Portuguese police have reportedly apologised to the parents of Madeleine McCann for the way detectives investigated the case and treated the family.
Madeleine vanished in May 2007 while on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, in Praia da Luz, after they left the then three-year-old and her younger twin siblings asleep in their apartment while they went out to dinner with friends.
According to BBC Panorama, a delegation of senior Portuguese police officers travelled from Lisbon to London earlier this year, where they met and apologised to Mr McCann.
The delegation reportedly said the initial investigation was not handled properly, insufficient importance was given at the time to missing children, and officers did not properly appreciate the McCanns’ position as foreigners in an environment they did not understand.
During questioning of Madeleine’s parents in September 2007, detectives made them both “arguidos” – or suspects – in their daughter’s disappearance.
That status was eventually lifted and the investigation was shelved in 2008, but the couple remained under suspicion in Portugal for years.
In 2012, Scotland Yard detectives said they believed Madeleine could still be alive, released an age-progression picture of how she might look as a nine-year-old, and called on the Portuguese authorities to reopen the case, but Portuguese police said they had found no new material.
Months after Scotland Yard launched its own investigation, Operation Grange, into Madeleine’s disappearance in 2013, Portuguese police confirmed that a review of their original inquiry had uncovered new lines of inquiry, and they reopened the case.
The officers also gave their support to the German authorities who believe their prime suspect, 46-year-old German national Christian Brueckner, a convicted sex offender, kidnapped and murdered the youngster.
Hans Christian Wolters, one of the German prosecutors on the case, told the BBC the apology is “a good sign”, adding: “It shows that, in Portugal, there’s development in the McCann case.”
Brueckner is in prison in Germany for the rape of a woman in Praia da Luz in 2005, and is suspected of further rapes and child sexual abuse committed in the area between 2000 and 2017.
He has reportedly denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.
Earlier this year, a reservoir in Portugal was searched and items were seized after German prosecutors received “certain tips” about the case.
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