A real estate developer who's used his own wealth to investigate the disappearance of missing tike Madeleine McCann slammed Scotland Yard for announcing yesterday that she still might be found alive.
The British police identified 38 "persons of interest" in the new search for McCann. She vanished at age three from a Portuguese resort during a family vacation in 2007.
But Stephen Birch, a South African who's spent roughly $100,000 conducting his own probe, criticized the British police for relaunching the case while ignoring his report. Last year, Birch sent documents to Scotland Yard alleging that McCann was buried a few hundred feet from the Praia da Luz apartment her parents rented.
"The question you need to ask is why are they not digging up a gravel driveway," Birch said to HuffPost in an email. "It is my opinion Madeleine McCann will never be allowed to return to her parents – dead or alive."
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Ground-penetrating radar scans of the property purportedly show evidence of digging and images that might be human bones, according to Birch.
An online petition he created calls on the Portuguese government to order an excavation of the driveway. On July 5 there were just 383 signatures, but Birch ambitiously predicts it will snowball to more than one million names, because of the international hype around her case.
The property in question is the home of Robert Murat. Murat was officially deemed a suspect early in the case by the Portuguese police.
However, he was later cleared of an involvement. He's won hundreds of thousands of dollars in libel settlements against tabloid newspapers.
Though Birch thinks McCann's body lies underneath the driveway, he's said that he doesn't think Murat or anyone in his family played a role in the girl's disappearance.
"'Anyone could have had access to the property," Birch told a Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha.
The Portuguese prime minister's office informed Birch that they were unmoved by his claim that he'd found McCann's grave. In a letter last year, Portuguese officials said that they found nothing to warrant digging when they checked out the area in 2007.
Sighting of McCann, who would be 10 now, filter in to to police departments around the world. Interpol got a report that she was spotted in Cyprus in March and Scotland Yard requested DNA samples of a lookalike in New Zealand that had the same eye defect as the missing girl.
"She's under the driveway," Birch said to HuffPost. "The U.K. is bullshitting to maintain the cover-up.'