Is Madeleine McCann Still Alive?

Police release a new photo of the missing British toddler and say they may reopen the investigation

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Teri Blythe

Madeleine McCann, the British toddler who vanished from her family’s vacation apartment in Portugal in 2007, may be alive, according to detectives conducting a review of the investigation.

Scotland Yard made the announcement on Wednesday, noting that officers reviewing the case discovered up to 200 new items for investigation using existing evidence. “We genuinely believe there is a possibility that she is alive,” Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood from Scotland Yard’s Homicide and Serious Crime Command told reporters.

(MORE: Case Closed for the McCanns?)

The review team is now combing through evidence and reports from Portuguese authorities, inquiries held by U.K. law enforcement agencies, and the work of private investigators hired by the McCann family. In a statement released this morning, Scotland Yard said the existing evidence includes around 40,000 pieces of information.

“We are working on the basis of two possibilities here,” Redwood said. “One is that Madeleine is still alive; and the second that she is sadly dead.” Hoping that she is alive and well, police have issued an age progression image of Madeleine, who would be nine years old.

Madeleine was three when she disappeared in the resort town of Praia da Luz, and her cause became one of Britain’s most famous missing persons cases. Celebrities like David Beckham appealed to the public for information regarding Madeleine’s whereabouts. Her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann,  secured an audience with the Pope and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

At one point, Portuguese police questioned the McCanns as suspects. They were cleared of any part in the disappearance, but not before British media published a series of libelous articles. In March 2008, the McCanns won a $1.1 million libel suit against Express Newspapers, whose British tabloid titles include the Daily Star and the Daily Express, after the newspapers ran outlandish articles with headlines such as “Find the Body or McCanns Will Escape” and “Syringe that ‘Knocked Out Maddie’ Found.”

Portuguese police closed their investigation in 2008, but Redwood says Scotland Yard has plans to re-open it.

(MORE: Parents of Kidnapped 3-year Old Appear Before Hacking Inquiry)

William Lee Adams is a staff writer at the London bureau of TIME. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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