A poster of three-year-old Madeleine McCann, a British girl who went missing in 2007 while on holiday with her parents in Praia da Luz, in Lagos, Portugal. File picture: EPA-EFE/LUIS FORRA

London - A new suspect that police want to quiz over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is understood to be a German serial paedophile and child killer.

Martin Ney, 48, who was imprisoned for life in Germany in 2012 for abducting and murdering three children and sexually abusing at least 40 others, is said to be a key person of interest to detectives.

It comes after it was reported on the 12th anniversary of the three-year-old’s disappearance that Portuguese officers were closing in on a foreign paedophile of ‘considerable significance’ after a tip-off from Scotland Yard.

Ney has previously been interviewed by detectives about Madeleine but denied any involvement. Originally from Hamburg, he targeted children on holiday, sometimes entering their apartments or tents wearing a mask and carrying a weapon, at other times using camouflage to ambush them.

He closely resembles a photofit of a man said to have been seen with a child in his arms shortly after Madeleine vanished from the Ocean Club resort in Portugal’s Praia da Luz in May 2007.

Ney’s first known murder victim, Stefan Jahr, 13, was taken at night from a boarding school in Scheebel, Germany, in 1992.

He also abused a string of boys on camping trips, with victims calling him as ‘the Masked Man’.

In 1995, Ney snatched Dennis Rostel, eight, from a camp in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. His body was found in Denmark.

Ney also killed Dennis Klein, nine, who vanished on a school trip to Lower Saxony, in Germany, in 2001. The paedophile is also suspected of two other murders.

There are fears he may have been part of a paedophile ring operating on the Algarve. Ney was working for an evangelical church on a project for the homeless in Portugal when Madeleine vanished.

In chatroom messages, under the username GerdX, Ney confessed that he had dressed in camouflage to jump out of bushes, ‘in children’s playgrounds if a beautiful boy goes past.’

Former Portuguese police chief Goncalo Amaral has claimed police are on the verge on naming a new suspect, who he said was a German paedophile currently in jail although he did not name him. Yesterday, Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry, said: ‘Ney fits the profile – he is a known predatory paedophile and he’s a foreigner. It is quite plausible police are looking at him again but it could be someone else.

‘If he is the person of interest, a German force will have to get involved to interview him on their soil.’ Mrs McCann’s uncle Brian Kennedy added: ‘If police start broadcasting names of suspects, it will only send them running.’

Last week, Portuguese media said police had been given extra resources to pursue a new suspect. The Metropolitan Police said: ‘The investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann remains ongoing. We are not providing a running commentary.’

Daily Mail