London

- The £12 million investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is to be wound up within months, Scotland Yard’s head said on Wednesday.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said detectives are following one remaining line of inquiry and unless any new evidence comes forward, it will spell the end of the British probe.

Speaking on LBC radio on Wednesday, just weeks before the missing girl would be due to turn 13, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said the inquiry had been scaled back dramatically.

Madeleine was three when she vanished while on holiday with her parents in Portugal in May 2007 and despite multiple inquiries in Portugal and Britain, no trace has ever been found of her.

Just last week Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Duthie, head of the force’s murder squad, said there was a possibility police would find her alive and officers were pursuing “justifiable and reasonable” leads.

He confirmed detectives were still examining possible links to burglaries in the Algarve area at the time of her disappearance.

Sir Bernard said the lead was “worthwhile pursuing”, but signalled that the five-year inquiry would soon end.

“There’s been a lot of investigation time spent on this terrible case,” he said.

“It’s a child who went missing, everybody wants to know if she is alive and if she is, where is she, and sadly if she’s dead then we need to give some comfort to the family.”

The Home Office has granted £95 000 to keep the investigation, called Operation Grange, going for another few months.

Sir Bernard added: “The size of the team has come down radically, we are now down to two or three people in that team, at one stage there were about 30 officers in it.

“There is a line of inquiry that everybody agrees is worthwhile pursuing.”

Asked when the probe will close, he said: “It would be at the conclusion of this line of inquiry unless something else comes up.

If somebody comes forward and gives us good evidence we will follow it. We always say that a missing child inquiry is never closed.”

The Met took over the hunt in 2011 after a plea to David Cameron from her parents Kate and Gerry McCann following the closure of the Portuguese inquiry.

Detectives have taken 1 338 statements, investigated more than 60 “persons of interest” and interviewed suspects including three former workers at the Ocean Club, where the McCanns were staying.

But police have faced criticism over the resources they have used.

In 2014 alone, detectives made 67 trips to Portugal, spending £16 000 on flights.

A spokesman for the McCanns said: “Kate and Gerry have remained incredibly grateful to the Metropolitan Police throughout the investigation. But they do not wish to comment today.”

Daily Mail