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Sniffer dogs scour scrubland in hunt for missing Madeleine McCann

By Jennifer Cockerell

Sniffer dogs and specialist teams are being used to search an area of scrubland close to where Madeleine McCann went missing in Portugal seven years ago.

The development came as British officers, accompanied by their Portuguese counterparts, spent a second day investigating the hilly area in the resort of Praia da Luz on the Algarve.

The large area of scrubland was a hive of activity yesterday as police carried out fingertip searches in the undergrowth, scouring the ground for clues as to what happened to Madeleine, who disappeared in May 2007 aged three.

The officers, who were in Metropolitan Police uniform, searched the long grass on their hands and knees, accompanied by one of the two sniffer dogs as they scanned the rubbish-strewn ground.

Forestry workers used strimmers to cut back swathes of undergrowth before two officers in Met Police uniform used a spade to dig into the soil.

One held a black bucket for the other to shovel earth into before taking the soil samples away. Specialist teams are also thought to be using ground-penetrating radar equipment to probe the ground, looking for disturbed earth.

The area of land is being guarded day and night by armed local police with dogs, and a large yellow-and-white cordon was put in place ahead of the search.

It was marked out with tape while small yellow flags could be seen poking out of the ground in places.

Local police officers on horseback patrolled it yesterday while others walked up and down with German shepherd dogs.

A number of small tents have been erected inside the cordon and a number of Portuguese police vans could be seen on top of a large mound in the middle of the area, which overlooks the sea.

The land, a few minutes' walk from the Ocean Club resort apartment where Madeleine (below) was staying with her family, has been searched before.

TV crews and journalists from around the world have gathered as the search – seen as one of the biggest developments in the investigation in recent years – takes place.

South Wales Police said that two of its specialist dog handlers, and victim detection dogs, are working as part of a small team of British police officers working with the Portuguese authorities.

FACTFILE

Two specialist dog handlers and victim detection dogs from South Wales Police are helping the search. The English springer spaniels, called Tito and Muzzy, were also used during the search for murdered schoolgirl April Jones in 2012. The dogs can be used for finding hidden bodies as well as searching for people in disasters, and can be used in buildings, open areas and vehicles.

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