German prosecutors say they haven’t charged the man suspected of killing Madeleine McCann because they don’t have enough evidence to convict him.
Madeleine, a 3-year-old British girl, hasn’t been seen since vanishing from her family vacation in Portugal in 2007. German authorities investigating the suspect, who is behind bars in Germany on an unrelated drug conviction, have said they believe the girl is dead.
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German authorities identified the suspect as a 43-year-old man who received a seven-year sentence in December 2019 for raping a 72-year-old American woman in 2005 in Portugal, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE. He is appealing that sentence but is currently serving a 21-month sentence in Germany for dealing drugs, the Times of London reported.
He has not been charged in connection with Madeleine’s disappearance.
In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters of the Braunschweig Public Prosecutor’s Office, who is leading the investigation into the suspect, said authorities “actually have findings that suggest that he is Madeleine McCann’s murderer.”
But Wolters added, “At the moment, there is insufficient evidence to convict.”
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Wolters told the network that German law prohibits opening a murder case until the point at which there’s enough evidence to make a conviction more likely than an acquittal.
“We have a well-founded suspicion,” Wolters said. “But this suspicion is below the sufficient level we need to actually bring charges to court.”
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In a previous interview with the Times, Wolters said, “My private opinion is that he relatively quickly killed the girl, possibly abused her and then killed her.”
According to the court documents obtained by PEOPLE, from a court in Braunschweig, the suspect was convicted for raping a woman at a villa close to Praia da Luz, where Madeleine’s family had rented a vacation home.
In October of 1994, the suspect also received a 2-year juvenile sentence for the sexual abuse of a child in the German city of Würzburg, the documents state.
The London Metropolitan Police said last week the suspect travelled around Portugal in a camper van around the time Madeleine went missing and had been living out of the camper in the region between 1995 and 2007.
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On the night of Madeleine’s disappearance, the suspect was in the Praia de Luz area and received a nearly 30-minute phone call, London police said. Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell described the other person on the phone call as a “key witness.”
PEOPLE was not able to reach the suspect’s lawyer, Friedrich Fuelscher. But Fuelscher told CNN prosecutors had not approached his client about Madeleine’s case.
“On the advice of his defense council he is remaining silent about the accusations,” Fuelscher told the network.
Last week, McCann family spokesperson Clarence Mitchell said Madeleine’s family remained hopeful despite Wolters’ belief the girl is dead.
Kate and Gerry McCann
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“All they have ever wanted is to find their daughter. To establish the truth of what happened back in May 2007 and to bring whoever is responsible, whether that’s one person or more, to justice,” Mitchell said on BBC Radio. “They have never given up hope of finding Madeleine alive, even now despite all these grim reports that are emerging, because they haven’t had anything to suggest the worst has happened.”
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He continued, “However, they are very realistic, and the police are keeping them closely informed. Whatever the outcome may be from this; however it develops; whether this man was involved; whether the German police are right in what they believe has happened, they still need to know. Because they say they need peace. They need to find peace. And I think everybody can understand that.”