The clock is ticking for police in Portugal to charge anyone in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
McCann was first reported missing on May 3, 2007, while holidaying in the Algarve in Portugal with her parents Kate and Gerry McCann.
She was three years old when she vanished. It’s arguably one of the most widely and consistently covered missing person cases in history.
While the investigation into her whereabouts is still ongoing to this day, police will soon face another obstacle: Portugal’s statute of limitations makes prosecuting crimes committed 15 years ago rather difficult.
Spencer Dohner, of MDM Legal in Faro, told The Sun that anyone responsible for a crime punishable by 10 or more years in prison 'cannot generally be prosecuted once 15 years has passed'.
He said: "If Madeleine is dead and was murdered the cut-off point for prosecution would be the 15th anniversary of her disappearance.
“If she were found alive and had been the victim of sex crimes as a minor, legal proceedings could take place until she was 23."
Another Lisbon-based lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous, added: "Police and prosecutors in Portugal will be acutely aware of the time limits hanging over the case."
He’s currently in prison for drug offences in Germany and was handed a seven-year term for raping a 72-year-old woman.
Last year, German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said investigators were 'confident' they had the right suspect.
He told The Mirror: "We're confident we have the man who took and killed her. It is now possible that we could charge. We have that evidence now. But it's not just about charging him – we want to charge him with the best body of evidence possible.
"When we still have questions, it would be nonsense to charge rather than wait for the answers that could strengthen our position... it is circumstantial evidence – we have no scientific evidence.
'If we had a video of the act or a picture of Madeleine dead with [Christian B] on camera, we wouldn't have had to make a public appeal. But we only have circumstantial evidence.'
While McCann has yet to be found, the current evidence would indicate that McCann is dead, Wolters said.
He added: "It leads to no other conclusion... I can't tell you on which basis we assume she is dead. But for us, there's no other possibility. There is no hope she is alive."
Featured Image Credit: Police handouts
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