Kate and Gerry McCann said they “welcome the news” that Portuguese authorities have formally identified a suspect in the case of their daughter Madeleine’s disappearance.
“Even though the possibility may be slim, we have not given up hope that Madeleine is still alive and we will be reunited with her,” the pair said in a statement.
Investigators in the southern Portuguese region of Algarve on Thursday said a person had been made an “arguido” – which translates as “named suspect” or “formal suspect” – in the search for the girl’s abducter after discussions with British and German authorities.
Christian Brueckner, a convicted paedophile who is in prison for rape in Germany, was identified as a murder suspect by prosecutors in his native Germany in June 2020.
The Portuguese investigators did not name Brueckner but said their suspect had earlier been identified by German prosecutors.
Both countries believe Brueckner may have killed Madeleine, who was three-years-old at the time of her disappearance, after abducting her from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007.
The 44-year-old is the first suspect in the long-running case since shortly after Madeleine’s disappearance when authorities wrongly thought the girl’s parents were to blame. The McCanns were later cleared.
Nearly 15 years on they are being kept up to date on developments in the investigation.
In a statement released on Friday signed “Kate & Gerry”, they said: “We welcome the news that the Portuguese authorities have declared a German man an ‘arguido’ in relation to the disappearance of our beloved daughter Madeleine.
“This reflects progress in the investigation, being conducted by the Portuguese, German and British authorities. We are kept informed of developments by the Metropolitan Police.
“It is important to note the ‘arguido’ has not yet been charged with any specific crime related to Madeleine’s disappearance.
“Even though the possibility may be slim, we have not given up hope that Madeleine is still alive and we will be reunited with her.”
After the move by Portuguese authorities, German prosecutors in a prison in the northwest German city of Oldenburg informed Brueckner he had been identified in a second country as a suspect in the case of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Lead German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said his own investigation into the prisoner – he identified him as Christian B but has previously used his full name – could still be more than a year from concluding after being opened in 2020.
Mr Wolters said that the move to declare Brueckner an official suspect in Portugal was designed to interrupt a 15-year statute of limitations for crimes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more.
German police said in June 2020 that Madeleine was assumed dead and that convicted child abuser and drug trader Brueckner was likely responsible for it.
Brueckner lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007 and burgled hotels and holiday flats, according to court documents seen by Reuters in 2020.
He has been behind bars in Germany since 2019 for raping and robbing a 72-year-old American woman in the Algarve. He denies any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance of her.