TODAY

TODAY   |  January 14, 2014

Police to make arrests in Madeleine McCann case

British police are nearing their first arrests in the disappearance of toddler Madeleine McCann, the 3-year old who vanished from her parents’ apartment in Portugal seven years ago.

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

>>> meanwhile, let's begin this half hour with a break, possibly, in the nearly 7-year-old disappearance of madeleine mccann . british police are close to making several arrests. what can you tell us?

>> reporter: hey, matt, good morning. i have reports on the disappearance of madelieine mccann since the first few days she went missing, this does feel like a significant development. at the very least, detectives here at scotland yard want the opportunity to rule out their latest theory for her parents who spent more time searching for her than the time they spent with her.

>> reporter: madeleine mccann , a bright, 3-year-old girl, this year will be her 11th birthday. and now, almost seven years since she went missing on vacation, there may be a breakthrough. british papers reporting that detectives want to make the first arrest, targeting three men from a gang suspected of breaking into her apartment in portugal . in a uk television appeal, "crime watch," mom kate relived the moment when she found her gone.

>> just kind of -- and then i could see that the window had been pushed right open.

>> reporter: the british police theory according to reports that a simple burglary went wrong.

>> i kind of knew straight away she'd been taken.

>> nbc news has confirmed that british prosecutors have contacted portugal asking for assistance from detectives there, reportedly requesting the arrest. previously, detectives have said cell phone data from the time madeleine disappeared. the family saying last year they were relieved to see some progress.

>> the things needed to be done.

>> reporter: they've gained strength from stories like jaycee lee dugard found missing after 13 years. her bedroom after all this time is still ready for her to come home.

>> sometimes i can go into her room and sit down and i don't even have to talk.

>> this was one of the last pictures of madeleine smiling. her parents still praying they'll see her again soon.

>> reporter: and this is a tricky case. there is tension between detectives in portugal and detectives here in london. in the end, savannah, this is about one police force asking another police force to do something that really is about a little girl . and what these parents are going through, just unimaginable.

>> it is, indeed, and fathomable. let's turn to lisa bloom , she's today's legal analyst. good morning to you, lisa. do you think this looks promising? do you assume they're looking to arrest three people that the british police have something more than what the portuguese authorities had on these guys seven years ago.

>> an arrest in this case may be to question these three men. and certainly they should be questioned. phone records can tell us not only the length and number of calls, but the location of the calls. i think investigators want to put together a time line , separate these guys, see if their stories add up and look for inconsistencies.

>> every time i look at this case, i think, the passage of time, seven years, how do you build a case with all that time elapsed. you assume they're going to get these guys to spill the beans on one another.

>> this looks like a completely legal theory than we'd always assumed. in this case, it looks as though burglars may have sought to come into that house to rob it, perhaps she interrupted the burglary or she was a witness to and that's why she was taken.

>> what are the legal and diplomatic hurdles that the british police have with the portuguese authorities. a reporter in london, there's some tension there.

>> absolutely. why weren't these three men talked to seven years ago when this poor little girl disappeared? maybe they were, maybe the investigation wasn't adequate. this is a touchy situation. but bottom line is, the uk wants to protect its own citizens even when they're on vacation in their own country.

>> we hope there's some development that gives them peace. appreciate