NewsCrime Desk

Police investigating possibility skeletal remains found in suitcase is Maddie

Crime DeskBy Shuki Byrne
Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann

Police officers investigating missing Madeleine McCann have contacted Australian authorities over their discovery of a young girl's remains in a suitcase, Scotland Yard said.

The decomposed body of a young, fair-haired girl aged between two and four, who was killed in at least 2007, was discovered in a suitcase next to a remote motorway in Wynarka near Adelaide in South Australia earlier this month, local police said.

Blonde Madeleine was three-years-old when she went missing from the family's holiday apartment in Portugal's Algarve on May 3 2007.

Australian authorities have so far been unable to identify the girl, who is believed to have been dumped on the roadside along with a distinctive blanket around four months ago.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said today: "We are aware of reports of the remains of a child having been found in South Australia and we have made contact with the Australian authorities."

But for now Australian police have ruled out the link between the body and one of the most high profile missing person cases in the world.

Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said there is "absolutely no evidence" that the child is Madeleine, The Australian newspaper reported.

He told a parliamentary estimates committee hearing: "There is absolutely no evidence at this point in time that the child is Madeleine McCann ... to suggest something like that at this point in time would purely be speculating to get attention.

"We are focusing our inquiries on South Australia but we would be considering any potential missing child. Until we ascertain the identity of the child we need to be open to all possibilities."

Police said the suitcase containing the remains of the child were discovered two weeks ago at the side of a highway. 

Superintendent Des Bray told reporters the dead child, whose sex has not been determined, was likely killed elsewhere.

He said the body was stuffed in a suitcase and left alongside the Karoonda Highway, 130 kilometres (81 miles) east of Adelaide, some four to six weeks ago.

An elderly man was reported to have been seen in the area with a similar suitcase and police are working on establishing the identity of the man.

Police said the child appeared to have died a violent death. 

"It is terribly clear that the child died a violent death under terrible circumstances... everything about this case is tragic," Superintendent Des Bray said.

By the time it was found by a passing motorist on Tuesday, the remains were about two metres away from the bag.

"The child was originally in the suitcase and at some point, somebody has, we believe removed the child from the suitcase," he said.

"It's hard to say what happened, and why, but we know for certain that somebody has come, found the suitcase, opened it to have a look what was in there, tipped out the contents and at that stage become aware that it was most likely human remains."

Police said it appeared that someone had pulled the suitcase from where it had originally been dumped and placed it in full view of the road.

"It was right in the open and easily able to be seen," Bray said.

A number of items of clothing were discovered in the suitcase along with the remains. 

These included a purple Dora the Explorer T-shirt, blue pyjama shorts, a pair of pink tracksuit bottoms and a tutu dress in small sizes.