Former Portuguese detective Goncalo Amaral has claimed in a TV interview that Madeleine McCann's body was cremated, fuelling her parents' anguish.
The detective, one of the leading investigators early in the case, made the wild statement hours after her parents vowed to take him back to court over other claims.
Amaral made his latest statement on a TV documentary to be aired tonight on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance from the Praia da Luz resort in Portugal, according to the Daily Mail.
It comes just hours after a moving interview with her parents, in which they revealed they have still not given up hope on seeing Madeleine again.
Amaral said she may have been hidden in another British woman's coffin as she was cremated, and said the church where Madeleine's parents prayed was key.
He said: "We had information three figures went into the church via a side door at night. They had a box and there was to be a cremation of a British woman.
"It is possible the child's remains were in this box and cremated as well. The parents had the key to the church," reports The Sun.
The claim is the latest spark in a long dispute between Amaral, who was booted off the Madeleine case, and Kate and Gerry McCann.
Amaral, 57, claimed in The Truth Of The Lie that Madeleine died at the McCann's holiday house and Kate and Gerry covered it up.
The McCanns won a libel case against Amaral in 2015, and he was ordered to pay them 250,000 euros each in damages.
But this was overturned on appeal and that decision upheld in another court this April, meaning Amaral is now able to sue the McCanns for damages potentially totalling tens of thousands of pounds.
During the interview, BBC presenter Fiona Bruce asked the McCanns: "One of the police officers in Portugal has been a thorn in your side for many years, he was thrown off the investigation but then he wrote a book ... and you fought it through the courts.
"At the moment you've lost and he's won. Is this the end for you now, are you going to continue to fight him?"
Mr McCann replied: "I think the short answer is we have to because the last judgment I think is terrible.
"I think it's also important to say that when we lodged the action was eight years ago, and the circumstances were very different, where we felt there was real damage being done to the search for Madeleine at that time, particularly in Portugal."
Mr McCann added that it was important to challenge Mr Amaral in the European courts on behalf of the wider family, including his children.
Agreeing that Mr Amaral's claims needed to be challenged, Mrs McCann said: 'I find it all incomprehensible to be honest
"It has been very upsetting, and it has caused a lot of frustration and anger which is a real negative emotion."