UK

Madeleine McCann Search Prompted By Phone Calls To Three Drug Dealers, Paper Claims

07/06/2014 17:26 BST | Updated 07/06/2014 17:59 BST

Phone calls between three drug dealers when Madeleine McCann disappeared led officers to search the area of scrubland close to where she disappeared, a Portuguese paper has claimed.

Correio da Manha also said that Scotland Yard has been granted permission from the Portuguese authorities to question three suspects about the case. Scotland Yard declined to comment.

British police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann were focusing their attention today on a new patch of scrubland close to where she went missing in Portugal seven years ago.

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British Police continue to search scrubland as part of a new investigation into the disappearance Madeleine McCann

Officers in Metropolitan Police uniform were seen studying a flat area of ground at the opposite end of the area which has seen activity over the past week.

The area of scrubland in Praia da Luz on the Algarve has been marked in various places with tape to highlight areas of interest to police.

Officers could be seen examining the uneven ground inside one marked-out area, which was covered with long grass.

The search entered its fifth day today, with officers previously focusing on a hole which had been covered in undergrowth.

Forensics officers sifted through soil in large sieves inside a white tent set up to cover the void, which was thought to have been used as a children's den.

An item of clothing, believed to be a man's sock, was removed from the scene but was thought to have been ruled out of the investigation.

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British police officers lift a manhole cover to check inside with a camera in an area of wasteland

Yesterday, Madeleine's parents said they were "encouraged" by the progress made by police as they search for clues as to what happened to her after she disappeared from the resort in May 2007, aged three, and asked people to stop the speculation.

Writing on the Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page, Kate and Gerry McCann thanked their followers for the support they have received.

"We are being kept updated on the ongoing work in Portugal and are encouraged by the progress," the message said.

"Thank you for continuing to stand by us and supporting our efforts to get Madeleine home."

Teams were working further inside the taped-off area today, with the long grass making it difficult for the TV crews and press to see what was being done from the other side of the barrier.

There was a dramatic difference in the number of members of the media compared to earlier in the week, when journalists from around the world descended on the small town.

The land, which is a few minutes' walk from the Ocean Club resort apartment where Madeleine and her family were staying, has been searched before.

Madeleine McCann

Two other areas are also expected to be searched by investigators.

The operation is likely to go into a second week after British police applied to the judiciary to spend an extra seven days there.

It is not clear whether they will work over the weekend and nothing is expected to be carried out on Tuesday as it is a public holiday.