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Ex-top cop breaks Madeleine McCann silence to say where he thinks she was taken

Mirror logo Mirror 23/04/2017 Alan Selby

Madeleine McCann. © Rex Images Madeleine McCann. Madeleine McCann was snatched and taken to a warren of caves nearby that have never been searched, a Portuguese investigator has suggested.

The theory comes from ex cop Paulo Pereira Cristovao – who became the boss of Portugal’s missing children agency in the same year the three-year-old disappeared.

Today he takes the unusual step of criticising his fellow officers, saying human error is to blame for the failure to find Madeleine.

Speaking a decade after Maddie vanished, Mr Cristovao told the Sunday Mirror: “I think this case has lots of mistakes – from many persons, from many situations, from the police and maybe from the government.

“At the end of the day we all forgot one person: Madeleine McCann.”

Mr Cristovao believes somebody is still keeping details of that night – May 3, 2007 – concealed from investigators.

That was when Madeleine went missing from the Ocean Club complex at the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, where she was on holiday with parents Kate and Gerry and their friends.

Mr Cristovao says: “Someone close to those people, or someone from the group, still has not said all that he or she knows about this.

“That’s my feeling – and I know there are many who think just like me. I think not everybody in that group has told the truth to the police. Why? I don’t know.”

Mr Cristovao’s theory is that Madeleine could well have been taken to caves in the tiny beach town of Burgau, three miles along the coast.

He formulated the idea after putting himself in the shoes of a kidnapper on his first visit to the Ocean Club flat where Madeleine went missing.

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance, the former officer said: “That’s the most important thing for me. And that’s what I did, the first time I visited Praia da Luz.

“I put myself in the role of someone who knew nothing about the streets or the region. Where would I put the body of a girl?

“I stood at the apartment door – to the right is the town of Portimao. There are lots of people there, lots of buildings.

“If I had kidnapped her that’s not the way I’d want to go. I would want to go left, and find the first side road. I put my car on that road, and I went straight to Burgau. It’s a nearby beach, with a lot of rocks with caves.

“It’s a good place to put somebody. As far as I know the police never went there, because you would need divers.

“In a case where you hear theories like aliens and gypsies kidnapping Madeleine, I think this is as good as all the others. We’ve heard theories so stupid over these 10 years. When we don’t understand something, we complicate it.

“I think sometimes – always – the best solution is the simple solution.”

Mr Cristovao left the police to head up Portugal’s Association for Missing Children the year Maddie vanished. He later wrote a book about the case.

Now, discussing her disappearance for the first time in nearly a decade, he has laid out the errors he thinks set the investigation on the road to failure.

Instead of old-fashioned legwork, he believes there was too much focus on outlandish theories and behavioural profiles in the first hours and days.

Ten years ago, Mr Cristovao claimed the McCanns had been neglectful to leave their children alone as they dined nearby.

But he insists he does not believe Kate and Gerry, from Rothley, Leics, are behind her death.

He said: “The most important thing was starting an investigation on Madeleine – where is she? – instead of starting an investigation because the mother looks like this, or the father looks like that, or the mother won’t cry, or the father won’t cry.

“For me, that’s bulls--- because everybody has their own way. I have my own little girl, and if she goes missing for 10 seconds I feel like my world has fallen apart. Everybody reacts differently.”

Mr Cristovao says this was the biggest failing of all – from the first on the scene, to the judicial police, to the British investigators who later joined the hunt. This was even though the case went on to become reportedly the most expensive in Portuguese history.

He said: “When Madeleine disappeared, we had 12 other missing children – three or four in the Madeira islands, the rest on the mainland.

“The money we spent on Madeleine was a million times more than all the others put together.

“I don’t know if it was pressure from government or the media, but it was the most expensive investigation in the history of Portugal – by far.

“That’s one of the lessons too, not always putting big numbers and lots of policemen. Sometimes you don’t need 400 officers, you need only three or four to focus on the results.”

In the UK police have spent more than £11million on the investigation.

Mr Cristovao also believes the waters were made murkier by the scale of the operation internationally – as agencies competed for control.

He said: “Half the world was investigating because everyone wanted the reward. Everybody wanted to be recognised for solving the case.

“Madeleine was big business for many, many people.”

Ex-Scotland Yard detective Colin Sutton said yesterday Madeleine was most likely kidnapped by traffickers. He said: “It’s more likely than a paedophile ring. Six and seven-year-olds are much more at risk from paedophiles.”

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