MADELEINE McCann cops searched a lake for key video evidence on a prime suspect’s camcorder, a source claims.
At the end of a three-day search of the banks of Portugal’s Arade Dam, officers packed up their equipment and removed samples for forensic laboratory testing.
The teams have refined the hunt’s focus on a peninsula at a prime beauty spot that suspect Christian B has described as his “little paradise”.
As the operation drew to a close at 4 p.m. local time, German officers could be seen waving at their Portuguese counterparts as they exited the site in people carriers and pickups.
However, the search could provide important information, since in addition to soil samples, samples were also taken that are forensically analyzed in Germany.
Experts said tell-tale leads could link Madeleine to prime suspect Christian B – who is feared took her to the reservoir after kidnapping her in 2007.
But it can take weeks – or even months – of painstaking lab work to uncover a clue to the killer.
As the search concluded, a police source claimed German prosecutors received a tip that important evidence was being found there.
They were reportedly hoping to find a gun and camcorder allegedly stolen by two of Christian B’s former friends.
The camera contained video evidence of how he tortured and raped two victims, it said.
Prosecutors are reportedly hoping there could also be pictures of Madeleine, who was abducted from her family’s holiday home in the Algarve in May 2007.
Key witnesses Manfred Seyferth and another man named Helge Busching told investigators they broke into Christian B.’s home weeks later.
He was in prison at the time of the burglary at his remote villa in Foral, 12 miles from the dig site.
A source close to the investigation said MailOnline: “Seyferth informed the police that he and Busching found a video camera and a gun in the house after the break-in.
“When the video camera played, they said it showed a masked man sexually assaulting a woman and the voice they heard was (Christian B’s).
“Seyferth said a gun was also found and that after finding the video camera, they panicked, drove off and later threw both items into the lake.
“Seyferth has told investigators that the material on the videotape is malicious and whether it can be found is critical to establishing a case against (the suspect).
“Now another witness has come forward who confirms the story of the first two men and this has led to an intensification of the investigation.”
Activities intensified yesterday morning when Portuguese sources claimed a police whistleblower revealed that Christian B visited the dam site days after Maddie disappeared.
His lead – as well as geolocation leads found in the convicted rapist’s heinous 8,000 videos and images – are understood to have sparked the search.
At noon, teams began tearing down white tents that had appeared in the search area on Monday.
Vehicles were also seen being loaded with equipment as officers prepared to say goodbye – including Germans who had to make a long convoy journey home across Europe.
The head of Portugal’s Madeleine investigation, Helena Monteiro, was also seen leaving, along with a sniffer dog team and machines used to clear the undergrowth.
Exclusive Sun drone footage and stills captured after no-fly zone restrictions were lifted showed work intensified in the frantic final hours of the search.
Teams in overalls and rubber gloves were led by a senior German officer and a photographer who recorded key clues.
A core team of about six searchers returned to a narrow swath of bushland that appeared to have been first identified as an “area of interest” yesterday.
They seemed to be heading for a spot where important evidence or even a body might have been dumped.
Police officers were seen removing what appeared to be large brown bags of evidence from the search site at the Arade Dam, 50 kilometers from where Maddie was arrested in Praia da Luz.
However, they have not disclosed any information about what was found.
Activity was heightened when Portuguese sources claimed a whistleblower who knew Christian B had given police officers a tip – and claimed he was at the scene days after Maddie disappeared.
The clue and geolocation clues found in the heinous 8,000 videos and images of the convicted rapist and pedophile are believed to have sparked the search.
“Concrete” information from the fiend’s former friend is said to have led dozens of officials to the remote location.
German, Portuguese and British police extended the hunt at the Silves dam to a third day in hopes of another breakthrough.
It is believed that police suspect Christian B may have thrown Maddie’s body or vital evidence into the water there.
By evening of the day, two teams were clearly focused on a small patch of land surrounded by trees and shrubs about 20 meters from the waterline.
They returned early this morning and worked methodically on site with pickaxes, shovels, rakes and trowels and appeared to be collecting, photographing and measuring samples.
Our drone clearly showed them scouring the earth for clues while soil samples were taken for closer examination.
The soil was carted away in wheelbarrows as sources said it would be returned to Germany for weeks or even months of careful forensic analysis.
In May 2007, when the drought-stricken reservoir reached normal levels, the bottom was practically at the water’s edge.
And the focus shown suggested the team was acting on information that led them to a likely location.
The search later expanded to a hill and the exposed reservoir bed, where at least 20 police officers with digging tools and equipment formed a line to comb the ground.
But by lunchtime, word spread that the hunt would be halted, and police and aides were seen dismantling white tents and removing equipment from the site.
And just before the midday search began, a remote-controlled crawler tractor that had been used to clear the site was observed being taken away from the site.
Portuguese “forest pioneers” were drafted in yesterday to help search the nearby forest at the site, 45 minutes from the Praia da Luz holiday home, where Madeleine was abducted in May 2007.
Typically specializing in clearing bushland to prevent wildfires, the pioneers used rotavator-like machines to move through dense undergrowth.
Search parties are understood to have been asked to look for fabric and fibers – they were also said to be looking for traces of Madeleine’s pink pajamas.
German police officers investigating Christian B. believe he may have taken Madeleine to the beauty spot after kidnapping her as her parents Kate and Gerry eaten out.
And they remain convinced that the convicted rapist and pedophile raped and killed them before dumping her body.
Christian B, 45, is currently in prison for the 2005 rape of an American pensioner in Praia da Luz, just meters from the McCanns’ home.
He also faces a number of other sexual harassment charges.
German police believe he killed Madeleine – but three years after he became known as a suspect, charges are no closer.
His attorney Friedrich Fulscher insists he had nothing to do with the McCann case and is trying to dismiss him.