German police may not have “concrete evidence” that Madeleine McCann is dead, it has been claimed.
Hans Christian Wolters, the German prosecutor leading the investigation, previously wrote to Kate and Gerry McCann telling them he was certain that Madeleine had died.
Mr Wolters referenced “concrete evidence” but refused to offer any further details, fearing it may jeopardise the investigation into prime suspect Christian Brueckner.
A former chief inspector believes the significant claim may have been lost in translation.
Mick Neville founded the Met Police’s Central Forensic Image Team in 2012 and spent a number of years working with the military police in Germany.
He told Daily Star Online: “A big issue here is the phrase ‘concrete evidence’.
“The German prosecutor has stated several times that he has concrete evidence that Madeleine is dead.
“But the meaning has been lost in translation. In English the phrase means ‘irrefutable’ but in German it means ‘reasonable suspicion’ or ‘more than a rumour’.
“German police need to ensure that there is concrete evidence before they make an arrest – but it not enough to convict.”
Days before sending the letter, Wolters told the Sunday Mirror that Madeleine could be alive.
He said: “Because there is no forensic evidence there may be a little bit of hope.
"We don’t want to kill the hope and because there is no forensic evidence it may be possible.”
German prisoner Brueckner, 43, was identified as the prime suspect last month.
The paedophile has a sordid history of child sex offences and was living near the Portuguese Praia da Luz resort where Madeleine disappeared in 2007.
He is currently serving time in a German prison for drug offences.
Police have reportedly found a “secret cellar” that belonged to Brueckner during digs at an allotment in Hanover, Germany, this week.
He lived "off-grid" at the vegetable garden near the city in 2007, locals have claimed.
Wolfgang Kossak, who lives in a neighbouring property, said the search was “ominous”.
He told MailOnline: “Christian Brueckner had the garden next to mine. He arrived in 2007 and left within a year.
"He told me that he living off the grid, that he had not registered with the authorities – no one knew he was there.
"The building was not really a house, you might call it a shed. But it had a cellar and underneath there would be foundations."