Madeleine McCann: South Yorkshire Police dogs used in bid to work out what happened to missing girl

Following an announcement that an official suspect has been identified over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, we look back at when two South Yorkshire Police sniffer dogs were drafted in to help with the search for the missing girl.

Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 2:44 pm

Police chiefs in South Yorkshire gave the go-ahead for springer spaniels Eddie and Keela to be flown to Portugal in 2007 following the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine during a family holiday.

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Madeleine had been left with her younger siblings in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz while their parents were dining at a nearby restaurant when she disappeared on May 3, 2007.

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Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2007 when she was just three years old

Two months after the youngster went missing, sniffer dogs trained to detect traces of blood and dead bodies, were sent into the holiday apartment and to examine the rental car used by the family during their time on the Algarve.

Dog handler Martin Grime, who was based in Doncaster, spoke to documentary makers as part of an eight part Netflix series on the disappearance, which aired in 2019.

He explained how sniffer dogs have such acute senses they can detect traces from years ago.

Footage from the searches showed the dogs barking to indicate scents they had picked up.

The dogs had worked on high-profile cases in the UK and abroad previously, with Keela drafted in following the attempted murder of young mum Abigail Witchells in Surrey in 2005 and Eddie used to located the body of pensioner Attracta Harron in a shallow grave in County Tyrone, Ireland, in April 2003.

Madeleine McCann: The South Yorkshire children still missing as Met Police 'prepare to close case'

Although not named, he is reported to be convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, 44, who denies any involvement’

In a message posted on the Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page on Friday, Kate and Gerry McCann wrote: “Even though the possibility may be slim, we have not given up hope that Madeleine is still alive and we will be reunited with her.”

The move by Portuguese authorities could allow Brueckner, who is in prison in Germany, to be transferred to the Algarve for formal questioning.

The German newspaper Bild reported that Brueckner's lawyer, Friedrich Fuelscher, said the Portuguese decision appeared to be a "procedural trick".

Reports suggested the move could be linked to the country's statute of limitations, which does not generally allow crimes which carry a maximum prison sentence to be prosecuted more than 15 years after they were committed.

This would mean Brueckner could no longer be charged in Portugal after May 3.

Brueckner was found guilty in 2019 of the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old US woman in the same area of the Algarve region where Madeleine went missing, and sentenced to seven years in jail, at a court in Brunswick, Lower Saxony.

A federal court in Karlsruhe, a city in south-west Germany, rejected an appeal against the conviction in November 2020.

In Portuguese law, an arguido status can be a preliminary move ahead of an arrest being made or charges brought.

The Metropolitan Police continue to treat Madeleine's disappearance as a missing persons inquiry.