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Officers photograph digging site as Madeleine McCann searches enter day three

A large section of the Barragem do Arade has been cordoned off since Tuesday morning.

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Searches continue in Portugal as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

Police have begun photographing an excavation site near the banks of a remote reservoir in Portugal as the fresh Madeleine McCann searches entered a third day.

Officers maintained their focus on an area of woodland on a peninsula at the Barragem do Arade on Thursday after a digging operation was commenced on Wednesday afternoon.

Heavy machinery, which had been used to cut through the vast undergrowth, was removed from the search area on Thursday afternoon amid reports that officers had been told to stand down by 4pm.

A large section of the Barragem do Arade has been cordoned off since Tuesday morning, around 30 miles from where Madeleine went missing in 2007.

Officers used shovels to excavate their area of focus, and sniffer dogs and pickaxes have also been deployed over the course of the searches.

As some concentrated on the digging site, others used rakes and shovels to scour the surrounding area, slowly making their way through the recently trimmed undergrowth.

Searches continue in Portugal as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Searches continue in Portugal as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (Yui Mok/PA)

The operation is being carried out at the request of German investigators who believe their prime suspect, convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, 45, kidnapped and murdered the youngster.

He is currently 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.

German authorities have not revealed what triggered the latest search operation, but prosecutor for the city of Braunschweig Christian Wolters said they were acting on the basis of “certain tips”.

He told German public broadcaster NDR the new information had not come from the suspect and they did not have a confession or “any indication from the suspect of where it would make sense to search”.

Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann went missing in 2007 (Family handout/PA)

The Sun reported that investigators previously found photos and video of Brueckner at the reservoir. He has reportedly denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Madeleine was three years old when she vanished while on holiday with her parents in Praia da Luz, after they left her and her younger twin siblings asleep in their apartment while they went out to dinner with friends.

Portuguese lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia previously claimed that criminal contacts had told him that Madeleine’s body was in the reservoir, and in 2008 he raised funds for unsuccessful private searches of the water.

British officers from the Metropolitan Police are also present while the work is carried out so they can inform Madeleine’s parents of any developments.

On Tuesday, search teams were seen scouring the banks – hammering away at the ground with pickaxes and combing through small rocks with rakes and spades.

Around a dozen officers with sniffer dogs were also at the site, while the fire service boat took officers onto the water.

Personnel clear undergrowth near a reservoir in the Algave
Personnel clear undergrowth near a reservoir in the Algave, Portugal (Yui Mok/PA)

The Sun said divers were expected to enter the water on Thursday.

Portuguese daily Expresso said that the first day ended with no significant results, and that police had collected some objects including fabrics and garments.

Madeleine’s disappearance has attracted enormous media attention since she vanished, and reporters are being kept at arm’s length around a mile away from where search activity is taking place.

A no-fly zone has also been imposed over the reservoir.

The new searches come as the Home Office granted an extra £110,000 in funding this financial year for the Metropolitan Police to assist with finding Madeleine, down from just over £300,000 last year.

The total funding given to Operation Grange has been just under £13.1 million since 2011.

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