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Fresh hope for McCanns as detectives follow up 195 new leads

SENIOR Scotland Yard police officers believe missing Madeleine McCann could still be alive

The strongest hope that the disappeared girl is still alive and could be held captive by a kidnapper comes as it is revealed there are 195 new leads in the case.

"We genuinely believe there's a possibility that she is alive" said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood of the Yard's homicide and serious crime command as his team reviewed missed opportunities in the case.

Detectives last night released an image of how Maddie might look today, approaching her ninth birthday on May 12.

Her parents, Kate and Gerry, say they "hope and pray" the image could provide the breakthrough which would reunite them with their daughter after five years of agony.

A 37-strong team of police based in central London have found 195 missed opportunities in 40,000 pieces of evidence they have examined.

They believe the original investigation was "deeply flawed".

The police have identified a failure to trace and interview all the holidaymakers and staff at the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz from where Madeleine vanished on May 3, 2007.

There are unexplained gaps in the chronology of events around the time of her disappearance and a lack of forensic examination of records documenting mobile phone activity in the area.

"Following forensic analysis of the time line, I am satisfied there was an opportunity for Madeleine to be taken as part of a criminal act -- abduction by a stranger" said Mr Redwood.

"There are cases where young people have been taken and found alive years later," he added.

"We are working on the basis of two possibilities here. One is that Madeleine is still alive and the second is that she is sadly dead.

"Based on the former we are releasing the age-progression image today with a specific appeal. If you know where Madeleine McCann is now or you have new direct information or evidence about what has happened to her then please contact us."


He also called on Portuguese police to reopen their inquiry into the case.

The initial investigation was formally closed in 2008 with the Portuguese police saying they believed Madeleine was dead.

The decision to reopen the case lies with the Portuguese judiciary but has the support of the British Metropolitan Police and the Policia Judaria.

The review, codenamed Operation Grange, was launched in May of last year when the McCanns urged the British Prime Minister to intervene.

The Portuguese Policia Judiciaria set up its review team in March.

Mr Redwood and his team have made several visits to Portugal and Spain and are working closely with the Portuguese police

A spokesman for the McCanns said the couple were pleased with the "age-progression" image and that they saw a strong family resemblance in the picture.

Spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "They've said all along that Madeleine could be alive and to have the police say that as well is great for them. it has given them real hope".