TODAY   |  July 05, 2013

British police open Madeleine McCann investigation

After six years without a major development since Madeleine McCann, then aged 3, disappeared from her bed in Portugal, British police have announced they are opening their own investigation on British soil. NBC’s Michelle Kosinski reports and legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg comments on the case.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> in the search for madeleine mccann . she vanished six years ago as a toddler. now police in britain are opening their own investigation. michelle kosinski is in london with details.

>> this is six years later. now they say we reviewed part of the investigation and we're going to open our own on british soil in what we believe to be an abduction in portugal . they identified 38 people of interest and emphasized that she could be alive.

>> reporter: the strain of losing then three-year-old madeline is still visible on her parents faces and during six years without a single development in her disappearance from her bed while the family vacationed in portugal . now that's all changing thanks to british police .

>> we have decided to move from review to investigation. we're absolutely committed. absolutely committed to finding out what happened to madeleine mccann .

>> scotland yard started looking at the case two years ago reviewing more than 30,000 documents but other numbers are more astounding that they identified nearly 4,000 leads that need investigated. 38 people of interest in five countries. 12 of them british. it brought life to a case that in portugal had gone cold and been closed. already british police say uncovering new theories, new evidence, new witnesses and new hope for madeline 's family.

>> i think we are more hopeful now of finding her than we have been at any point since the early days after she was taken.

>> in cases like elizabeth smart and the three women held for a decade in cleveland and then found reinforces the urgency.

>> there is no clear definitive proof that madeleine mccann is dead so on that basis i believe there is a possibility that she is alive.

>> as much inside work as these detectives have ever done at the end of each statement they ask for any help the public might have. it is still very early in their investigation.

>>> thank you. joshua is a legal journalist that's been following the story since the beginning. morning to you.

>> morning, kate.

>> so she disappeared in 2007 . six years ago. so many years later, why now is this formal investigation being launched in britain?

>> well, because the government here in london agreed to pay for it. this is being done by scotland yard and normally the cost would fall on london taxpayers but the government decided that this is so important that this should be funded. it's important because as you heard the senior police officer say, this is no longer a review into what went wrong, this is an investigation into what can be put right and although these 38 people of interest may not all be suspects, some of them may be witnesses, the police want to talk to them. they want to investigate them and see what light they can cast on this disappearance which, although it was six years ago, it is still a front page story here in london .

>> sure, unusual for one government to be investigating something that happened on another government's soil, isn't it?

>> it's a very sensitive thing for the metropolitan police for scotland yard to be doing this. they won the support and cooperation of the portuguese police even though i'm sure they'll say they might have missed leads but to be fair to them they weren't used to dealing with such mysterious and dra dreadful case as this. quite a lot of sensitivity is required but good relations have been established between scotland yard and the portuguese police and the police in london with now operate in portugal . they already made several trip there is to make contact.

>>> we're hearing now that her parents and the seven members of the party that was traveling with them have been cleared. how significant is that?

>> well, that is significant. it is very important. inevitable when somebody disappears, a child or member of a family, you look at other members of the family and you think might they have been responsible. and there were newspapers that even had to pay damages for wrongly accusing the mccann family of involvement. they had to live through a very difficult media storm but now everybody excepts that they and the people they were dining with on the night madeline disappeared had nothing to do with her tragic disappearance.

>> just quickly, can we show the photo that shows what madeline might look like now at the age of 10 years old. that's on the right there. just to give people a sense, there have been sightings of her reported. how significant have those been. have those lead to any leads at all, joshua?

>> well, that picture you see will encourage people to look around and see is there a little girl that might have joined another family that might not know she is madeleine mccann that might have been asimulated into another group of youngsters and people will say maybe that's her. there have been sightings but they have proved negative.