FURTHER investigations are taking place today on an area of scrubland close to where Madeleine McCann went missing in Portugal seven years ago.
British detectives will spend a third day probing areas of interest in the hilly area in the resort of Praia da Luz on the Algarve, accompanied by their Portuguese counterparts.
Yesterday the large area was a hive of activity as police carried out fingertip searches in the undergrowth, scouring the ground for clues to what happened to Madeleine, three, who disappeared in May 2007.
Police have also been granted permission to probe two others areas of land, it is understood. One of these is believed to be even closer to the holiday apartment where the McCann family were staying.
But they have been given a deadline of Friday and it is understood that if nothing of significance is found before then, they must stop.
Speaking at the scene yesterday, the publisher of a local paper who has covered the case for the past seven years, said he thought it “extremely unlikely” that anything would be found.
Paul Luckman, who publishes The Portugal News, said: “It was searched very carefully within a couple of days of her disappearance, it was searched with police dogs, with professional searches, each in segmented areas.
“If there had been a body there then the dogs would have picked up the scent. Seven years later? I think it’s extremely unlikely, I just don’t see it.”
He said most of the “massive area” of scrubland was made up of solid rock, which would make it difficult to bury anything there.
Mr Luckman said the decision to investigate the area had come as a surprise and had left local residents “fed up” as the world’s media descends on the small Algarve resort once again.
The search is also expected to see officers using ground-penetrating radar equipment to probe the ground and look for disturbed earth, although none has been seen yet.
Officers are being overseen by the Met’s Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, the senior officer investigating the case who has also flown out to Portugal.
The land is being guarded day and night by armed local police with dogs, and a large yellow-and-white cordon was put in place ahead of the search.
The area, a few minutes’ walk from the Ocean Club resort apartment where Madeleine was staying with her family, has been searched before.
TV crews and journalists from around the world have gathered as the search - seen as one of the biggest developments in the investigation in recent years - takes place.
Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry, have not flown out to Portugal but are being kept informed of any developments that occur.