02/03/2017 10:48 GMT | Updated 02/03/2017 10:56 GMT

Madeleine McCann: Child Rapist Grilled Over Missing Girl Dies In Prison

Anthony Woodhouse was on the run in the Algarve when Madeleine went missing.

A child rapist who was grilled by detectives investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has died in prison.

Anthony Woodhouse “died of natural causes” while serving a 17-and-a-half year sentence at Channings Wood jail in Devon, The Sun reports.

A prison spokesman confirmed: “HMP Channings Wood prisoner Anthony Woodhouse died in custody on Wednesday 1 March.

Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2007 - a year before child rapist Anthony Woodhouse turned himself in 

“As with all deaths in custody, there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.”

The 71-year-old had spent more than ten years in hiding in Portugal after raping and impregnating 14-year-old girl in Herefordshire.

He gave himself up in 2008 claiming he felt “preoccupied with guilt every day.”

In 2014 a source told the newspaper Woodhouse had been questioned for several hours about how he was in “close proximity” to where the Leicester toddler disappeared from. He is understood to have run a cleaning business in the Algarve when Madeleine went missing. 

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Woodhouse was serving a 17-and-a-half year sentence at Channings Wood prison in Devon 

Madeleine was nearly four when she vanished in 2007 as her parents dined with friends at a Praia da Luz tapas bar nearby. She would now be a teenager. 

In January it emerged new leads in the case had united British and Portuguese detectives as they probe fresh tips she was spirited away by traffickers.

It comes amid reports Scotland Yard detectives have been given more resources to investigate the new lead. 

The new line of inquiry comes after the Portuguese force rejected the British theory Madeleine may have been abducted during a bungled robbery. 

The new focus is reportedly on human traffickers who may have snatched her and sold her “to order.” 

Private investigators hired by the McCanns in 2007 reported the presence of men watching children at the beach with binoculars and taking pictures of them.

The McCanns believe images of their daughter may have been shared with traffickers who then selected her.

They continue to hold hope Madeleine will be found alive, stating “there is absolutely nothing to suggest she has been harmed.”