MADELEINE McCANN could still be alive, as the leading officer in the case has confirmed there is no forensic evidence to show that the missing girl is dead.
The investigation into her disappearance from Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007, has attracted renewed attention after authorities announced they were investigating a 43-year-old convicted German child sex offender.
The suspect is currently serving a prison sentence in connection with a different matter.
Hans Christian Wolters, a spokesman for the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office, said on Monday that prosecutors had some evidence Madeleine was dead but did not have enough for a trial. But speaking to the Sunday Mirror, he appeared to go back on this.
“Because there is no forensic evidence there may be a little bit of hope (that she is alive),” he told the paper.
“We don’t want to kill the hope and because there is no forensic evidence it may be theoretically possible.
“I know it’s important for the British people when I say she is dead, but I did not know it was so important.”
Mr Wolters added that in Germany it was “more normal” to have a murder investigation in similar cases.
Separately, speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Wolters said prosecutors were investigating whether a hotel employee may have helped the suspect target the McCanns’ apartment knowing they were at a nearby restaurant.
The possible abductor is known to have lived on the Algarve coast and his Portuguese mobile phone received a half-hour phone call in Praia da Luz around an hour before Madeleine, then three, went missing on May 3 2007.
There is no suggestion the member of staff knew about Madeleine’s kidnap in advance, and Mr Wolters said: “The phone call made by the suspect could be between him and a member of staff who told him when to break into the McCanns’ apartment.”