German prosecutors have said they have "material evidence" that Madeleine McCann is dead.
Hans Christian Wolters, the public prosecutor in north-west Germany leading the search for Madeleine, told Portuguese television that investigators have evidence that she is no longer alive.
Speaking to broadcaster RTP, Mr Wolters answered: "Yes" when asked: "Do you have any material evidence that Madeleine is dead?" He refused to elaborate further.
His admission comes after searches were carried out in Germany and Portugal this summer in connection with Christian Brückner, the 43-year-old German named as the key suspect in the Madeleine case.
Watch: Madeleine McCann: Suspect Christian B has appeal rejected by European Court of Justice
Police say they can place Brückner, a convicted paedophile, near Praia de Luz in Portugal on the night the three-year-old went missing while on a family holiday in May 2007.
Lawyers representing Brückner, who is currently serving a prison sentence for drug offences, have denied his involvement in the case.
In July, officers undertook a two-day dig at an allotment on the edge of Hannover, where Brückner is believed to have stayed in 2007, and uncovered a cellar that was searched with sniffer dogs. Last week it emerged that police had been looking for computer memory sticks in the search, but prosecutors declined to say whether any had been found.
Mr Wolters' latest comment follows a number of other suggestions from German authorities that Madeleine is no longer alive (see video below).
In June, the prosecutor's office wrote to Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, to say they have "concrete evidence" that she is dead.
However, they have declined to share specific details of what the evidence is with the family, telling them that "getting the culprit is more important than putting our cards on the table".
Speaking in his Braunschweig office in June, Mr Wolters said: "We have written to the McCanns again because we are closely following and monitoring what has been going on in the media. We have really considered the fact that it is going to be very hard for the family when we tell them that we assume Madeleine is dead.
"But we can't say why she is dead. It is more important that we are successful and we are able to get the culprit as opposed to just putting our cards on the table and tell them why we think she might be. I know it would be of relief to the parents to know how she died, but it would hamper the investigation if we give away too much information."
Police are unable to charge Brückner with Madeleine's murder with the current evidence, but have said their case against him is "90 per cent". In May, they launched a public appeal for witnesses in order to further build the case against him.