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Madeleine McCann prime suspect charged with sexual offences against children by German prosecutors

Madeleine McCann prime suspect charged with sexual offences against children by German prosecutors

The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been charged with several sexual offences.

German prosecutors have charged Christian Brueckner, a convicted sex offender, who was declared a suspect in the case by Portuguese officials in April.

The alleged offences took place between December 2000 and June 2017 in Portugal, the prosecutors said.

“The accused is the same person against whom charges were brought in connection with the disappearance of the then three-year-old British girl Madeleine Beth McCann,” the Braunschweig prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

“Specifically, the accused is charged with three offences of aggravated rape and two offences of sexual abuse of children.

“The investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann continues,” the statement added.

The office did not say the charges related to the McCann case.

In May, German police claim to have found new evidence linked to Madeleine inside a van belonging to Brueckner.

Brueckner is serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking and rape (Reuters)
Brueckner is serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking and rape (Reuters)

As Madeleine’s parents held a vigil to mark the 15th anniversary of the day she went missing during a family holiday in Portugal, lead investigator Hans-Christian Wolters revealed evidence potentially linking the convicted rapist to the three-year-old’s disappearance has been uncovered.

Her parents have said they are still hopeful that efforts by police in three countries will eventually yield answers. Prosecutor Mr Wolters has previously said he believes Madeleine is dead.

Brueckner is a German citizen and the law of that country states evidence cannot be released until a suspect and his legal team have been given full details.

He had reportedly been using a yellow and white VW T3 Westfalia campervan in and around Praia da Luz – the Algarve resort where the McCanns were holidaying at the time Madeleine vanished.

Brueckner is currently behind bars for raping a 72-year-old American tourist in the same area of Portugal where Madeleine went missing and was also linked to the rape of an Irish tour rep.

A VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to Brueckner (PA)
A VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to Brueckner (PA)

Brueckner was revealed as the chief suspect in the German probe into the toddler’s disappearance in 2020 and officially named a suspect by Portuguese police in April.

German prosecutors say telecomms data shows Brueckner received a phone call on 3 May 2007 near the Praia da Luz holiday apartment from which the three-year-old went missing, but he reportedly claims to have been miles from the scene with a young German woman.

The 45-year-old, who has always denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance, insists he drove the woman, who was on holiday with her parents, to the airport in Faro for her return flight home the following day. They were stopped and photographed at a police roadblock, according to Sky News.

Kate and Gerry McCann said they welcome the news that Portuguese authorities have declared a German man a formal suspect in her disappearance (PA)
Kate and Gerry McCann said they welcome the news that Portuguese authorities have declared a German man a formal suspect in her disappearance (PA)

When Portuguese police named Bruckner an arguido – a formal suspect – on 21 April, it was the first time they had identified an official suspect since 2007. Back then, they named Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann as suspects but both were later cleared.

It has been suggested that the move could potentially be “procedural”, in connection with the fact that Portugal’s statute of limitations does not allow certain crimes to be prosecuted more than 15 years after they were committed.

Last month, Kate and Gerry McCann lost their legal battle over comments made by a former Portuguese detective. Goncalo Amaral claimed in a book, a documentary and a newspaper interview that the McCann were involved in their daughter’s disappearance.

Goncalo Amaral made claims about the McCanns in a book, TV documentary and newspaper interview (PA Archive)
Goncalo Amaral made claims about the McCanns in a book, TV documentary and newspaper interview (PA Archive)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed the couple’s complaint that the Portuguese authorities had failed to respect their right to a private and family life in their libel case against Mr Amaral.

The ECHR ruled that there had already been extensive publicity about the claims against them, prior to the publication of Mr Amaral’s book in July 2008. It also found that their reputation had not been damaged by him, but rather by the fact that they became official suspects for a short time.

In a statement released by their lawyers, the McCanns said they were “disappointed” by the ruling.