British cleaners and Portuguese manual workers are among new suspects in the Madeleine McCann investigation, according to recent reports in UK’s media.
Scotland Yard identified what they describe as “people of interest” during a review of the Portuguese inquiry into the 3-year-old’s disappearance in May, 2007.
The suspects are thought to number 12 – not 20 as has been reported – and include a number of British cleaners who were working near the apartment complex where Madeleine McCann, twin siblings Sean and Amelie and parents Gerry and Kate were staying.
Sources said “low-level” workers – handymen, cleaners and gardeners – have become the focus of interest. Some are thought to have been employed by the Ocean Club complex on a casual basis and may have already been interviewed.
Police are said to be keen to trace six British cleaners who were working in Praia da Luz when Madeleine McCann vanished and who didn’t appear in the Portuguese files.
They are said to have used a white van and went from apartment to apartment offering their services, chiefly concentrating on expats.
A source said: “There is quite a culture of people drifting from door to door offering services from everything from your garden to your roof or windows.”
As well as the manual workers there are a number of more obvious suspects who already appear in the Portuguese files but who British police feel haven’t been “bottomed out” properly and therefore warrant further investigation.
“There are a lot of people who could be explored further, if only to be eliminated,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell, head of Scotland Yard’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command.
However, officers face having to break down Portuguese resistance to re-opening the inquiry. Officials in Lisbon say they can reopen the case only if there is new evidence. But it has been claimed that the new leads could, if properly explored, result in new evidence and possibly solve the Madeleine McCann mystery.
Detectives examining the Portuguese files were alarmed that the original inquiry had not traced and interviewed all the staff and holidaymakers who were at the Ocean Club when Madeleine McCann went missing.
Last year the Met Police said that it had identified 195 fresh leads that should have been investigated either by conducting further witness interviews, eliminating suspects or carrying out forensic tests that were missing from the 2007 inquiry.
Officers found unexplained gaps in the investigation timeline and that there had been a complete lack of forensic examination of mobile phone activity in the area on the night Madeleine McCann disappeared.
Hamish Campbell said it was “perfectly probable” that information which could identify the suspect responsible for Madeleine McCann’s disappearance was already in the Portuguese files.
He reiterated a claim that Madeleine McCann could still be alive. He said: “You only have to look at the case in Cleveland, Ohio, and the European cases. Of course there is a possibility she is alive. But the key is to investigate the case and, alive or dead, we should be able to try and discern what happened.”
The McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire, have been kept closely informed of Scotland Yard’s review – codenamed Operation Grange – over the past two years.
A spokesman for Gerry and Kate McCann said: “They have been encouraged from the moment the review started and are now greatly encouraged that police have drawn up a short list of people who they believe are of interest to the inquiry.”