New Maddie probe as 38 potential suspects sought
* UK review upgraded to investigationn She may still be alive, say police
Detectives from Scotland Yard have begun a full investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann after identifying 38 potential suspects including 12 British people.
They will seek to speak to the individuals and pursue fresh theories about what might have happened.
Dozens of detectives have spent the past two years trawling through documents, witness statements and evidence as part of a review of the case.
Now, more than six years after the three-year-old vanished from her parents' holiday apartment in Portugal, that review has been upgraded to a full-scale, active investigation. The officers in charge say they have a number of fresh theories about what happened.
Police insist there is every chance that Madeleine – who would now be 10 – is still alive, having found no evidence to suggest otherwise.
They have also categorically stated that Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and the friends they were with on holiday, are not under suspicion.
Scotland Yard's review of the case was ordered by David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, and funded by the Home Office, after concerns were raised by the McCann family that many leads had not been fully explored in the original Portuguese investigation.
Detectives brought together all the information previously collected by Portuguese and British police as well as evidence compiled by seven private detective agencies hired by the McCanns.
They have examined more than 30,000 documents, generating almost 4,000 fresh lines of inquiry, but still have a third of the information to go through.
Announcing the shift from review to investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading Operation Grange, said: "The review has given us new thinking, new theories, new evidence and new witnesses.
"It is a positive step in our hunt for Madeleine that our understanding of the evidence has enabled us to shift from review to investigation.
"We have identified 38 persons of interest from a number of European countries. Twelve of those people are UK nationals who we believe were in Portugal at the time Madeleine disappeared."
Most of those that officers want to talk to are scattered between at least four countries in Europe, meaning the Metropolitan Police must submit International Letters of Request to their counterparts overseas before they can act. A team from Scotland Yard has travelled to Portugal 16 times in recent months, establishing a good working relationship with the Policia Judiciaria.
Any investigations taking place in Portugal will be led by Portuguese officers, but under international mutual assistance arrangements, British police have requested that they are also present.
Should a British suspect ever be charged in connection with Madeleine's abduction or murder they could be tried at the Old Bailey in London.
The development represents the most positive move yet to crack the case that generated international headlines in 2007.
Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns' spokesman, said: "Kate and Gerry warmly welcome this shift in the Metropolitan Police emphasis. They see it as a huge step forward in establishing what happened and hope that it will lead to bringing to justice whoever was responsible for Madeleine's abduction."
The McCanns had been dining with a group of friends in a tapas restaurant close to their apartment in Praia da Luz's Ocean Club complex in the Algarve when Madeleine disappeared on the evening of May 3. She was only days away from her fourth birthday.
Despite intensive international publicity and a number of reported sightings around the world, no trace of their daughter has ever been found.
Three months after her disappearance the Policia Judiciaria declared the McCanns suspects in the case, but the head of the investigation was later removed from his post and their status as 'arguidos' was later removed.
The Portuguese judiciary officially closed the investigation in July 2008. It can only reopen the case if significant new evidence is found.
But Det Chief Insp Redwood said that his colleagues in Portugal were as determined as those in Britain to solve the case and bring some resolution to the McCann family.
He said: "We and the Portuguese authorities remain completely committed to finding out what happened to Madeleine."
Last year police issued a fresh image of how they believe Madeleine would look now and have urged the public to continue watching out for her. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)