The prosecutor in the Madeleine McCann probe has written to her parents to confirm she was murdered – but he “can’t say why” he knows.
Hans Christian Wolters is leading the investigation into Christian Brueckner, 43 – the man named as the main suspect in Maddie’s disappearance.
He said there has been an increasing exchange of information between the German team, Scotland Yard and Portugal but admitted “not every detail has been passed on”.
Speaking from his office in the German city of Braunschweig, Mr Wolters told the Mirror: “We have re-established contact with the McCann family in writing.
“We, of course, really consider the fact that it is going to be very hard for the family when we tell them we assume Madeline is dead.
“But we can’t say why she is dead.
“It is more important that we are successful and we are able to get the culprit, as opposed to just putting our cards on the table and tell them why we think she might be.”
Gerry and Kate McCann, both 52, are being kept updated as the investigation into Brueckner continues.
Their Portuguese lawyer Rogerio Alves is to meet Portuguese detectives this week.
He was hoping they would reveal what evidence German authorities have, but that now appears unlikely.
Mr Wolters said recently: “The parents have been told German police have evidence she is dead but we have not told them the details.
“If we reveal more details to them it might jeopardise the investigation.”
In Portugal, Mr Alves said: “I will try to find out what information they have that can support the reopening of the file here.”
Madeleine, of Rothley, Leics, was three when she vanished from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007.
Mr Wolters said his probe covers Brueckner’s time living in the Algarve. Brueckner is in a German jail for drug-dealing and last year he was convicted of a 2005 rape in Praia da Luz.