COPS searching for Madeleine McCann have shifted their focus to a spot where vital evidence or even a body may have been dumped.
It comes amid claims prime suspect Christian B visited Portugal’s Arade Dam – which he called his “little paradise” – days after the tot vanished.
A tip-off from a former friend of Christian B is understood to have promoted the hunt at the remote site, 31 miles from where Maddie vanished.
Portuguese sources made the claim said to have influenced the German police decision to scour land close to the shoreline at the dam’s reservoir.
The information was cross-checked against pictures and videos showing Christian B nearby at around the time the three-year-old British tot was taken.
And probe chief Hans Christian Wolters said he acted on “concrete clues” that vital evidence may be at the site.
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German, Portuguese and British police have extended the hunt at Portugal’s Arade Dam into a third day in the hope of a fresh breakthrough.
It is thought diving teams will be deployed today, and Portuguese police sources said the underwater focus would switch to the base of the dam wall.
Cops are understood to think it could be where Christian B may have tossed Maddie's body or vital evidence into the water below from.
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.
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A core group of around six officers worked methodically at the spot with picks, shovels and rakes.
They were partially obscured but could clearly be seen sifting the earth for clues as soil was removed for closer inspection in a wheelbarrow.
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.
Portuguese "Forest Sappers" were yesterday 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 remote-controlled rotavator-style machine to power through dense undergrowth.
Officers cleared ground to enable them to widen the search area as hopes rose that the tip-off could lead to a breakthrough – and finally nail sex fiend Christian B.
Dozens of German, Portuguese and British cops scheduled to scour the waterside beauty spot for two days were given more time to complete their work on Wednesday.
It comes as…
- Fresh hope for breakthrough as hunt extended
- Key evidence cops are searching for revealed
- Cops given £110k of government cash to keep search going
- Ex-cop says lake search is best chance of finding tot
- Lawyer who searched dam says cops need a 'miracle'
- Police with dogs scours remote site after 'vid leak'
- Five clues linking Maddie & suspect Christian B
A Portuguese source told The Sun: "It's clear that they believe there may be something very important here – because they've been given more time to search for it.
"The area is also being extended to include an area covered by vegetation which is being cut back so the ground can be examined.
“Indications are that the operation will continue into Thursday and possibly longer."
German cops probing the 45-year-old predator 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.
Search teams yesterday took away more evidence bags after it was revealed they were asked to look for cloth and fibres – amid claims traces of Madeleine’s pink pyjamas were being sought.
German police were understood to have linked Christian B to the dam area after pictures of him there were found among his secret stash of 8,000 sick porn pictures and videos.
Searchers are understood to have requested more time after the first day of the operation ended with no significant finds on Tuesday.
Police collected several objects including fabrics – and sniffer dogs on site had also identified areas where biological traces might be found.
But teams commanded by Germany’s Braunschweig prosecutor Wolters have yet to unearth the crucial evidence they seek.
Wolters – who hopes to charge Christian B with Madeleine’s abduction and murder – said yesterday: "We have concrete clues that we could find something there.
“I already heard that there is some speculation about this being something to do with our suspect.
“Yes, he is still a suspect in our case but there are no clues from Christian B but we have indications that we could find evidence there.
“I don’t want to say what that is exactly, and I also don’t want to say where these indications come from – the only thing that I would clarify is that it doesn’t come from the suspect.
“We don’t have a confession or anything similar now, or an indication from the suspect of where it would make sense to search.”
The cautious probe chief went on to play down hopes of a bombshell breakthrough, adding: “We never said that the girl disappeared where we are now searching.”
Police announced on Monday that the search would last two days and a no-fly zone to ward off drone intrusions was due to end at 10pm last night.
Heavy rain on Tuesday also cost the team vital hours and they spent much of yesterday clearing undergrowth in a bid to widen the search area around a car park linked to a dusty track.
Christian B is known to have parked his yellow and white VW camper van at the secluded spot behind trees where three white and cream-coloured police tents stood yesterday.
Chainsaws, strimmers and the remote-controlled rotavator could be heard yesterday as officers – wearing masks to conceal their identity – could be heard shouting commands in German.
Scotland Yard monitors were also on site on a “watching brief” with orders to report back to doctors Kate and Gerry, at home in Rothley, Leics.
The dam was searched in February and March 2008 by divers hired by a Portuguese lawyer – who also acted on an underworld tip-off.
Two bags containing small bones were found during the second search along with a length of nylon cord weighed down with stones and a sock – but the items were not deemed significant.
Arade Dam is a 15-minute drive from the town of Silves, where a lorry driver claimed he saw a woman handing a little girl to a man two days after Madeleine vanished.
The search is the first major operation of its kind since June 2014 when British police were given permission to search in Praia da Luz using sniffer dogs and ground-penetrating radar.
In a smaller operation in July 2020 Portuguese police and firefighters searched three wells for Madeleine’s body but failed to find any trace of her.
Christian B 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.
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