The prosecutor leading the investigation into the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has written to her parents to confirm she is dead.
Hans Christian Wolters confirmed he sent the letter to Kate and Gerry McCann but said he was unable to explain why his officers had come to that conclusion.
“We have re-established contact with the McCann family in writing,” Mr Wolters, who is based in the German city of Braunschweig, told the Mirror.
Download the new Independent Premium app
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
“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.”
Clarence Mitchell, the McCann family spokesman, told The Sun that the letter had been sent but added: “Kate and Gerry simply do not comment on private correspondence received from police and nor will they be giving a running commentary.”
However this weekend Mr Walters claimed there was still “a little bit of hope” that Madeleine was alive and admitted there was no forensic evidence to support the idea she was dead.
He is known to have lived on the Algarve coast and his Portuguese mobile phone received a half-hour phone call in Praia da Luz around an hour before a three-year-old Madeleine went missing in May 2007.
It has also been reported that he is being investigated over the disappearances of other children as well as Madeleine.