Madeleine McCann search turns to Australia after discovery of unidentified remains

British investigators probing the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann from a resort in Portugal have contacted Australian police about remains of a young girl found in a suitcase near a highway, London's Metropolitan Police Department confirmed to Tuesday.

"We are aware of the discovery of the body and we have made contact with authorities in South Australia," a spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said Tuesday morning. Australian police, meanwhile, said a connection is "unlikely," although the girls' ages match and the dead girl's time of death lines up with McCann's disappearance. 

"We are aware of the discovery of the body and we have made contact with authorities in South Australia."

- Scotland Yard spokeswoman

The remains -- found with a distinctive homemade quilt -- were described by the South Australian Police Department as those of a "fair-haired" child, likely a Caucasian female and between 2 ½ and 4 years old. Based on an examination of the bones, Australian police determined the child was killed "some time since the start of 2007."

McCann was 3 when she was last seen sleeping with her two younger siblings in a vacation villa in the Portuguese resort town of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.

The international search for the missing British toddler has led police to nearly every corner of the world and yielded thousands of leads over the last eight years, though the case remains unsolved.

The girl's parents left her sleeping in a room with her younger brother and sister, while they dined at a restaurant with other couples about 150 feet away. The McCanns checked on their three children periodically throughout the evening. When Kate McCann arrived at the ground-floor villa at around 9 p.m., she discovered Madeleine missing from her bed.

The remains were found July 15 near the Karoonda Highway -- just west of the Wynarka township in the Murray Mallee region of Australia. Police there have said the probability that the remains are McCann's is low, but have been in contact with British authorities.

"It is highly unlikely that the victim is Madeleine McCann," Detective Superintendent Des Bray of the South Australian Police said in a statement.

"At this time our inquiries will focus on where the evidence leads us in this investigation, and at this point that primary focus remains within Australia," Bray said, noting that 32 Australian children have so far been ruled out in the probe.

Australia police said they have received a "massive" response from the public, with more than 400 tips to date in connection with the remains. The bones were found along with a faded suitcase, items of clothing and a degraded quilt -- with 25 colorful octagonal patches that include images of pumpkins and musical notes.

The cause and manner of death have not yet been released.  

Cristina Corbin is a reporter for Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.

Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.