Madeleine McCann could still be alive imprisoned in a lair and have “no idea” who she is, a former top cop who once searched for her has revealed.
The Sun reports that David Edgar, who is convinced Maddie was snatched by a child sex gang, said: “She is most likely being held captive, possibly in an underground cellar or dungeon and could emerge at any time.”
He believes she is being kept against her will under a false identity and could even still be in Portugal — where she vanished as a three-year-old in May 2007 — or in neighbouring Spain.
The retired Detective Inspector spoke out after the Home Office announced last week it had granted an extra £150,000 ($264,000) to Scotland Yard to continue searching for the world’s most high profile missing child.
Met Police are chasing up two vital lines of inquiry and have told Maddie’s parents Kate and Gerry they are “hopeful of getting a result.”
Mr Edgar, who passed all his findings to the Operation Grange team when they took over the search in May 2011, said officers could be chasing up two old or new leads.
He believes they could be following up his theory — which the McCann’s feel is most probable — about a paedophile kidnap which he “never got to the bottom of.”
He explained: “Not for want of trying but as a private investigator I was faced with certain restrictions and stumbling blocks unlike the official authorities.”
Mr Edgar, 61, who was previously employed by Maddie’s parents for three years, told The Sun that police may have had a recent tip off from someone known to the kidnappers — providing them with a second new lead.
He said: “I’ve always thought that whoever is responsible will have confided in someone else. They usually do and it is very rare that they don’t even if it takes years.
“Now we’re approaching the 12th year, that’s a significant time but I think she could still be alive and someone is protecting her captors. Someone knows what happened and it’s time they came forward, may be they have and officers are waiting for a confession. It happens.”
Mr Edgar added: “She could literally be anywhere in the world but my hunch is that she is in Portugal. The chance that she may have been smuggled out of the country without being detected is highly unlikely.
“There is someone in Portugal with an open knowledge of where she is and what happened. Someone knows what happened and it’s time they came forward — maybe they already have.”
“Unless a body is found there is hope. Everyone hopes for a positive outcome and Kate and Gerry will never give up, even when the funding runs out. I hope they get an answer they’ve been waiting for so long.”
Mr Edgar believes Maddie — who if alive would now be aged 15 — could be living with her captor in a hideaway home or underground den inland from the popular seaside towns on the Algarve from where she was snatched.
He likened her case to that of kidnapped sex slave Jaycee Lee Dugard who “came back from the dead.”
The 11-year-old schoolgirl was abducted from a street in Tahoe, California, in June 1991, on her way to school and was kept imprisoned for 18 years.
She was found alive in August 2009.
Mr Edgar said: “There is every possibility that Madeleine is still alive and could be being hidden somewhere and having no idea even who she is and that she is at the centre of a worldwide hunt for her. He said the vast wilderness where he believes the teenager could be languishing may be almost impossible to search completely.
Jaycee Dugard interview
He explained: “This rural, sprawling terrain makes it extremely difficult to search. You could quite easily keep a child there for years and no-one else would know. She could be hidden away in a cellar or dungeon in the lawless villages around the resort she went missing from. The key thing is no body has been found. When paedophiles kill they often dump the body nearby and this doesn’t appear to be the case here. Even the ocean often gives up his victims.”
Maddie vanished from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz eleven and a half years ago just days before her fourth birthday. She had been left alone sleeping with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas restaurant with friends.
Police recently told her parents: “We’re hopeful we can get a result.”
Op Grange team, who had been thought to be focusing on just one, told Kate and Gerry during a meeting they had “two specific and active” lines of inquiry.
The McCanns are “greatly encouraged” that police could finally be closing in on their daughter’s kidnapper.
The Home Office have so far handed out £11.75 million ($20 million) of taxpayers’ money for the high-profile search.
A Whitehall source said: ”Metropolitan Police officers had a sit-down meeting with Madeleine’s parents to tell them exactly where they were with their inquiries. They informed them they had two specific and active leads that still needed to be chased and that although the investigation was taking longer than they initially thought officers said they were confident and hopeful they could get a result.”
Police refuse to make public any clues about the suspects they are determined to track down for fear of them going to ground.
Mr Edgar said the new funding was “totally justified.”
He said: “It’s a very delicate case but officers would not have requested extra funding if they didn’t need it. Whether they’ll crack it, it’s impossible to say but everyone hopes there is a positive outcome.
“I think there will be a resolution, it will be something simple like someone talking — a confession is the best hope of a breakthrough.”
A Scotland Yard spokesperson refused to discuss the two leads they are actively chasing, saying: “We cannot give a running commentary while there is an ongoing investigation.”
Mr Edgar, who has had more than 30 years experience with Cheshire Police and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, stopped working for the McCanns when the Met Police came on board in May 2011 on orders of then Prime Minister David Cameron.
He added: “I firmly believe this case will be solved eventually — it is not beyond the realms of possibility.”
Maddie’s eminent heart doctor dad Gerry, 50, said during an emotional BBC Radio 4 interview in September that he dreamt his daughter was still alive and believes they will one day be reunited.
He said: “I just want to hug her, to hold her, to cry — a lot. Never a day goes by when I don’t think of Madeleine.”
Ex GP mum Kate, also 50, who is now a part time medical worker, said in a heartfelt 11th anniversary message: “Hope and perseverance remain. We will do whatever it takes to find her. We couldn’t bear for Madeleine to be forgotten or become just a ‘story’. “
This article originally appeared in The Sun and is republished here with permission
Originally published as Maddie investigator believes she’s alive