Sea search for Madeleine McCann is best chance of finding a tot in 16 years – cops clearly know something, says ex-Maddie cop

A TOP investigator who investigated the disappearance of Madeleine McCann believes investigators are now closer than ever to finally solving the case.

Jim Gamble was the UK’s Chief Child Protection Officer and led a review of the case which led to the launch of the Met Police’s ongoing investigation, Operation Grange.

Madeleine McCann disappeared while on vacation with her family in 2007


Madeleine McCann disappeared while on vacation with her family in 2007Photo credit: AFP
Jim Gamble was Britain's best child protection copy


Jim Gamble was Britain’s best child protection copyPhoto credit: INEQE
Christian B is the prime suspect in Madeleine's disappearance


Christian B is the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearancePhoto credit: BILD

The 63-year-old from Bangor, Northern Ireland, is supporting the new inquiry as police launch a search of the Arade Dam around 45 minutes before Praia da Luz.

“I think we’re looking at the best chance we’ve had in 16 years to find out what happened to Madeleine,” he told The Sun Online.

Mr Gamble believes the confidence the Germans are showing in the investigation means they must have solid evidence against the prime suspect, Christian B.

He explained: “You have to have something final.

“Having worked with the German police, it caught my attention when the prosecutor was so confident in his assessment that Madeleine was dead.

“They obviously keep what they have secret and don’t want to lose the evidence.”

And while he acknowledged there had been a lot of “false hunches” in the Maddie case, he said the investigation into Christian B was the “most promising” since her disappearance in 2007.

The German and Portuguese police have launched a new major campaign to search the reservoir and the surrounding areas.

Pictures show a heavy police presence when officers armed with shovels, accompanied by sniffer dogs, arrived at the scene.

It’s unclear exactly what led to the new search – but sources say Christian B considered the area his ‘little paradise’.

Investigators are believed to have obtained new video evidence showing the convicted sex offender at the scene.

Mr Gamble, who is now CEO of INEQE Safeguarding Group, said the German police’s leadership in the investigation gave him hope the case could finally be resolved.

“The search matters because it depends on who is leading it,” he told The Sun Online.

“German authorities, prosecutors and investigators are usually very conservative. So when they say something definitive, you know they have the additional information.

“They have been absolutely adamant on two things: first, that they have the right suspect, and second, that Madeleine is dead.”

He also praised the presence of Scotland Yard investigators who are currently “observing” the search.

Mr Gamble explained that authorities are likely to conduct a “focused and targeted” search based on their new findings.

And he said that the drop in water levels due to the drought at the reservoir will also help the police.

The search for land is also carried out “specifically and concretely” with the help of new, advanced technologies.

Although it has now been 16 years, Mr Gamble said it was “not impossible” for a body to be found.

“A human body is very, very difficult to dispose of — that is, whey bodies are usually buried in the sea or disposed of,” he explained.

“Bone fragments can be preserved for well over 30 years – and even 1 microgram of bone powder can contain enough DNA for profiling.”

However, Mr Gamble warned there was a risk of “tunnel vision” – particularly as Christian B seems to fit the suspect’s profile so perfectly and circumstantial evidence abounds.

“I saw, I was involved, you’re so convinced that this person committed the crime, only to find out it wasn’t them,” he told The Sun Online.

“People have to be open-minded.”

And he urged anyone who was in Praia Da Luz when Maddie disappeared to revisit the days of her disappearance, as even the smallest piece of information could clear up the case.

Before the search, police and search parties met at the scene


Before the search, police and search parties met at the sceneCredit: Dan Charity
Two white tents were set up


Two white tents were set upCredit: Dan Charity
The search is the first of its kind in Portugal since 2014


The search is the first of its kind in Portugal since 2014Photo credit: Reuters
Police and search parties arrive at the scene at Barregem do Arade


Police and search parties arrive at the scene at Barregem do AradeCredit: Dan Charity
The teams look for clues as to what happened to Madeleine McCann


The teams look for clues as to what happened to Madeleine McCannCredit: Dan Charity
Police officers wear bandanas and hold shovels at the construction site


Police officers wear bandanas and hold shovels at the construction siteCredit: Dan Charity

Teams of officers with shovels are joined by sniffer dogs as they comb the abandoned Arade Dam under a no-fly zone in the first major search for Maddie in nine years.

Airspace over the area is only accessible to police drones, while the roads leading to the artificial Arade dam were closed yesterday when two white tents were erected.

Police officers from Germany, Portugal and the United Kingdom arrived at dawn, while German police officers were on their way to the site in a convoy of blacked-out Mercedes vans and SUVs.

As officers passed the observing press photographers, they were wearing neckerchiefs that covered the lower part of their faces to hide their identities.

By noon, the search team had expanded to a line of at least 18 Portuguese and German officers combing every inch of barren scrub near the reservoir’s shoreline.

Everyone wore rubber gloves and the Germans pulled off their face masks in the 20C heat as they toiled with shovels, pickaxes and rakes.

The search always seemed to systematically cover a swath of dusty ground only 10 meters from the water.

Underwater teams were ready, but the first stages of the search appeared to focus on land below a dense woodland forest overlooking the dam and a waterfront tower building.

Sources close to the investigation said they had evidence that the clearing in the trees was where Christian B. stayed after he parked his RV nearby.

A local, who asked not to be named but knows the area well, said: “It’s pretty well hidden by the trees and you don’t realize it until you’re almost there.

“Sometimes there is wild camping there, which is why you can find remains of fires in small stone walls.

“There are old sun loungers and makeshift benches for visitors to rest on.

“It’s very remote and very peaceful, but at the same time it has a slightly spooky feel to it.”

Local Portuguese reports, partially confirmed by police sources, said the searches were requested and approved after German police received videos and photos of Christian B. at the proposed excavation site.

They are believed to have been found buried in the pedophile’s “secret lair” at a derelict factory site in the German village of Neuwegersleben, 65 miles southeast of Hanover.

Police searched the site in February 2016 looking for the body of missing five-year-old Inga Gehricke, who disappeared on a family day out in Saxony-Anhalt in May 2015 and has been dubbed the “German Maddie”.

At the time, it was said that German investigators had discovered more than 8,000 images and videos full of child abuse images on USB sticks and hard drives.

They are said to have been buried under the body of Christian B.’s dead dog.

The area searched today is about 30 miles from the Ocean Club apartment from which the three-year-old disappeared while on vacation with her parents Kate and Gerry.

Accessible only by dirt road, Arade Dam has previously been linked to the Maddie case and was raided in 2008.

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The lawyer who organized the initial search told The Sun Online he believes police need a “miracle” to find Maddie.


PaulLeBlanc is a Dailynationtoday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. PaulLeBlanc joined Dailynationtoday in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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