POLICE in Britain are preparing to make their first arrests in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, according to reports.
Prosecutors have sent a letter to the Portuguese authorities seeking permission to arrest three burglars who were operating in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz where Madeleine disappeared, the Daily Mirror reports.
Police in Britain had announced last year that they were treating the possibility that Madeleine was taken by burglars as a major line of inquiry.
A spokesman for Madeleine’s parents told the newspaper: “The letter is a significant development. It is necessary for British police to request the Portuguese authorities allow them to operate on their turf.
“Police want to be given a chance to arrest key suspects. It doesn’t prove they have Madeleine but it will rule them in or out of the investigation and that is important."
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Scotland Yard would not comment on the detail of the letter, but they did confirm it was sent last week.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “We can confirm that a second International Letter of Request (ILOR) has been sent to the Portuguese authorities by the Crown Prosecution Service, week commencing 6 January, in connection with Operation Grange.”
This is the second letter to be sent on behalf of the British police. The first was sent in July when the UK police upgraded its review to a formal investigation.
Madeleine was almost four years old when she disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on May 3 2007 as her parents dined with friends at a restaurant nearby.
The search for Madeleine was pushed forward in October when a BBC Crimewatch appeal was aired in the UK, Germany and Netherlands.
Portuguese authorities closed their inquiry into Madeleine’s disappearance in 2008, however, they reopened the investigation in October after a review uncovered sufficient new information.
In a message released at Christmas Mrs McCann said: “We are incredibly relieved and buoyed by these developments and continue to hope for further collaboration in the near future with the possibility of a JIT (Joint Investigation Team) between Portugal and the UK to enhance the search for our dear daughter.”