Madeleine McCann suspect Christian B dramatically cleared of 1996 rape and murder of 11-year-old Claudia Ruf

THE prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been cleared of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in 1996.

Claudia Ruf was sexually assaulted and killed and her partially burned body was found about 40 miles from the German town of Grevenbroich.

She had been kidnapped while walking a neighbour's dog.

Cops probed to see if there was anything to link Christian B, the main suspect in Madeleine's 2007 disappearance, to Claudia's murder.

Police claimed it was a routine process as unsolved crimes against children in Germany would be checked for any connection, according to Bild.

"After comparing the information obtained, it can be said that Christian B was not in Grevenbroich at the time of the crime in the case of Claudia Ruf," a police spokesman told Bild.

"In addition, a DNA comparison is said to have been negative."

Last year, police in Grevenbroich started DNA tests on hundreds of men as they hoped for a breakthrough in the unsolved murder investigation.

It will probably take until the end of the year to complete the DNA screening with approximately 2400 samples, Bild reports.

Last week, police searched the prime suspect's cellars as they looked for evidence of murder, according to the editor of Bild newspaper Julian Reichelt.

Cops excavated an allotment known to have been used by the alleged killer, and are reported to be planning a search of a second.

Convicted sex offender Christian B, 43, was named by police as the prime suspect in the Madeleine case last month.

He is known to have been living in the Praia de Luz resort around the time of the little girl's disappearance in 2007.

Neighbours at two allotments he later used in Hanover and nearby at Braunschweig described a pattern of strange behaviour, including living on site and carrying out construction work.

Police spent three days using diggers, sniffer dogs and underground radar to excavate the Hanover plot and are reported to have uncovered an underground cellar.

Prosecutors have not yet confirmed whether they intend to search the Braunschweig site.

Prosecutors have previously said they have evidence Madeleine is dead and even of how she was killed, though they haven't disclosed what it is.

Christian B's lawyer said that the convicted rapist and child abuser would not co-operate with police in their investigation.

"Before our client starts to co-operate with the prosecutor's office, you could order holy water as a long drink in hell," Friedrich Fulscher reportedly told the Sydney Morning Herald.

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