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McCann suspect climbed over balcony into rape victim’s apartment with a knife and a whip

Kate and Gerry McCann hold a computer generated image of what their daughter would have looked like at the age of eight
Kate and Gerry McCann hold a computer generated image of what their daughter would have looked like at the age of eight - Sang Tan/ap

The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann allegedly raped one of his victims by climbing over the balcony of an Algarve apartment dressed all in black, carrying a knife and a whip.

Christian Brueckner crept into the flat of Hazel Behan, a holiday rep from Ireland, and woke her up when he held a 12-inch blade to her neck, a court in the German city of Braunschweig heard.

Prosecutors said he “knelt over the sleeping victim and called her name” to wake her up.

“While she was panicking, he told her in a serious but calm tone not to scream,” they added.

After raping her in the bedroom, the attacker, who was wearing black leather gloves, then tied her up to table legs in the kitchen and sexually assaulted her again, telling her “You are afraid of me, aren’t you?”, later hitting her about 20 times with his whip.

Christian Brueckner, who has been named as a suspect in Madeleine McCann's disappearance, has remained silent throughout his trial on unrelated charges in Germany
Christian Brueckner, who has been named as a suspect in Madeleine McCann's disappearance, has remained silent throughout his trial on unrelated charges in Germany

The 47-year-old German, is accused of three rapes and two sexual assaults carried out on Portugal’s coastal Algarve province between 2000 and 2017.

His lawyers argued he would not get a fair trial because the Madeleine McCann case was too well known.

He is already behind bars in Germany for raping a 72-year-old American tourist in 2005 in Praia da Luz, the same seaside resort where Madeleine went missing two years later.

“Our client has been subject to media attention, he has been accused of kidnapping and killing Madeleine McCann by members of the media and prosecutors, without evidence,” Friedrich Fülscher said in Brueckner’s defence on the second day of his trial.

“We are not dealing with the worst criminal story of the post-war period but it will be hard for the court to put it out of their minds.”

Portuguese police named Brueckner as an “arguido”, or formal suspect, in Madeleine’s disappearance in April 2022, allowing them to override the statute of limitations and continue investigating the case.

Madeleine McCann went missing from her family's holiday apartment in the Algarve in 2007 when her parents were at dinner
Madeleine McCann went missing from her family's holiday apartment in the Algarve in 2007 when her parents were at dinner - PA/PA

Hans-Christian Wolters, the German prosecutor, told the BBC last year his team was “more sure than ever” that Brueckner was the man responsible for the murder of Madeleine and said that there was “no alibi” for the night she vanished.

A picture was painted by the prosecution of a methodical, experienced criminal, using condoms that he later flushed down the lavatory and washing his hands each time.

In both rape cases, he allegedly beat the women with a whip after attacking them.

In the case of an unidentified young girl who witnesses claimed to have seen on video in his apartment, she was crying and named her assailant as “Chris”, telling him “this is kidnapping, this is rape”.

The film footage is no longer available.

After the charges were read out, Mr Fuelscher said his client would be invoking his right to remain silent.

There are no formal pleas in the German legal system, and defendants are not obliged to respond to the charges.

Brueckner’s hearing was adjourned last week after just nine minutes after Mr Fülscher filed a challenge against a magistrate in the case as she once led a call for the assassination of Jair Bolsonaro, the former Brazilian president, on social media.

She has been removed from the panel and now faces an investigation on suspicion of making a public call to commit crimes.