THE parents of Madeleine McCann have been offered a new lifeline in the hunt for their daughter as police have been given more time and money to continue searching.
It was feared the inquiry into Maddie’s disappearance was set to be shelved this month amid a new Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Metropolitan Police Chief.
It would have heaped more agony on her mum and dad Kate and Gerry, already reeling from recently losing a long running bitter libel battle against a former Portuguese Police cop who wrongly claimed they could be responsible for the accidental death of their daughter and cover up of her body.
But now the pained couple from Rothley, Leicestershire, have “welcomed” Scotland Yard’s pledge to carry on the search for Maddie, who vanished during a family holiday in Portugal more than 15 years ago.
A Home Office spokesperson told The Sun Online today: “Ministers previously approved a request for £302,470 of funding for this financial year (2022/23) in line with our Special Grant processes.”
Whilst the sum asked for by Scotland Yard has been given the green light by newly appointed Home Secretary Suella Braverman – guaranteeing money for the probe codenamed Operation Grange until at least the start of April 2023 – it is down by nearly £50,000 from the previous financial year (£349,328).
That difference in cost could pay the annual salaries of two new PC recruits.
Heart doctor Gerry and medical worker Kate, both 54, recently said they welcomed the country’s top force’s renewed help, saying: “We are grateful for the ongoing work and commitment by the British, German and Portuguese police.
“It is this combined police effort which will yield results and bring us those answers.
“The focus is now rightly on the search for Madeleine and her abductor(s).
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“We hope that with the help of the public, hard work and diligence we can eventually find those responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance and bring them to justice.”
A Scotland Yard source had previously said the inquiry was expected to wind down this year.
But a spokesperson said this week Op Grange, with a much scaled down team, was “continuing for the foreseeable future”.
The Home Office spokesperson explained that funding for the investigation, which has cost taxpayers nearly £13million since it was set up in May 2011, was considered on an annual basis.
The Maddie taskforce submits a figure it expects to spend – and so far this sum has always been approved.
The representative added that “as this is an operational matter” for the Met, how the grant is spent cannot be discussed.
“They submitted a funding request for 2022/23 which has now been approved,” they added.
The McCanns cling onto a glimmer of hope that Maddie could still be alive. She would now be aged 19.
Convicted German rapist Christian B, named in June 2020 as a prime suspect in her disappearance, has been questioned but not charged.
There is said to be insufficient evidence against him at this time. He protests his innocence.
She had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining with pals in a nearby tapas bar.
The McCanns were left “disappointed” by a ruling two weeks ago in the European Court of Humans Rights which saw them lose the latest round in civil action against retired cop Goncalo Amaral, who initially led the probe into their daughter’s disappearance.
They are attempting to sue him for libel for suggesting they were involved in a faked kidnap – claims he published in a 2008 book and then repeated in media interviews.
They won the initial case but Mr Amaral appealed, and in 2016 Portuguese judges reversed the decision prompting the McCanns to appeal to the ECHR in Strasbourg.
But European judges rejected the appeal, giving the couple three months to decide whether to appeal again.
In a statement Kate and Gerry said: “We are naturally disappointed with decision of the European Court of Humans Rights announced today.
“However, much has changed since we started legal proceedings 13 years ago against Mr Amaral, his publisher and broadcaster.
“We took action for one and only one reason: Mr Amaral’s unfounded claims were having a detrimental impact on the search for Madeleine.
“If the public believed that we were involved in her disappearance, then people would not be alert for possible clues and may not report relevant information to the relevant law enforcement agencies.”