Home Secretary Theresa May is now expected to announce a full-scale police investigation into the disappearance
Top British government lawyers have travelled to Portugal to meet officials to discuss new leads in the Madeleine McCann investigation.
The trip is the first time that lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service have visited the country in connection with Scotland Yard’s £5 million review of the case.
Home Secretary Theresa May is now expected to announce a full-scale Yard investigation into the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine in May 2007.
London’s chief crown prosecutor Alison Saunders and her deputy Jenny Hopkins flew to Portugal in April to meet counterparts to discuss leads identified in the Met Police’s review.
It was revealed last month detectives had identified a list of potential suspects.
Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, who supervised the review, said there were a “good number” of people who should be questioned as well as “further forensic opportunities”.
The list is thought to number around 20, including Britons.
The potential suspects are thought to include known paedophiles who are believed to have been in the Algarve when Madeleine disappeared.
The visit by senior CPS lawyers underlines the belief among senior detectives that the case could be solved.
A CPS spokesperson said today: “Prosecutors from CPS London, and investigators from the MPS, visited their Portuguese counterparts on 17-18th April to discuss possible next steps in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. We continue to work with the police on this case.”
Portuguese police led the search for Madeleine after she went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz while her parents dined nearby.
The investigation was shelved in 2008 but the Yard launched a Home Office-funded review in 2011 after David Cameron intervened at the request of Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann.
The review team based in Belgravia police station in central London have examined hundreds of thousands of documents from the Portuguese investigation and enquiries by a private detective agency employed by Madeleine’s family and identified 195 potential leads.
A full Yard investigation would allow police to interview suspects in Britain though they would need the assistance of the Portuguese to carry out any enquiries there.
A Home Office spokesman said it had agreed to “provide the Metropolitan Police with the resources they need”.
The sinister pock-marked stranger : A tourist said she saw him twice, once four days before Madeleine was snatched and again on May 2, the day before she disappeared.
The gypsy gang : Paedophile Raymond Hewlett, who lived on the Algarve, said he had been approached by gypsies wanting to buy children.
Buried under roadworks : The area around the Nossa Senhora da Luz church had been dug up at the time but this theory was dismissed.
Buried at sea : Police were quoted saying she had been dumped at sea.
Yacht escape : Police tried to find a British man who left the harbour on his yacht after mooring there for two years. A man was seen carrying a child to the boat.
Paedo network : It was claimed she’d been taken by a Europe-wide group.
Posh lookalike : Two men were approached in Barcelona by a “Victoria Beckham lookalike”, who asked if they were delivering her new daughter.
Dumped in a lake : A local reservoir was searched. Cord, tape and a sock were found.
Timeline May 3 2007: Madeleine goes missing from apartment.
May 26: Portuguese police issue description of a man seen carrying a child.
June 17: Cops admit vital clues may have been destroyed as scene was not protected.
Sep 7: Kate and Gerry McCann both named as suspects.
Sep 9: They go home to Rothley, Leicestershire.
April 7 2008: “Tapas Seven” friends grilled by police.
July 21: McCanns cleared as suspects but Portuguese attorney general says probe into disappearance will be shelved.
Aug 4 2010: Kate and Gerry hold private talks with Home Secretary Theresa May.
May 12 2011: UK Met Police announce review of case and search for new evidence.
Nov 24 2012: Met Police talk of 95 potential new leads during first year of new probe.
Apr 17 2013: UK government lawyers head to Portugal to discuss those new leads with officials.
May 17 2013: Investigators identify “a number of persons of interest”.