A world-leading forensic search specialist has said divers deployed to find missing Madeleine McCann at a reservoir in Portugal will have to conduct a painstaking “fingertip search” underwater. In a fresh development police divers were seen entering the water early on Tuesday at the Barragem do Arade reservoir, about 30 miles from Praia da Luz, where three-year-old Madeleine went missing in 2007.
Peter Faulding, whose team Specialist Group International were called in by police earlier this year to help with the search for missing mum Nicola Bulley, said sonar may not work effectively if divers are looking for skeletal remains.
He said most likely a system known as a jackstay search, or arc search, would be deployed at the reservoir which involves using a weighted line which divers track back and forth along searching a specific area.
Mr Faulding said detectives in Portugal must be working off new information which may mean they are looking at a specific area around the reservoir.
He said: “Technology probably won’t be used, it’ll be divers using what we call a jackstay search, or arc search, because when you are looking for skeletal remains, it’s very fine detail to see on sonar.
“If there was a body wrapped in a bag then the sonar would pick that up straight away, but they may not have that technology, very few people use it.
“It’ll be a jackstay search for Maddie, which works by basically putting a line out, a weighted line, and the diver swims along the line and does literally a fingertip search. It’s a methodical way of searching so you don’t miss anything.
“If it is a reservoir you should have visibility, it’ll be murky but you will have visibility. It will be a very fine fingertip search along the line, and then you move the line across and then you swim back down the other side of the line.”
At the reservoir in Portugal, a police motor boat has been sent into the water with two officers on board. A Policia Judiciaria statement on Monday said they are co-ordinating searches in the Algarve at the request of German police and in the presence of British officers.
It has been reported that the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance, convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, 45, spent time in the area between 2000 and 2017.
Investigators believe he killed Madeleine, then aged three, after abducting her from a holiday apartment.
Mr Faulding said searching the reservoir meticulously would take time. He said: “The police have quoted two days for the search, I’m surprised at two days, because it would take a lot longer than that so it may depend on what intelligence they have got.
“They may have a specific area, they may have like a driveway that leads down to a narrow area where they believe the suspect could have deposited the remains.
“They are possibly looking for a body that had been weighted down, and I would suggest that if a body was in the water, it’s probably been weighted down.
“Obviously they will be working off very specific intelligence I would have thought.”
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German authorities are expected to release a statement about the search later on Tuesday and it is not the first time the reservoir has been scoured.
In 2008, Portuguese lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia paid for specialist divers to search it after he claimed to have been tipped off by criminal contacts that Madeleine’s body was there. The most recent search in Portugal in relation to her disappearance was in 2014, when British police were given permission to examine scrubland near where she vanished.
Earlier this month, Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann posted a short statement on their Find Madeleine Campaign website to mark the anniversary of her disappearance.
They said: “Today marks the 16th anniversary of Madeleine’s abduction. Still missing… still very much missed. It is hard to find the words to convey how we feel.
“The police investigation continues, and we await a breakthrough.”
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