A suspect being investigated in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been locally identified as Christian Brueckner, according to reports, as German officials reveal the case is being treated as a murder. Met Police revealed on Wednesday that a 43-year-old German child sex offender is now a suspect in the case.
German media have named the suspect as ‘Christian B’, while Portuguese sources are understood to have confirmed his full name to The Telegraph – however, police have not yet revealed his name. Officers confirmed that the man is a white German national with short blonde hair, possibly fair, and about 6ft tall with a slim build at the time Madeleine vanished. Police said he was seen in the area around the resort of Praia da Luz, on the Algarve coast in the days and weeks ahead of her disappearance, in Portugal on May 3, 2007.
It is understood the suspect is carrying out a seven-year prison sentence for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal in 2005, reported German newspaper Braunschweiger Zeitung. He was convicted of the offence in Braunschweig district court in December last year, the newspaper reported.
Hans Christian Wolters, a spokesman for the Braunschweig Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a press conference on Thursday: ‘In connection with the disappearance of the three-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann on May 3 2007 from an apartment complex in Praia da Luz, in Portugal, the Braunschweig prosecution is investigating against a 43-year-old German on suspicion of murder.
‘We are assuming that the girl is dead.
‘With the suspect, we are talking about a sexual predator who has already been convicted of crimes against little girls and he’s already serving a long sentence.’
He said the suspect was regularly living in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, where he worked jobs in the gastronomy business, but funded his lifestyle by committing crimes, including thefts in hotel complexes and apartments, as well as drug dealing. He added: ‘The Braunschweig prosecution is now concerned because before going abroad he last had his residence in Braunschweig.’
The criminal federal office is carrying out investigations together with the Metropolitan Police and police in Portugal, the spokesman added as he appealed to the public for more information.
He added: ‘I would like to ask for your understanding that because of the current investigation, no further information can be given on the circumstances or the concrete details and the current outcomes of the investigation’. Christian Hoppe, of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), told the country’s ZDF television channel earlier today that police have not ruled out a sexual motive for the alleged crime against Madeleine.
He added that it is possible the suspect may have broken into an apartment in the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz – where Madeleine was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie – before kidnapping her. The McCanns’ long-time spokesman, Clarence Mitchell said this could be the biggest breakthrough so far in the 13-year-case.
He said that during his involvement in the case he cannot remember police focusing so much on one person, adding that the family have always believed only ‘two or three people maximum on the planet’ know what happened to Maddie. Mr Clarence told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme:
‘The police themselves have called it a significant part of the investigation.
‘It’s the first time in 13 years that I can recall focusing on one individual, not named but clearly identifiable by them and the authorities, in terms of wanting to know extra detail about this movements and the vehicles he was using even down to the phone calls he was apparently receiving on the night where Maddy went missing.’ He added: ‘In my memory of being in the case, police have never been quite so specific about an individual as they have been about this individual.
‘They make the point that allegiances change. This man is in prison and if he is involved to the extent it appears, then people shouldn’t be afraid to come forward now.’
German police revealed yesterday that other people may have ‘concrete knowledge’ of the little’s girl’s disappearance, which happened shortly before her fourth birthday. A BKA appeal said: ‘There is reason to assume that there are other persons, apart from the suspect, who have concrete knowledge of the course of the crime and maybe also of the place where the body was left.’ Police said a half-hour phone call was made to the suspect’s Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing. He has also been linked to a white and orange VW T3 Westfalia camper van in the Algarve resort from 1995 until 2007. Scotland Yard said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Madeleine’s disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3.
They released images of a black Jaguar XJR 6 that was registered in the suspect’s name and believed to be in Portugal around the time of the disappearance, but was then registered in a different name in Germany in 2007.
Both vehicles have been seized by German police, who said there is information to suggest the suspect may have used one of them in an offence. Scotland Yard is launching a joint appeal with the BKA and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ), including a £20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible of Madeleine’s disappearance.
The Met’s investigation has identified more than 600 people as potentially significant and were tipped off about the German national, already known to detectives, following a 2017 appeal 10 years after she went missing.