The man who has been regarded as the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann from her holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007, has been charged in Germany with several unrelated sexual offences. Christian Brueckner, a convicted sex offender, is accused of five offences, which took place between 2000 and 2017, in Portugal.
Prosecutors say that the investigation into Madeleine’s case is ongoing separately against the 45 year old Brueckner, who the German authorities identified as a chief suspect back in June 2020, although he has consistently denied any involvement ever since.
Already serving seven years
The new offences that Brueckner has been accused of include the rape of a German-speaking girl, believed to have been at least 14 years old, between 2000 and 2006 at his home in Praia da Luz. He is also charged separately with three counts of aggravated rape and the sexual abuse of two children in Portugal over a 17-year period. He is currently serving a seven-year sentence for rape which he committed in 2005, also in Portugal.
Abducted on the family holiday
Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, was on a 7-day holiday with her family and a group of friends together with their children, at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, when she disappeared. Her whereabouts remain unknown to this day.
Her suspected abduction is the most reported missing person case, in modern history. That said, it has been out of the news in Portugal for some time, and in the last few years almost all of the developments have emerged from the prosecutor’s office in Germany.
Strong evidence does point to the German
Circumstantial evidence is extremely strong against Brueckner regarding Madeleine. There is a phone attributed to the convicted rapist which places him in the crime area, within a 30-minute window. He also burgled holiday homes around the location of her disappearance and he had children’s clothes in his camper van.
Never ending nightmare
The nightmare for Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann began at 10pm on the night of the 7th May 2007, and has never gone away. It never will do really either, but they might get some peace of mind and closure, if the truth finally comes out.
The likelihood of finding her alive evaporated a long time ago, although without clear evidence to the contrary, they naturally cling to the hope that she could still be out there, somewhere.
Detective’s outrageous accusation
Incredibly, they were both made suspects a short time after Madeleine went missing, with former lead detective, Goncalo Amaral suggesting that the kidnapping was staged as a cover up for an accident in which they had killed the little girl, and were trying to cover it up. This fanciful account was discredited and the following year he left the force.
Should have been safe in “Little Britain”
Praia da Luz is a simple village on the Algarve with a population of less than 1,000 and because of the number of British homeowners and regular holidaymakers, had earned the nickname: “Little Britain”.
Madeleine and her twin siblings were left asleep in their ground-floor apartment, while their parents, who are both physicians, dined with friends in a tapas restaurant, just 55 metres away. They were checked on periodically at regular intervals until at 10pm Kate discovered her daughter was missing.
Abductor believed to have been watching Madeleine
It is believed whoever took Madeleine had been watching her for several days and was aware that the children were alone in the room. That is because the resort’s staff had left a note in a message book left at the swimming-pool reception area, asking that the same table, which overlooked the apartments, be block-booked for the parents and their friends every evening for the second part of the week.
Both Kate and Gerry are of the opinion that the abductor had read that message and planned their move on the strength of it.
Accurate description overlooked
There were several possible sightings, but the one that is believed to carry most weight was given by Martin and Mary Smith, who were holidaying from Ireland. They recalled seeing a man 500 yards from the McCann apartment, carrying a young blond haired girl, who they estimated to be about 3 or 4 years old, wearing light-coloured pyjamas, with nothing on her feet.
The description matched that of Madeleine, but crucially nothing was done with the witness statements that the Smith’s gave, at the time.
So many mistakes in the first few hours
So many mistakes were made in the “golden hours” immediately after the disappearance. There was no securing of the crime scene; no roadblocks; no distributing of Madeleine’s description; no house-to-house enquiries. There was also no surveillance of the Spanish border, and many within the resort were never spoken to.
It basically seemed that the Portuguese did not take the situation seriously enough.
Ex-girlfriend’s father haunted by conversation
It does seem that Christian Brueckner is a very credible suspect and this was backed up recently by the father of one of the convicted paedophile’s ex-girlfriends. Dieter Fehlinger said he spoke with Brueckner about the camper van the German owned when in Portugal in 2007.
In the conversation he joked about how he could hide drugs, or even a small child inside the van’s specially adapted hiding place. He is haunted by the thought that Madeleine could actually have been inside at that very time.
Happy ending unlikely
Everyone would love a happy ending, but 15 years on, that realistically is not going to happen. Madeleine’s distinctive dark strip on the iris of her right eye was such an identifiable characteristic, that in today’s world of social media, it is inconceivable that she would not have been seen and accurately identified somewhere, were she still alive.
The McCann’s will of course continue to search for their daughter for as long as the uncertainty remains.