Madeleine McCann: Police confirm Portugal 'activity'

Madeleine McCann wearing an Everton football shirt

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Police investigating Madeleine McCann's disappearance say "activity" is expected to begin in Portugal soon.

The disclosure comes amid reports Portuguese authorities have given permission for sites in Praia da Luz, where the toddler went missing, to be searched.

Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said he would be unable to provide details of the activity.

But he said he believed it would occur "in the coming weeks".

No media updates

Analysis

Seven years since Madeleine McCann disappeared, the spotlight once again falls on the little town Praia da Luz and the search for a lost girl. But the back story is the relationship between two countries, and two police forces.

On Tuesday, a Portuguese prosecutor confirmed that a series of requests from British police for investigative work in Portugal have been approved. And later - in an open letter - the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said activity is to begin soon.

But there was more. Mr Rowley urged the media to avoid speculation; to think of the impact it might have on the investigation.

That is because the Portuguese police and not the British will carry out any work in Praia da Luz. British officers will simply be observers. Without the co-operation of the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria, the British efforts will not get far.

The relationship between the forces has been difficult at times. Officers in both countries have told me of their frustrations. Both have active and separate investigations. Leaks and speculation could fatally undermine their co-operation.

It seems an upsurge in police activity is about to start. If it is to be successful, this sometimes uneasy relationship will need to survive.

A letter was sent to media editors amid speculation about excavation work. Mr Rowley asked them to "think carefully" about information they published.

Madeleine was three when she went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Algarve, in May 2007.

A request to search a number of sites was among a series of requests made to police in Portugal by British detectives working on the case, according to reports.

Mr Rowley said he had discussed the case with his opposite number in Portugal and highlighted the "high levels of interest" the activity would generate in the British media.

He said Portuguese police did not provide the media with updates on ongoing investigations.

Activity would cease if police in Britain gave out information or news reporters caused any disruption to their work in Portugal, he added.

Mr Rowley said the Portuguese authorities had been "more bureaucratic and slower" at processing requests than his team had wished.

But he asked the media to respect their requests as they carried out the work.

"We do not want to undermine our prospects of providing Mr and Mrs McCann with answers in this tragic case," he said.

Seventh anniversary

It comes after the seventh anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance was marked on Saturday.

Gerry McCann, Madeleine's father, expressed his family's gratitude that the Metropolitan Police team was now moving on to a "very active" phase in its investigation.

Gerry and Kate McCann Gerry and Kate McCann marked the seventh anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance on Saturday

He said at the weekend: "They are chipping away and obviously there is new evidence so we are going to continue to hope that we will get a happy outcome."

Kate McCann also disclosed last week that she returns to the Portuguese resort where her daughter disappeared to "walk those streets" and "look for answers" once or twice each year.

She also backed a revamped alert system triggered when missing children are kidnapped or their lives are at risk - known as Child Rescue Alerts.

Scotland Yard launched a fresh investigation - codenamed Operation Grange - into Madeleine's disappearance last July, two years into a review of the case, and made renewed appeals for information.

In March, British police said they were seeking an intruder who sexually abused five girls in Portugal between 2004 and 2006.

Detectives say the attacks happened in holiday villas occupied by UK families in the Algarve.

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Thursday 3 May 2007: Timeline
Map showing the scene of Madeleine's disappearance
  • 20:30 Kate and Gerry McCann leave their apartment to have dinner at a Tapas bar
  • 21:05 Gerry McCann checks on Madeleine and her siblings
  • 22:00 A man is seen carrying a child wearing pyjamas heading towards the ocean
  • 22:00 Kate McCann raises the alarm that Madeleine has gone missing

Clickable map and timeline

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