Former Portuguese police chief Gonçalo Amaral says the top suspect in the Madeleine McCann investigation is a German paedophile but not Martin Ney, as it had initially been reported.

Amaral sparked speculation Ney was the suspect when, earlier this year, he said in an interview that investigators were focusing on a paedophile serving time in a German prison.

The former police chief was initially the officer in charge of the investigation when Maddie disappeared in May 2007, just days shy of her 4th birthday, in the Algarve.

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Former Portuguese police chief Gonçalo Amaral says Madeleine McCann suspect is in German prison

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Despite not mentioning Ney by name in the interview, many speculated that's the German paedophile Amaral was referring to.

He described him as someone who had been ruled out of the investigation in 2008 but was later jailed for similar crimes in Germany.

When shown a photo of Ney on Spanish TV, Amaral said "it can't be him".

"A paedophile who is German and serving life for killing children has been spoken about," he told a show about missing adults and children," he said, according to The Sun.

"What I know is that the suspect is not him, it's another man. He's also in prison in Germany. He's also a paedophile."

He added that the suspect looks similar to Maddie's father, Gerry McCann.

Amaral was sacked from the case after making the McCann's "arguidos" - official suspects - in the investigation.

He has been involved in a legal battle with the McCann family for years over his book, "The Truth of the Lie", in which he claims that Gerry and Kate McCann covered up their daughter's accidental death in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve.

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Last year, he claimed MI5 spies had helped to cover up Madeleine's death and disappearance.

The McCanns have continued to insist his accusations have harmed the search for their daughter.