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Madeleine McCann case: Renewed appeal for Irish tourists in the Algarve in 2007 to come forward with information

Irish holidaymakers have been asked to contact police if they recall the movements of the vehicles that were recently made public by police

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Undated handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of a VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to the suspect.  A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, detectives have revealed  PA Wire

Undated handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of a VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to the suspect. A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, detectives have revealed PA Wire

Undated handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of a VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to the suspect. A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, detectives have revealed PA Wire

IRISH tourists who holidayed in Portugal in 2007 and who may remember the movements of a distinctive Volkswagen camper van and Jaguar car around the Algarve have been urged to contact police investigating the disappearance of little Madeleine McCann.

Madeleine vanished on May 3 2007 just days before her fourth birthday.

She vanished while sleeping with her two siblings in the holiday apartment rented at Praia da Luz in the Algarve by her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann.

Her disappearance now ranks as one of the world's highest profile missing person cases.

Now, the police investigation - dubbed Operation Grange - has identified a German suspect who is in prison in Germany.

He is a convicted paedophile with a history of drug offences, burglary and sex attacks against young girls.

Described as white, six foot in height and thin, the German national lived in the Praia da Luz area 13 years ago and used an early 1980s yellow-and-white Volkswagen T3 Westfalia camper van as well as a 1993 Jaguar XJR 6 Mobile phone traces have placed him in the Praia da Luz resort on the night Madeleine vanished.

Now, Irish holidaymakers have been asked to contact police if they recall the movements of those vehicles - especially in the countryside around Praia da Luz in late April or early May 2007.

They have also been asked to come forward if they can remember any dealings with or sightings of the German national involved.

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Undated handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of a VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to the suspect.  A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, detectives have revealed.   PA Wire

Undated handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of a VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to the suspect. A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, detectives have revealed. PA Wire

Undated handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of a VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to the suspect. A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, detectives have revealed. PA Wire

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Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said information from holidaymakers - including those from Ireland - could now prove critical.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said information from all countries will be greatly welcomed by UK, German and Portuguese police.

Irish holidaymakers paid 300,000 trips annually to the Algarve in the 2000s - with Praia da Luz one of the major resorts for Irish families.

Hundreds of Irish families were in the Praia da Luz area in the period in which Madeleine vanished.

"The (Volkswagen) colour tone is quite distinctive is quite old and probably described as a bit beaten up," Det Inspector Cranwell said.

"But it was a white upper body, and a yellow sort of lower body. We know that that vehicle was in the (Praia da Luz) area - certainly the days leading up to it and the week afterwards."

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Missing: Madeleine McCann. Photo: Reuters

Missing: Madeleine McCann. Photo: Reuters

Missing: Madeleine McCann. Photo: Reuters

The van had a yellow skirting and a faded white upper body as well as Portuguese license plates.

Police are now trying to trace the movements of the Volkswagen camper van in the week before Madeleine's disappearance and in the weeks after she vanished.

It is believed the German national - who was 30 years old at the time - was living in the camper van at the time.

"We are really interested if anybody can place that vehicle in certain areas or anywhere around Praia da Luz or surrounding areas? Did anyone see a German male, with that vehicle, was there anything suspicious about that?"

"Please contact us without delay so we can get answers for Madeleine's family."

Det Inspector Cranwell said their appeal is targetted on all holidaymakers who might have been in the area.

He pointed out that the German male might have appeared younger than his 30 years - possibly as young as 25.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cundy said vital clues could now be held by international tourists.

German police echoed the appeal and said international tourists could help "fill in the gaps" in the German police inquiry.

"Madeleine's disappearance has attracted huge international interest.

We are appealing for the public to help us establish what happened," Det Inspector Cranwell said.

"It is a complex investigation bringing challenges in different legal systems but we are committed to do everything we can to establish what happened and to find Madeleine."

The painstaking Met Police inquiry also revealed that the German suspect received a lengthy mobile phone call on the evening Madeleine disappeared - and have released both numbers in a plea for further information.

The call places him in Praia da Luz one hour before Madeleine vanished.

Police believe the fact that the German national is currently in prison might help persuade someone with vital information to come forward.

"This might be a good time - this is a good time - to come forward and talk to the UK police, the German police or the Portuguese police."

While the UK police regard the investigation as a missing person case, the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany (BKA) have treated the matter as a murder hunt.

German Crime Agency boss Christian Hoppe said German police are close to having enough evidence to recommend a charge.

They have declined to comment on whether forensic evidence was obtained from an examination of the VW camper van and the Jaguar car.


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