The search for Madeleine McCann ends with a slim chance of a breakthrough

SILVES, Portugal, May 25 (Reuters) – Police on Thursday completed the latest search in the 16-year-old hunt for missing British girl Madeleine McCann after collecting unspecified samples at a reservoir in Portugal, as a German prosecutor said the downplayed hopes of an impending breakthrough.

Portuguese police said in a statement that the three-day operation requested by Germany was now over and that the collected material would be handed over to German authorities after “protecting the interests of the ongoing investigation in Portugal”.

Police would not say whether any useful clues were found during the search which involved sniffer dogs, the use of a tractor-based tree cutter and investigators raking the cleared soil in a few small areas.

A source close to the investigation told Reuters there was nothing tangible to report.

Named a suspect in the case, German authorities helped Portuguese crews comb the remote area inland from the Algarve coastal town where McCann – then three years old – went missing while on a family holiday in 2007 .

“Of course there is a certain expectation, but it is not high,” prosecutor Christian Wolters told Reuters before the end of the search.

It was important to show that authorities were investigating the matter, he said. He added that the detectives were looking for the body, but also anything that could help the investigation, such as clothing: “There is a lot imaginable.”

He did not expect the results of the studies of the collected samples to be announced any time soon.

German prosecutors named Christian Brueckner an official suspect in McCann’s disappearance last year. The convicted child molester and drug dealer is behind bars in Germany for raping a 72-year-old woman in the same part of the Algarve.

Brueckner has denied any involvement in the disappearance. No body has been found.

British police assisting their Portuguese and German counterparts at the Arade Reservoir had left early Thursday afternoon, followed by German detectives who had packed up their tents in a hillside camp.

Reporting by Jan Schwartz and Marco Trujillo, Additional Reporting by Catarina Demony, Writing by Rachel More and Andrei Khalip, Editing by Andrew Heavens, Nick Macfie, and Deepa Babington

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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