Police cut size of Madeleine search team to four detectives
Published 29/10/2015 | 02:30
The size of the detective team investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been scaled back, Scotland Yard has announced.
Four officers will continue working on the case, down from 29 at the height of the inquiry.
The Metropolitan Police stressed that the investigation has not reached a conclusion and "there are still focused lines of investigation to be pursued".
More than 60 "persons of interest" have been investigated, while 650 sex offenders have "been considered".
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, who had overseen the inquiry since 2012, said: "The Met investigation has been painstaking and thorough and has for the first time brought together in one place what was disparate information across the world.
"This work has enabled us to better understand events in Praia da Luz the night Madeleine McCann went missing and ensure every possible measure is being taken to find out what happened to her.
"We still have very definite lines to pursue which is why we are keeping a dedicated team of officers working on the case."
He said Portuguese police are "fully committed" to probing Madeleine's disappearance.
Mr Rowley added: "The Met was asked to take on this exceptional case as one of national interest.
"We were happy to bring our expertise to bear only on the basis that it would not detract from the policing of London; and the Home Office have additionally funded the investigation above normal grants to the Met. That will continue at the reduced level."
Police have explained their decision to Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, who said they "fully understand" why the team is being reduced.
They said: "We would like to thank all the staff from Operation Grange for the meticulous and painstaking work that they have carried out over the last four-and-a-half years.
"The scale and difficulty of their task has never been in doubt.
"We are reassured that the investigation to find Madeleine has been significantly progressed and the Metropolitan Police have a much clearer picture of the events in Praia da Luz leading up to Madeleine's abduction in 2007.
"Whilst we do not know what happened to Madeleine, we remain hopeful that she may still be found given the ongoing lines of inquiry."
Madeleine was three when she went missing from the family's holiday apartment in Portugal's Algarve on May 3 2007, triggering one of the most high-profile missing persons investigations of all time.
British police were deployed to review the case at the request of the Government in 2011.
Scotland Yard announced the new structure as investigators follow a "small number of focused lines of inquiry".
Under Operation Grange, officers have been working to support the Portuguese investigation and this work continues, the Met said.
A Met Police spokesman said: "While there remain lines of inquiry to follow, the vast majority of the work by Operation Grange has been completed.
"For an investigation of this size, the extraordinary circumstances of investigating a missing child four years later in another country, the vast wealth of information and theories, it was always going to be an immense task and required a full team of 29 staff working on it.
"A team of four officers will continue to work solely on the Grange investigation.
"The inquiry has not reached a conclusion, there are still focused lines of investigation to be pursued."