UK, German police have new suspect in 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann

FILE PHOTO: Kate McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing during a family holiday to Portugal in 2007, attends a news conference at the launch of her book in London May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British and German police said on Wednesday they had a new suspect in the 2007 disappearance in Portugal of three-year-old Madeleine McCann and appealed for information about a German man currently imprisoned in Germany for sexual assault offences.

McCann, who is British, disappeared from her bedroom on May 3 during a family holiday in the Algarve while her parents were dining with friends nearby in the resort of Praia da Luz.

Her fate remains a mystery despite huge international publicity which prompted reported sightings from across the world.

Police want to speak to anyone who has relevant information on the 43-year old man, whom they did not name, or the movements of two vehicles linked to him during the period around the girl’s disappearance. Both cars, a Volkswagen camper van and a Jaguar, are now in the possession of German police.

German police said they were treating the case as a suspected murder and had determined the method used to kill McCann. They did not believe the murder was pre-meditated and said the man was involved in crimes like break-ins and burglary.

British police are still treating the case as a missing person and described Wednesday’s appeal as a “significant development”.

They also asked for anyone who was familiar with two Portuguese phone numbers to come forward. One of the phones was used by the suspect, and received a 30 minute phone call from the second number whilst in the Praia da Luz area on the night of the disappearance, shortly before McCann was last seen.

“More than 13 years have passed, and your loyalties may have changed. This individual is in prison ... now is the time to come forward,” said British senior investigating officer Mark Cranwell.

Reporting by William James in London, Joseph Nasr in Berlin and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; editing by Stephen Addison