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Police search wasteland for missing British girl

Story Highlights

• Portuguese police check out tip in disappearance of 4-year-old British girl
• Letter to Dutch newspaper says Madeleine McCann was buried under rocks
• Letter to same newspaper last year led police to the bodies of two missing girls
• Madeleine went missing from a hotel in the Algarve region of Portugal on May 3
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(CNN) -- Police investigating the disappearance of a missing British girl in Portugal said they may use sniffer dogs on Thursday to search the area where an anonymous tip-off said she was buried.

A Dutch newspaper said Wednesday it had received an anonymous letter claiming 4-year-old Madeleine McCann's body was buried under rocks in a remote area nine miles from where she vanished while on holiday with her family more than a month ago.

Her parents on Thursday criticized the newspaper for printing the claims before Portuguese police had a chance to investigate.

Gerry McCann, writing a blog on the Find Madeleine Web site, said the move was "insensitive and cruel," adding that he and his wife Kate were deeply upset by what had happened.

The letter sent to the Dutch newspaper pinpointed a remote area north of the village of Odiaxere, north east of Praia da Luz where Madeleine disappeared.

Dutch police said the tip-off was being taken seriously because it was similar to information sent to the same newspaper last year, giving details of the rough location of the bodies of two missing Belgian girls.

Stacey Lemmens, seven, and her stepsister Nathalie Mahy, 10, disappeared while playing outside in Liege on June 10 last year. Their bodies were found near a railway line on June 28, the same day as De Telegraaf received a letter from an unknown source.

Dutch police spokesman Rob Van der Veen told the UK Press Association: "With the tip about the Belgian disappearance in the back of our minds, this letter grabbed our attention.

"The writer of that letter had closely pinpointed the area where the girls' bodies were eventually found.

"That particular letter was posted in Rotterdam the day before the bodies were found. We are therefore not ruling out the fact that this letter regarding Madeleine could be very important."

Madeleine disappeared on May 3, when her parents left her and her 2-year-old twin siblings in their hotel room while they dined at a restaurant in their hotel complex in Portugal's Algarve region.

Since then, her parents have launched an international campaign with the aid of celebrities such as soccer star David Beckham and J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, in the hope of finding the girl. The couple had a brief meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

Four-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared from a hotel resort in Portugal on May 3.


        Gallery: Girl vanishes in Portugal

      • Missing girl hunt moves to Spain
      • Snatched girl's family meet pope
      • Guilt haunts missing girl's parents


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