Disappearance of Madeleine McCann: UK police say missing girl may still be alive

London

This undated composite image shows photos of then 3-year-old missing child Madeleine McCann and a projected computer generated image of her at 9 years old. (Credit: AP Photo/London Metropolitan Police/Teri Blythe)

LONDON (CBS/AP) -- Missing girl Madeleine McCann, who vanished while on a family vacation in Portugal five years ago may be alive, UK police said Wednesday.

London's Metropolitan Police said they are still investigating the disappearance of the girl, who vanished shortly before her fourth birthday in May 2007 from a condo at a resort while her parents ate at a restaurant nearby.

UK police have released a new image of the girl created in cooperation with the family that shows how Madeline might look at age 9. .

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said he is leading a team of more than 30 police officers who are focusing on the case.

Portugal police closed their investigation in 2008, but Scotland Yard says it wants the case reopened. An investigative review formed in May 2011, and has been going through case details.

In a rare press conference on the case, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said he is leading a team of 37 police officers reviewing some 40,000 pieces of evidence gathered so far. The team has identified some 195 possible leads to be followed up on, he said.

He acknowledged that police have to consider that McCann may be dead despite hopes that she is alive.

"Our drive on both scenarios is of equal measure," he said, choosing his words carefully. Authorities said the investigation is split equally -- one team assuming that Madeleine is dead, the other that she is alive.

"We would like the case to be reopened; our case is clear," Redwood told reporters Wednesday. "I should stress quite clearly that the decision is in Portugal."

He said forensic evidence of the sequence of events around her disappearance shows that there are moments when she could have been snatched by criminals.

There has been no reliable indication of what might have happened to the girl despite numerous reported sightings from around the world. Last year, a report of a girl bearing a resemblance to the child created a social media frenzy.

Her disappearance has drawn global media attention, partly because her parents were at one point questioned as suspects by the Portuguese police. They were later cleared of any part in the disappearance.

Kate and Gerry McCann have since headed a campaign to keep the case in the public eye, publishing a book and appearing on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" to tell their story.

UK police said the investigation has cost 2 million pounds ($3.2 million) so far.


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