August 19, 2013 12:00 PM

On Sunday, July 28, Gerry McCann swam, ran and biked in a triathlon to raise money for Missing People, a charity that is near and dear to his and his wife’s hearts. Their daughter Madeleine, 3, vanished from a Portugal resort more than six years ago, a case that made headlines around the world. Waiting at the finish line were his wife, Kate, and their twins, Sean and Amelie, 8, wearing pink vests with photos of Maddie and the words “NEVER GIVING UP” emblazoned in white letters on the back. If there was an extra spring in their step, it’s no wonder. On July 4 Scotland Yard investigators made a stunning announcement: “I believe that there is a possibility that Madeleine is alive,” Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood told reporters. British authorities recently officially asked Portugal for permission to set up shop in the country to pursue new leads, with the help of Portuguese police. It was welcome news to the McCanns. “They are starting to fill in bits of the missing jigsaw,” Gerry tells PEOPLE. That “hopefully brings us closer to finding out what happened to Madeleine and finding her.”

Are there new suspects and evidence?

SCOTLAND YARD INVESTIGATORS say they have “genuinely new” lines of inquiry, new witnesses and evidence and have identified 38 potential suspects in five countries, including 12 UK nationals. Officials have continued to emphasize that none of the suspects are known to the McCanns. “I’m hopeful when we pursue those lines of inquiry that we will be able to bring some kind of resolution,” says Redwood. Scotland Yard has 37 police officers and staff working on the case and has gathered 30,500 documents that identified 3,800 actions they need to tackle. “We and the Portuguese authorities remain completely committed to finding out what happened to Madeleine,” Redwood said.

Have new theories about Madeleine’s kidnapping emerged?

YES. WHILE SCOTLAND YARD investigators said they have new ideas about what happened, they are keeping mum about exactly what they are. One retired Scotland Yard detective believes it could be centered around an international child-trafficking ring. “It’s inconceivable to think they have 38 individual suspects in 38 different strands of inquiry at this late stage of the investigation,” says Peter Bleksley, a founding member of Scotland Yard’s undercover unit. “Some of these people must be linked to each other, so perhaps they’re not looking at an individual snatcher and are potentially looking into a trafficking ring or a similar kind of setup.”

Bleksley says investigators must be confident to make the public statements they did. “They were very bullish and optimistic in what they said, particularly with regards to the possibility of her still being alive,” says Bleksley, author of two nonfiction crime books. “And you do set yourself up for a fall if you don’t exercise caution.”

Why is Scotland Yard even handling a Portuguese case?

PORTUGAL’S ATTORNEY GENERAL closed the case in July 2008 after clearing the McCanns, whom the police named as suspects. After years of pressure from the McCanns, Prime Minister David Cameron ordered London’s Metropolitan Police Service to review the case in May 2011, calling it Operation Grange. A team began examining files from Portuguese police, British agencies and the McCanns’ private detectives, culminating in July 4’s announcement.

Was the previous investigation botched?

THE PORTUGUESE POLICE made several key errors in the first days of the probe, including failing to secure the apartment as a crime scene.

“Sources tell me a number of people were granted access to the crime scene in the early stages who shouldn’t necessarily have been there,” says Bleksley, the retired Scotland Yard detective. “I suspect the forensics were contaminated or otherwise diminished.”

They also failed to immediately collect DNA from potentially crucial evidence, such as Madeleine’s favorite toy, Cuddle Cat, which was found lying on her bed after she vanished. And Portuguese police spent much of their 15-month probe heavily focused on the McCanns instead of investigating other scenarios. Police even misrepresented the results of DNA samples collected from the trunk of their car, which they rented 24 days after Madeleine vanished. On Sept. 4, 2007, British forensic scientists assisting on the case told investigators the DNA results were inconclusive, according to an e-mail later released to journalists. However, three days later, when police interviewed the McCanns before naming them suspects, police told them the samples matched their daughter.

What do Madeleine’s parents think about the Scotland Yard investigation?

“THEY ARE REALLY DOING magnificent work,” says Gerry. “That has taken an incredible amount of pressure off Kate and I. It has allowed us to do more normal family things knowing that you have got that huge resource and expertise really following up the leads.”

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