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Madeleine McCann investigation: police discover hidden cellar

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Maddie McCann: Disappeared 13 years ago during a family holiday

Maddie McCann: Disappeared 13 years ago during a family holiday

Maddie McCann: Disappeared 13 years ago during a family holiday

German police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have discovered a sealed-off cellar after excavating an allotment site just outside Hannover, it emerged yesterday.

Witnesses said they had watched as the BKA, the German federal investigation bureau, lifted off a cement block covering the basement during the first day of digging at the council-owned site.

After discovering the underground cellar, officers led in a sniffer dog, which barked as it entered.

"The sniffer dogs were barking quite a lot in the morning," one person who was present said.

Authorities began searching the site on Tuesday in connection with the disappearance of Madeleine.

German police believe that she is dead.

Last month, Christian Bruckner was named as the prime suspect in what German authorities are treating as a murder investigation. Bruckner, a convicted paedophile, was living in the Algarve in Portugal when Madeleine went missing in May 2007.

German police claim they have evidence linking him to the case.

By Tuesday evening, police in Hannover had dug a two-metre hole at the centre of the allotment, with forensic tents next to it. The dig continued yesterday from 7am in a different area of the garden.

Cement and other heavy duty materials were seen being removed from the site in the town of Seelze, just outside Hannover. It was reported police had brought in metal detectors and ground-penetrating radar equipment.

Bruckner was found guilty of two crimes during his time in Hannover. In 2010, he was charged with falsifying documents and ordered to pay a fine. Three years later, he was convicted of theft. He did not serve a prison sentence.

Shortly after, he left the city and went to nearby Braunschweig.

Police are also looking into the case of Inga Gehricke (5), who disappeared from Diakoniewerk Wilhelmshof in Saxony-Anhalt on May 2, 2015, 75km away from Neuwegersleben, where Bruckner lived at the time.

Irish Independent