04Police will be given extra funding to investigate whether Madeleine McCann may have been snatched by a gang of European people smugglers, a source has told the UK’s Sun on Sunday.
Scotland Yard is reportedly taking the new lead so seriously that detectives have briefed senior government officials about the new strand to the probe, which they admit is the last real opportunity of finding Madeleine alive.
“There is specific information which is being investigated,” the source said.
“The team is trying to confirm or disprove it and will exhaust every possible avenue of information, as they always promised Mr and Mrs McCann they would. The Home Office has agreed to continue funding the police work until it is completed.
“At present, funding is due to run out next April when it will be reviewed again.”
It is almost 10 years since Madeleine was snatched from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, after her parents left her and her two siblings alone while they went out for an evening meal with friends.
Detectives in Portugal and the UK have made little progress in their efforts to discover what happened to the then-three-year-old, with Metropolitan Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe warning in April that the British investigation into her disappearance could soon be brought to an end unless new information came to light.
Friends of the McCann’s have said the possibility that Madeleine was taken by people smugglers had always formed a major part of the investigation into what happened to her on the evening of 3 May 2007.
Police in Portugal have previously suggested that Madeleine was abducted by a professional paedophile ring, while the Met was sent an email around a year after her disappearance that said she was snatched by a Belgium-based child abduction gang after it received an order for a girl of her age.
Other theories about Madeleine’s fate include suggestions that she may have been taken when thieves panicked during a botched burglary. Some social media users still speculate that her parents – Kate and Gerry – may have instigated an elaborate cover-up after accidentally killing their daughter. The McCanns successfully sued a Portuguese detective who wrote a book accusing them covering up Madeline’s death.
Fears were raised that a child abduction gang may have been operating at a hotel resort in Cyprus over the summer of 2015. Holidaymakers complained they had seen a gang of men and women filming young children before making an audacious attempt to snatch them. Parents accused police on the island of covering up the kidnap attempt after officers failed to press charges against a man dressed as a waiter who allegedly attempted to bundle two young boys into a pick-up truck.