The almost 4-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared during a family vacation in 2007 in Portugal from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz as her parents dined in a nearby tapas restaurant. Despite a massive, two-country police investigation and an intensive search, she remains missing.
A new, age-accelerated image of Madeleine as she might appear today (above) was released by London’s Metro Police, with assistance from her family. She is due to turn 9 on May 12th.
A new investigative team formed last May has been thoroughly going over the case file, which contains over 100,000 pages of documents. "As a result of evidence uncovered during the review, they now believe there is a possibility Madeleine is still alive and are appealing for anyone who is able to provide direct information as to her whereabouts to contact the team," police said in a statement, without disclosing any details on the possibility of new leads.
The team, consisting of 35 officers, is led by Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who vowed that they "will continue to put Madeleine McCann at the heart of everything we do." He has already visited Portugal seven times since her disappearance and maintains an active relationship with the parents.
"The intention is to identify from that material investigative opportunities which we will then present to the Portuguese authorities who retain primacy for the investigation," said police. "Officers have so far identified around 195 such opportunities within the historic material, and are also developing what they believe to be genuinely new material."
The investigation is split equally down two lines -- one assuming that Madeleine is dead, the other that she is alive, police said. Portuguese investigators closed the case in July 2008.
Madeleine McCann disappeared on the evening of Thursday, 3 May 2007. Her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, have said that they left her and her two-year-old twin sisters unsupervised in a ground floor bedroom while they ate at a restaurant about 130 yards away.
The initial investigation by the Polícia Judiciária (PJ), the Portuguese criminal investigation police, was based on the assumption that the child had been abducted. Later Portuguese authorities turned their focus on the parents, saying that there was a strong possibility that Madeleine died in the room.
During the investigation there were a number of unconfirmed sightings of Madeleine in Portugal and elsewhere.
The disappearance case is noted for the breadth and longevity of coverage in the media, some of which was spurred on by the parents themselves in their quest to keep Madeleine in the public eye, and some of which resulted from the notoriety following the naming of the parents as suspects.