Madeleine McCann police begin digging in scrubland search

The search site in Praia da Luz
Image caption The search is expected to last until Friday

Police officers investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have been seen using spades and pitchforks in a cordoned-off area of land in Praia da Luz.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police and South Wales Police joined their Portuguese counterparts in searching the section of scrubland in the Algarve resort.

It is the second day of the search.

The British girl was three when she went missing in the resort in 2007.

The digging is at this stage small scale, and officers have been seen taking samples of rock and putting them into buckets.

Image caption Three white tents have been put up on the 15-acre site
Image copyright PA
Image caption The springer spaniels were provided by South Wales Police
Image caption A local newspaper said some of the grass would be cut back to help the search
Image copyright Everton FC
Image caption Madeleine McCann went missing in Praia da Luz in 2007

Two sniffer dogs, and their handlers, have also been provided by South Wales Police for the search. The springer spaniels were used in the hunt for murdered schoolgirl April Jones in Powys in 2012.

The Met has also asked for two other locations in Praia da Luz to be examined, and the BBC understands that all the searches will be completed by Friday.

On Tuesday morning yellow cones and tape were used to mark out points of interest within the 15 acres of scrubland, and two officers, on their hands and knees and wearing gloves, carried out a detailed search of one small area.

The site is covered with trees and long grass. One side of it goes down to the coast, and the other three are bordered by apartments. In some areas strimmers have been used to cut down grass in order to facilitate the search.

The area is about five minutes' walk from the Ocean Club complex, where the McCanns were staying when Madeleine disappeared.

Dozens of journalists from the UK, Portugal and the US are among the press pack at the site.

At the scene

Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption British police joined the operation on Tuesday

By Lauren Turner

The police operation has stepped up a gear on Tuesday with the search for Madeleine beginning in earnest.

Officers have been seen using spades to do some light digging in taped off sections of the site. Rather than full scale excavation their "digging" took the form of moving around the surface level of soil, and taking some rock samples.

Sniffer dogs from South Wales Police have also been scouring the ground for clues, and fingertip searches have been carried out by police on their hands and knees.

Monday - the first day police were on the site in the west of Praia da Luz - was very much about surveillance and setting out areas of interest, whereas now officers can be seen searching land more obviously.

Police tape - used not only to cordon off the site but also to mark out sections within the 15-acre plot - flutters in the breeze everywhere you look.

The police contingent has also been bolstered with more officers - including those on horseback - on the scene.

The press pack has increased too. Their activities being closely watched by the police, who have been taking photographs of journalists as they carry out their work. It really is a case of watching them, watching you. They are determined the investigation is not impeded in any way by the media, and making sure they do not cross the police tape.

When one person asks an officer entering the site how the search is going, there is no reply.

It seems there are still no answers to the question at the centre of this, the one that was first asked seven years ago - where is Madeleine McCann?

Officers from the GNR, the Portuguese national police, have been patrolling the perimeter of the site with guard dogs.

They are also expected to use "ground penetrating radar" to search the scrubland, looking for signs of disturbed earth.

The search, which began on Monday, is expected to last until Friday.

Last month, Scotland Yard said a "substantial phase of operational activity" in Portugal would start soon.

Image copyright Getty Images

The Met launched a fresh investigation into Madeleine's disappearance last July, codenamed Operation Grange.

In March, they said they were seeking an intruder who sexually abused five girls in Portugal between 2004 and 2006.

Detectives said the attacks happened in holiday villas occupied by UK families in the Algarve.

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