Maddie police begin radar search of scrubland as time running out
Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal seven years ago have started digging in the cordoned-off scrubland in Praia da Luz that has become the focal point of their search in recent days.
The development came as British officers and their Portuguese counterparts spent a third day investigating the hilly area near the apartment where Madeleine was staying with her family when she went missing in May 2007. She was three years old at the time.
But the British detectives have been given a deadline of tomorrow and it is understood that if nothing of significance is found before then, they must stop. However, they have applied for a seven day extension of the search and it is expected they will be allowed the extra time, but it must be approved by the Portuguese authorities.
Yesterday also saw the first use of ground-penetrating radar equipment to probe for disturbed earth in the same search area.
The latest search is being overseen by Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood of the Metropolitan Police, the senior officer investigating the case, who declined to comment to reporters when he arrived at the scene yesterday.
Earlier, officers carried out fingertip searches in the undergrowth, scouring the ground for clues. Sniffer dogs from South Wales Police were also used.
Police have also been granted permission to investigate two others areas of land, it is understood. One of these is believed to be even closer to the McCanns' apartment.
The large section of land is being guarded day and night by armed local police with dogs, and a large yellow-and-white cordon.
Scotland Yard, which is carrying out its own investigation into what happened to the child, refused to comment on British officers being at the scene on Tuesday and said the force was "not prepared to give a running commentary" about the case.
Two men in white overalls were seen entering a tent which has been erected on a spot of interest to police in Praia da Luz on the Algarve.
The area, which was covered by undergrowth until yesterday, has already been subject to fingertip searches by officers in Metropolitan Police uniforms.
Two white gazebo-style tents were put up and connected together to hide the scene from the TV crews and press watching from the other side of the police cordon nearby. They placed it on top of a spot where a piece of corrugated iron was discovered beneath undergrowth yesterday.
The section of metal, which is understood to have covered up a void in the ground, was then taken away by officers.
Local forestry workers have been clearing large areas of undergrowth within the scrubland to aid the search.
Another patch that was previously overgrown was earlier scanned with ground-penetrating radar equipment to probe for disturbed earth.
A man in plain clothes and without any police insignia wheeled the device along a section of ground.
The device uses radar pulses to take images of the subsurface of the ground to check for any anomalies.
The high-tech instrument can be used to check for disturbances in a variety of substances, including rock, soil, ice and fresh water. It can also detect voids and cracks in buildings and under pavements.
The developments came during a third day of investigations by British police and their Portuguese counterparts. (© Independent News Service)