A bizarre “shrine” to missing Brit girl Madeleine McCann was spotted near the Barragem do Arade reservoir just months after her disappearance – close to where Portuguese and German police were searching this week.
A photograph of the Leicestershire tot, who disappeared from a Portuguese holiday apartment in May 2007, was found alongside a bunch of white lilies.
Stones arranged to form an arrow pointing at a nearby picnic site were also seen leading away from the eerie shrine.
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The retired couple, who gave their names only as Ralf and Ann, came across the disturbing sight in December 2007 and took pictures of it which were then sent on to Portuguese detectives.
But, they say, they never heard back from the cops about their find.
"Back then when we found it the whole thing was just so weird,” Ann, 67, told the Daily Mail. “At the time I thought, 'has someone dumped Madeleine in the water and then come back to make a shrine in her memory?'"
Even now the former bank cashier says thinking about the chilling discovery gives her “goose bumps”.
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After failing to get a response from local police the couple forgot about the peculiar incident until three years ago, when German police announced the arrest of prime suspect Christian Brueckner.
This time Ralf contacted the German police, and officers from the BKA – Germany’s equivalent of the FBI – called him back him almost immediately.
The retired builder recalled: “They wanted to know everything that we had seen and then they asked me to send them the pictures and they sent a map of the reservoir, asking me to point out where the stones were.”
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Several items have been discovered in this week’s excavation of the area that convicted sex offender Brueckner called his “little paradise,” including a bra and several other items of clothing.
The reservoir was also searched in 2008 after Portuguese lawyer Marcos Aragao Correia received a reported tip-off from criminal contacts.
Brueckner, 45, is confirmed to have visited the reservoir around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance. This week's searches are believed to have been sparked by the discovery of photos and videos showing the prime suspect near the reservoir.
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Police in Portugal said: “[The search] resulted in the collection of some material that will be subject to the competent expertise. The material collected will be handed over to the German authorities.”
The Correio da Manga newspaper has claimed that a “relevant clue” was found.
Although they did not go into detail as to what the clue was, they did confirm all items found during the three-day search would be analysed by German officials.
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Analysis of the items could take several weeks, according to a German prosecutor.
Portuguese authorities do not believe the items found “help to discover” what happened to the missing girl.
During the search, German prosecutor Christian Wolters said: "Of course there is a certain expectation, but it is not high. Of course we are still looking for the body.
“We're not just looking for that, of course there are other things too. Any discovery of clothing could help the investigation."
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