Portuguese police have launched searches for Madeleine McCann’s body 20 minutes away from Praia da Luz, according to local reports.
The searches are said to have been conducted in wells in Vila do Bispo, ten miles west of the town where the young girl vanished in May 2007.
Portugal’s state broadcaster RTP says that detectives have discovered “fundamental evidence” relating to prime suspect, German paedophile Christian Brückner, but these claims have not been verified by police.
Previously, police sources told the Telegraph that because the German authorities are running the investigation, the Portuguese police will only conduct searches if they are requested to do so.
Last week, it emerged that Brückner was arrested in Portugal for exposing himself at a playground but never faced trial because he was wanted in Germany for more serious child sex offences and was extradited.
Four children told their parents he had flashed them at a playground in Sao Bartomoleu de Messines, a town an hour from Praia da Luz, in 2007.
The details of Brückner’s twisted behaviour in the Algarve have once again put the spotlight on Portuguese authorities as to why they did not link the career criminal to the country’s biggest ever missing persons case.
Brückner has not been linked to Vila do Bispo before but the dilapidated farmhouse he lived in until 2006 had a number of wells dotted around the property.
Set back in scrubland overlooking Praia da Luz, the German was known to race his Jaguar up and down the dirt track and was often heard engaged in shouting matches with a string of women.
This was his last known location before being sent to prison for stealing fuel in the Algarve. He was released in December 2006, just months before Madeleine went missing, and moved into his distinctive yellow and white VW Westfalia camper van.
Brückner, who denies being involved in Madeleine’s disappearance is currently in prison on drugs charges, and is appealing against a rape conviction for an attack on a 72-year-old American tourist in Praia da Luz in 2005. His hearing is expected in Germany next week.
While the German authorities are treating it as a murder investigation, British police are still treating Madeleine as a missing person.
Her family say they will never give up hope of finding her alive.