GERMAN cops have dug up a garden in Hanover believed to be linked to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Forensic officers and sniffer dogs were seen hunting through the allotment in the city where chief suspect Christian B once lived.
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Forensics have been probing land between Hanover-Ahlem and Seelze-Letter since 6.30am local time (5.30am UK time) today – even bringing in a digger to clear the area.
Locals said up to 100 police officers have been at the scene.
The allotment, in the Hanover suburb, is an hour’s drive from the town of Braunschweig, the last fixed home of Christian B.
The public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig told The Sun Online the action was linked to the probe into Madeleine, who vanished in Portugal 13 years ago.
In a statement, prosecutor Julia Meyer said: “I can confirm that the search is in connection with our Madeleine McCann investigation.
“However, I will not comment on the background and aim of this action or the status of the ongoing investigations.”
Christian B, 43, was identified last month as being the prime suspect in her abduction.
He is serving 21 months in a German prison for drugs offences – and this evening dropped a bid to be released early.
German police have repeatedly said with confidence they know Madeleine in dead, and they believe Christian B is their man.
He lived in Hanover in 2010 after living in Portugal and began living in a caravan and working in a car repair shop before being convicted of forgery of documents that same year.
Hanover’s district court sentenced Christian B for falsifying documents in 2010, and then three years later he was sentenced for a joint theft.
The allotment site has been cleared, trees have been felled and a digger has also in used in the large-scale investigation.
A prisoner transporter was also said to be at the closed-off scene – with police declining to reveal exactly what they are searching for on the site.
Christian B is a lifelong paedo who chased a fantasy playboy lifestyle to cover up his warped sex crimes, The Sun reported last month.
The German criminal was first convicted of abusing children aged 17 back in 1994 – a year before he is believed to have moved to Portugal.
Returning to Germany in 2010, he then lived in Hanover – where he is linked to the murder of Monika Pawlak, 24, who vanished in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2010.
Her dismembered body was found on January 4 in two blue rubbish bags in a river.
He moved to Braunschweig, in 2014 and opened a kiosk in the city, which is around 40 miles from Hanover.
Staff at the kiosk recalled his bizarre and chilling behaviour including one time when he shouted “The child is dead… pigs eat human flesh” when talking about Madeleine.
He also said “there are ways to make a body disappear” as they discussed the toddler’s disappearance.
A former friend said Christian B fantasised about creating a Josef Fritzl-style dungeon at his home.
Christian B’s pal said: “He had a cellar and he said he wanted to line it with heavy plates, like the guy in Austria.”
A former neighbour of the career criminal said he was “often very aggressive”.
Photos of the allotment scene show cops keeping guard nearby.
Investigators were seen combing through the dirt with shovels and rakes.
German police previously discovered a a trove of pictures and videos allegedly buried by Christian B at a German box factory in Neuwegersleben.
Detectives confirmed in that find they dug up 8,000 pieces of potential evidence.
It is alleged at least some of this disturbing material includes videos and pictures of his suspected crimes.
The files were found on hard drives and USB sticks in a plastic bag – and it was buried alongside his dead dog at the dilapidated and rubbish filed site.
Chief prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters however declined to confirm if any of these pictures and videos includes evidence linked to the Madeleine case.
The new probe is a joint operation between the prosecutor’s office and the Federal Criminal Police Office, the Haz.de website reports.
Haz.de added that three vehicles and a forensics tent has been set up, while a sniffer dog has also been used to examine the area.
The investigation team is expected to remain at the allotment until Wednesday.
Maik Niemtschke, who lives in Hanover, told Sky News the main area of the search is on land where there is a bungalow, which is being used as a second home, and a garden shed.
Niemtschke said the area is located between a road and a river
McCann was three at the time of her disappearance from an apartment while her family vacationed in the seaside town of Praia da Luz, in Portugal’s Algarve region, in 2007.
Police have just 22 months to nail the prime suspect in the abduction of Madeleine, according to her family’s lawyer.
Rogerio Alves says the clock is ticking on the 13-year mystery due to a 15-year time limit on prosecutions in Portugal.
He told ITV: “We have a 15 years time barrier, even to manslaughter, to homicide, to certain sexual offences — and even to the most serious kind of kidnapping.
“So we are still on time. But time is getting short now.”
German police sources told The Sun they feared the final piece of puzzle was still missing to bring a case against Christian B.
However, others remain optimistic that German police have an “ace up their sleeve” to formally charge him.
Christian B is known to have lived in a remote property in the hills outside Praia de Luz but abandoned it and began living in a 1980s VW T3 Westfalia camper van some time in late 2006.
A neighbour, named only as Norbert M, told German newspaper Bild he would mistreat women and that he had an underage girlfriend from Kosovo.
He said: “He was very bad with women.”
Christian B is currently in jail in Germany for drug offences and the rape of a US woman in Portugal in 2005.
But his lawyers are trying to have the rape conviction quashed on a legal technicality.
If they win, Christian B could be freed on parole and it is feared he would then disappear.
Madeleine is believed to have been snatched from the Ocean Club apartment where she was sleeping alongside her twin siblings Sean and Amelie on May 3, 2007, in Praia du Luz.
Described as a “twisted loner”, the sex offender is understood to have been a kind of drifter around the resort at the time.
Christian B was first linked to the Madeleine case after he allegedly made a drunken boast he snatched her while in a bar on the tenth anniversary of the crime.
Madeleine would have turned 17 last month, and the family have described the identification of Christian B as “potentially very significant”.
Experts have said Christian B matches the profile of a Jimmy Savile-style “paraphiliac”, who targets victims of all ages.
His ex-lawyer Serafim Vieira has described him as having “‘psychopathic traits” and admitted he could be responsible for Madeleine’s abduction.
Christian B allegedly made his living while in Praia Da Luz through petty crime such as breaking into holiday lets – and is known to have owned a mobile home he boasted could carry “drugs and children”.
However, a series of bungles in the police investigation have cast doubt over whether prosecutors can secure a conviction.