A TOP detective once hired by the McCanns to hunt for missing Madeleine believes she may still be alive.
Former cop Dave Edgar also warned people not to "jump to conclusions about the guilt of the new suspect” currently in custody.
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His claims contradict those of German prosecutors who say there is enough proof to convince them Madeleine was killed after being abducted.
However, the retired detective said there is still no “hard evidence” the youngster has actually been killed.
And he said at the moment, there is a "huge way" to go from Christian B being named as a suspect to him being prosecuted.
“Secondly, this case is still without a body. And without a body, there is no evidence Madeleine was murdered," he said.
“Without a body, there is still a great deal of hope for the McCanns their daughter is still alive."
“It’s time to just put the brakes on the speculation, and step back. It’s not a time for knee-jerk reactions, " he added.
The expert added he does not believe the lack of a body fits the profile of a kidnapping by a stranger.
“In my experience, when strangers kill children, or if strangers kill anyone for that matter, they do one thing very quickly and they do it almost automatically – they dump the body of their victim so they’re not caught with it," he revealed
“That’s just the way it works.
“So, without a body, it is very likely somebody took Madeleine away and is still keeping her alive."
Edgar said the identification of the new prime suspect brought back chilling memories of his probe into a British sex fiend.
Raymond Hewlett was once believed to hold the key to the missing child's disappearance.
“I have seen persons of interest come up so many times while investigating murder cases, and my record in solving them speaks for itself.
“A lot of the time, all is not as it seems, or all is not as clear-cut as it may first seem."
The ex private detective also said it would be difficult to pin anything on Christian B as so much time has passed since the disappearance.
“If it wasn’t detected in the first year then it’s going to be very difficult to detect after that, unless you’ve got some sort of hard evidence – i.e. – forensic evidence or identifications that are going to stand up," he warned.
“And if you haven’t got that sort of evidence to build a case from 13 years down the line, it’s going to be very difficult to do. That’s an understatement – it’s going to be damned hard."
Edgar – whose hunt for Madeleine stretched from 2009 to 2011 after being employed by the youngster’s parents – spent 30 years as a Detective Inspector in the RUC and Cheshire police force.
He stopped working for them as a private investigator after three years when the Metropolitan Police opened their own case in 2011
Edgar was responsible for cracking some of the UK’s most high-profile and grisly murder cases, including child killings.
He added: “I don’t work on speculation. I work on hard evidence. I’m not talking about some circumstantial evidence and speculation – I’m talking about evidence you would be confident enough taking into court."
Last week, German prosecutors named Christian B as the prime suspect in the infamous 2007 disappearance revealing they were investigating him "on suspicion of murder".
They sensationally revealed they believe Madeleine is dead and know how she was killed – despite no body being found.
The German prosecutor leading the investigation believe the little girl was killed soon after she was snatched.
During his hunt for the little girl, Edgar probed now-dead paedophile Raymond Hewlett’s apparent links to Madeleine’s disappearance.
Like the new suspect, Hewlett lived in a battered camper-van in the Praia da Luz area and had committed a string of sexual offences against young girls.
Hewlett, 64, was living just an hour’s drive from where Madeleine disappeared in the Algarve in May 2007.
But he died in 2010 of throat cancer after spending years refusing to talk about the theory.
The detective said: “Hewlett was definitely a person of interest to us. He was someone capable of abducting a child as he had the background and profile to interfere with children.
“I tried my best to speak to him, but he wouldn’t speak. But there was just no evidence to link him to the case beyond his background – absolutely no evidence.
“Yes, he was someone we were interested in, but in terms of real evidence, there wasn’t any, unless the Portuguese are sitting on some that I don’t know about.”
Edgar added: “At the minute the case remains what it is – probably the greatest whodunit that’s ever been. But of course we all hope it is brought to a conclusion for the family’s sake."
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