have begun searching the site. Still, it is believed to have been visited by suspect Christian Brueckner, who is serving time in prison in Germany due to unrelated crimes.
Where were the police looking?
On Tuesday, search teams were seen scouring the banks – hammering away at the ground with pickaxes and combing through small rocks with rakes and spades.
Throughout Wednesday and Thursday, police focused on an area of woodland on the peninsula.
Officers used shovels to excavate their area of focus, and sniffer dogs and pickaxes have also been deployed throughout the searches.
As some concentrated on the digging site, others used rakes and shovels to scour the surrounding area, slowly making their way through the recently trimmed undergrowth.
Divers have also been spotted investigating the water.
The woodland showed that heavy machinery cut pathways, leading to the primary, flattened 160-square-foot excavation area. Holes dug by police had been left around 2ft deep.
The operation is being led by German police looking for evidence to link her disappearance to Christian Brueckner.
The 45-year-old German national was made a formal suspect, or an “arguido”, by Portuguese prosecutors in 2022.
Brueckner is known to have visited the picturesque spot around the time Madeleine, who would now be 20, went missing.
Sniffer dogs were used to search the reservoir’s banks, and police officers entered the water on an inflatable boat.
Uniformed and plain-clothed officers spent several hours scouring the scrubland, using pickaxes and inspecting small rocks with rakes and spades.
Emergency services and officials from Portugal, Germany and the UK held briefings near blue police tents erected at the site.
Speaking to the German regional public broadcaster NDR, German state prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said the authorities “have grounds to believe that we could find evidence there (in the reservoir)”.
In a separate statement to German TV channel RTL, Mr Wolters said he could not “give any concrete information” on the clues on which the search operation is based.
“They are not tips from the accused… but you can imagine that we don’t start searching somewhere in Portugal on the off chance, but that there should be a bearable reason.
Police on Thursday wrapped up the latest search effort in the 16-year-old hunt for missing British girl Madeleine McCann after collecting unspecified samples by a reservoir in Portugal, as a German prosecutor played down hopes of an imminent breakthrough.
Portuguese police said in a statement the three-day operation requested by Germany was now over and that the collected material would be handed over to German authorities after “safeguarding the interests of the investigation still ongoing in Portugal”.
Police would not say whether any valuable clues were found during the search involving sniffer dogs, using a tractor-based tree-cutter, and investigators raking the cleared ground in a few small areas.
A source near the investigation told Reuters there was nothing tangible to report.
German authorities, who have named a suspect in the case, have been helping Portuguese crews comb the remote area inland from the Algarve coastal resort where McCann – then aged three – went missing during a family holiday in 2007.
He said it was essential to manifest that authorities were investigating the case. He added that the investigators were looking for the body and anything that could help the investigation, such as clothing: “A lot is conceivable.”
He expected the results of the studies of the collected samples to be announced later.
German prosecutors last year named Christian Brueckner as an official suspect in McCann’s disappearance. The convicted child abuser and drug dealer is behind bars in Germany for raping a 72-year-old woman in the same part of the Algarve.
Brueckner has repudiated any involvement in the disappearance. Nobody has been found.
British police who assisted their Portuguese and German counterparts at the Arade reservoir had left by early Thursday afternoon, followed by German investigators who packed their tents at a camp on a hill.