Madeleine McCann: New leads spark Met formal inquiry

Scotland Yard
says it has
"new evidence
and new
witnesses" in
the Madeleine
McCann case
and has opened
a formal
investigation
into her
disappearance.
The Met Police
said it still believed there was a chance
Madeleine was alive and it was
investigating 38 "persons of interest"
after reviewing the evidence.
Madeleine's parents, Gerry and Kate
McCann, said the shift from review to
investigation was "a big step forward".
Madeleine was almost four when she
disappeared in Portugal in May 2007.
She went missing from her family's
holiday flat in the Algarve resort of Praia
da Luz, as her parents dined out with
friends at a nearby restaurant.
Portuguese authorities dropped their
investigation into her disappearance in
2008, but Scotland Yard started a review
in May 2011, after Prime Minister David
Cameron had responded to a plea from
the McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire.
New theories
Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood, who is
heading what has been called Operation
Grange, said: "The review has given us
new thinking, new theories, new
evidence and new witnesses."
His 37-strong police team is two-thirds
of the way through examining 30,500
documents from files held by the
Portuguese, private investigators and
British police. Some fresh interviews
have also taken place.
"Over the last two years what the review
has told me is that there is no clear,
definitive proof that Madeleine McCann
is dead," Det Ch Insp Redwood said.
"So on that basis, I still genuinely believe
that there is a possibility that she is
alive."
He added: "It is a positive step in our
hunt for Madeleine that our
understanding of the evidence has
enabled us to shift from review to
investigation."
Scotland Yard's decision to formally open
its own investigation - which, like the
review, will be funded by the Home
Office - follows extensive discussions
with UK prosecutors and the Portuguese.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny
Shaw said: "It's highly unusual -
although not unprecedented - for a
British police force to launch its own
inquiry into an incident abroad."
In a statement, the McCanns said: "Kate
and Gerry warmly welcome the shift in
the Met's emphasis from review to
investigation.
"It is clearly a big step forward in
establishing what happened and,
hopefully, towards bringing whoever is
responsible for Madeleine's abduction to
justice."
The Met said the 38 "persons of
interest," who include 12 British
nationals, are from five European
countries - Portugal, the UK and three
unnamed others.
Detectives say they need to find out
more information and collect evidence
on them and are not anticipating any
immediate arrests.
The 12 UK nationals, who are not all
currently in the UK, are believed to have
been in Portugal at the time of
Madeleine's disappearance.
Portuguese assistance
The Met said it was "at an advanced
stage of dialogue" with the other
countries involved, and enquiries would
be continuing with their assistance in the
months ahead "to establish more
information about the individuals
concerned and any potential
involvement".
A foreign national resident abroad could
not be prosecuted in the UK for any
possible crime that may be linked to
Madeleine's disappearance.
The Metropolitan Police issued a computer-
generated image (r) of how Madeleine
might have looked aged nine
Detectives say Madeleine's parents, the
friends the McCanns were with in
Portugal and people known to the family
before they went away are not suspects
or people they need to investigate.
The investigation is currently closed in
Portugal and as part of the country's
criminal justice system it cannot be
reopened unless judges are convinced
there are solid grounds to do so.
British police have formally asked the
Crown Prosecution Service to submit an
international letter of request to
Portuguese authorities for assistance in
obtaining evidence relating to their
inquiries.
The Met has asked for a small number of
its officers to be present in Portugal for
the inquiries there.
As part of the review, a computer-
generated image of how Madeleine might
have looked at the age of nine was
created with the help of her family. They
marked her 10th birthday on 12 May.
By May 2012 - one year into the review -
the Home Office's costs had reached
£1.9m. The Met Police said a more up-
to-date figure for the cost of the review
would be released in due course.
The former head of the National Police
Improvement Agency Peter Neyroud said
it was a difficult investigation because it
involved two countries, possibly more.
"It was always going to be an expensive
inquiry and it is a fine judgement as to
how far you go on but if, as appears,
there are fresh lines of inquiry and a
case worth pursuing, there is a young
lady out there who deserves to be
reunited with her parents - or a murder
case that deserves to be pursued."