British police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the three-year-old who went missing in Portugal five years ago sparking a global hunt, still hope to find her alive, the officer leading the inquiry said on Wednesday.


Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood told reporters police have identified 195 "investigative opportunities" from existing evidence that have been handed to Portuguese police.


Some, he said, included new information.


"We genuinely believe there is a possibility that she is alive," he said. "We would like the case to be reopened."


Madeleine disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, prompting a massive police probe and a search that gripped media across the world.


She went missing while her parents Kate and Gerry were dining at a nearby restaurant with seven friends.

Despite numerous reported sightings from Belgium and Spain to Morocco, France and Malta and investigations stretching as far as Australia, her whereabouts remain a mystery.

The McCanns were named as official suspects by Portuguese police four months after their daughter's disappearance but in 2008 they were cleared and Portugal's public prosecutor later dropped the case citing a lack of any evidence.

The McCanns had won 550,000 pounds ($888,000) in damages from two British newspapers who suggested they had killed Madeleine, while their friends - known as the "Tapas 7" - also won large payouts over claims they had lied about the abduction.

Last year, the McCanns wrote to British Prime Minister David Cameron saying neither the British nor Portuguese officials were doing enough to find their daughter and that only private investigators they had hired were still following their case.

Cameron subsequently ordered a new probe by London police who are working through 40,000 pieces of material and documents, and have issued a computer-generated photograph showing how Madeleine might look now as her ninth birthday approaches.

Redwood, who has been to Portugal seven times on the case, declined to give details about any possible suspects, or sightings, although he said these form part of the new findings.

He said he would not be drawn on any hypothesis of where Madeleine might be if alive and that police were giving equal weight in their review to the notion she was dead.

Any formal decision to reopen the case would have to be taken by Portugal.