The UK’s largest police force hope their search for Madeleine McCann is about to be boosted by $500,000 so detectives can continue hunting for the missing girl.
But a former top detective who at one time was tipped to lead London Metropolitan Police’s search for Maddie told nine.com.au the apparent narrow focus of Operation Grange – the UK police investigation into Madeleine’s vanishing – could well have been flawed, pointing to the lack of transparency surrounding it.
“The difficulty I have with Operation Grange is nobody really knows what they are doing because they are so secretive about it,” Colin Sutton, a former Scotland Yard homicide detective, told nine.com.au.
Sutton said he “always had an issue” with the starting point of the Operation Grange inquiry, which he believes was primarily focused on a theory of abduction.
Madeleine went missing in 2007 aged just three years old while on holiday with her family in Portugal. She would be due to celebrate her 16th birthday in May.
“I believe … what Operation Grange is doing is following one line of inquiry, one theoretical route, one hypothesis about what happened,” Sutton, who has solved 30-plus murders including catching notorious English serial killer Levi Bellfield, said.
“My view is you should start [an investigation] from scratch, and you look at everything.
However, since 2011, London’s Metropolitan Police have given away few specifics about the work they have done or the final remaining leads detectives state they have been chasing for the past few years.
Last week it was reported Operation Grange had requested $560,000 from the UK Home Office to extend the search for another 12 months, to March 2020. Typically, Operation Grange has only applied for six-month tranches of funding, totalling almost $22m since its launch in 2011.
In a rare media briefing about Operation Grange in 2017, the now retired London Met Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley was asked if Madeleine’s parents had ever been questioned under caution or considered suspects.
“The involvement of the parents, that was dealt with at the time by the original investigation by the Portuguese,” Rowley replied.
“We had a look at all the material and we are happy that was all dealt with and there is no reason whatsoever to reopen that or start rumours that was a line of investigation.”
During questioning, he fended off criticism Operation Grange and its investigative remit of a potential abduction appeared to have a “closed mind” to the possibility of the involvement of someone known to the family, an accident or the girl walking out of the apartment.
“The McCanns are parents of a missing girl,” Rowley said.
“However she left that apartment, she has been abducted.
Since 2007, the McCanns have strenuously denied any involvement in the disappearance of their daughter. Nine.com.au does not suggest any involvement on their part.
Nine.com.au are currently investigating the McCann case in a new true crime podcast called Maddie. The multi-episode investigation rapidly hit number one in Australia and New Zealand, and has risen to number two in the UK iTunes podcast charts.
In the opening episode of Maddie, Sutton detailed why some of the case evidence and events in the 12 years that have elapsed since Maddie vanished are a “wholly exceptional set of circumstances” which sometimes appear fantastical.
“Madeleine McCann is the one case everybody knows about, a case where there is hardened public opinion,” Sutton told nine.com.au.
“If you go into any pub, club, cinema or public place and ask someone what they think about the Madeleine McCann case and they will probably have an opinion. Some of those opinions are extreme, at both ends of the spectrum.”
The Home Office is expected to announce their decision on the Operation Grange funding request later this month.
“I have got no problem with Operation Grange continuing … if it is doing the right things and going in the right direction,” Sutton said.
LISTEN TO LATEST EPISODES OF MADDIE NOW.
Maps, graphics, stories and all episodes of Maddie here: nine.com.au/maddie
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2019