MADELEINE McCann cops have found a “relevant clue” after three days of searching for the missing tot at a desolate reservoir near Praia da Luz.
Cops are shipping evidence discovered during the dig for forensic analysis to Germany after they dug holes and searched through the undergrowth at the Abrade Dam.
Madeleine McCann has been missing since she vanished from Praia da Luz in 2007[/caption]
Police searching through the undergrowth during the new hunt for Maddie[/caption]
Cops have left behind two-foot deep holes following their search[/caption]
Portuguese and German officers pack up as the search ended this afternoon[/caption]
Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha said a “relevant clue” was found during the search on Thursday.
And the discovery led to police focusing on a specific area around the dam, with the operation believed to have been centred on a “hippy camp”.
It reported some of the items found by police include “strips of clothing and plastic objects”.
They also reported discovering a “bra strap” during the search.
Cops are hunting for any clues as main suspect Christian B’s links to the barren site – that he reported called his “little paradise”.
The sex offender – who spent years prowling the Algarve – reportedly used to frequently visit the Abrade Dam.
German police are believed to have ordered a renewed search of the area after finding new photos of him there.
Cops also dismissed reports that the hunt was sparked for a camcorder and a gun.
Scientists are expected to have the initial results of the forensic testing next week – but the full report isn’t expected for months.
Madeleine’s family will face an agonising wait as cops continue to try and build a case against Christian B.
The massive operation was the first of its kind since 2014.
German police have said they will release a statement if the searches have not turned up any new evidence.
But if there are new clues, the statement will be delayed as they work to build the case.
Police arrived for the new Maddie search on Tuesday in force – deploying dozens of officers, numerous vehicles and a rotavator robot.
They spent three days working around the reservoir – which had lower water levels than usual due to a drought.
The site has previously been searched by divers back in 2008 after a local lawyer claimed he received an “underworld tip”.
He claimed he had been told Maddie had been killed and dumped at the dam.
By lunchtime on Thursday, teams began pulling down white tents which appeared in the search area on Monday.
Vehicles were also seen being packed up with equipment as officers prepared to leave – including Germans facing a long drive home in convoy across Europe.
Head of the Portuguese Madeleine investigation Helena Monteiro was also seen leaving, along with a sniffer dog team and machinery used to clear undergrowth.
When the police cordon was lifted at 4.30pm yesterday, the search area was revealed to have focussed on a small area of scrubland measuring no more than 160 square feet.
Police teams had methodically chopped down trees and hacked away undergrowth to expose an area yards from where the drought-hit lake’s shore line.
There appeared to be the remains of a camp at the spot with broken furniture, a torn ship’s buoy and even what appeared to be a makeshift toilet fashioned from a chair.
The suspected crime scene showed signs that police had been fully focussed on it for the past three days.
Ground levels appeared to have been lowered in a square area which was pock-marked with a bizarre moonscape of at least eight holes measuring two-three feet in depth.
Experts speculated that the holes could have been to remove soil samples for analysis – but could also have been used by officers using ground penetrating radar.
A source at the scene said: “It seems clear that the teams were directed to this spot by information received.
“It was obvious from the afternoon of day two that police were looking very closely at one specific area.
“Around six officers raked over and took samples from the same spot early on Friday and the damage to the sight shows their determination.”
Exclusive Sun drone footage and still images obtained after no-fly zone restrictions were lifted showed work being stepped up in the frantic final hours of the search.
Teams in overalls and rubber gloves were directed by a senior German officer and a photographer logging snaps of key clues.
A core team of around six searchers returned to a narrow strip of scrubland which appeared to have first been identified as an “area of interest” yesterday.
They appeared to be homing in on a spot where vital evidence or even a body may have been dumped.
Police have been spotted removing what appeared to be large brown evidence bags from the search site at Arade Dam, 31 miles from where Madeleine was taken in Praia da Luz.
However, they have not revealed any information about what was found.
Activity was stepped up as Portuguese sources claimed an informant who knew Christian B gave cops a tip-off – and claimed he had been to the spot days after Maddie vanished.
The tip-off – plus geolocation clues found in the convicted rapist and paedophile’s vile stash of 8,000 of videos and images – is understood to have sparked the search.
“Concrete” information from the former friend of the fiend is understood to have led dozens of officers to the remote site.
German, Portuguese and British police extended the hunt into a third day at the dam site near Silves in the hope of a fresh breakthrough.
Cops are understood to think it could be where Christian B may have tossed Maddie’s body or vital evidence into the water.
On the evening of day two teams clearly focused on a small patch of ground shrouded by trees and shrubs around 20 yards from the water line.
They returned early today working methodically at the spot with picks, shovels, rakes and trowels and appeared to be logging, photographing and measuring samples.
Our drone showed them clearly sifting earth for clues as soil samples were removed for closer inspection.
Soil was taken away in wheelbarrows as sources revealed it would be ferried back to Germany for weeks – or even months – of painstaking forensic analysis.
The ground would have been virtually at the water’s edge in May 2007 when the drought-hit reservoir was at normal levels.
And the level of focus shown suggested the team were acting on information directing them to a likely spot.
The search later widened to a hillside and the exposed reservoir bed where at least 20 cops with digging tools and equipment formed a line to comb the ground.
But by lunchtime, word spread that the hunt was being wound up and cops and helpers were seen dismantling white tents and moving equipment away from the site.
And shortly before the search broke for lunch, a tracked remote-controlled rotavator which had been used to clear ground was seen being ferried away from the site.
Portuguese “Forest Sappers” were on Wednesday drafted in to help scour nearby woodland at the site 45 minutes from the Praia da Luz holiday apartment where Madeleine was snatched in May 2007.
The sappers – who usually specialise in clearing scrubland to prevent forest fires – used rotavator-style machine to power through dense undergrowth.
It is understood search crews were asked to look for cloth and fibres – amid claims traces of Madeleine’s pink pyjamas were being sought.
German cops probing Christian B believe he may have taken Madeleine to the beauty spot after snatching her as her parents Kate and Gerry dined out.
And they remain convinced the convicted rapist and paedophile raped and killed her before dumping her body.
Christian B, 45, is currently in jail for the 2005 rape of an American pensioner in Praia da Luz, just yards from the McCanns’ apartment.
He also faces a string of other sex charges.
German police believe he killed Madeleine — but three years after announcing him as a suspect are no nearer to bringing charges.
His lawyer Freidrich Fulscher has insisted he had no involvement in the McCann case and is attempting to have it thrown out.
Police focused their hunt on a peninsula at the Arade Dam in Portugal[/caption]
Search teams combed the beauty spot for three days[/caption]
The operation has involved police from Portugal and Germany[/caption]
The search is claimed to have been prompted by a tip-off to cops[/caption]
White tents pictured at the secluded site[/caption]