Prime suspect in Madeleine McCann disappearance in court for rape trial

Christian Brueckner entering the courtroom on Friday  (AP)
Christian Brueckner entering the courtroom on Friday (AP)

The prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance was handcuffed as he arrived amid chaotic courthouse scenes for the start of his sexual abuse trial on Friday.

Christian Brueckner, a convicted rapist, has been named by German police as the man they believe is responsible for the British girl’s disappearance in 2007.

He now faces trial in Brunswick, in northern Germany, over a slew of rape and indecent assault charges – all unrelated to Madeleine - against women and girls aged between 10 and 80.

Brueckner was seen handcuffed as he arrived in a prison van for the start of the trial, in his first public sighting in four years.

Wearing a dark green hoodie over his jacket and shirt, Brueckner was flanked by security guards as he waded through a crowd of waiting journalists and into the courthouse, as armed guards were stationed nearby.

In court, Brueckner stared straight ahead and did not glance at the packed public gallery while his legal team called for one of the judges to be taken off the case over social media posts said to have called for the assassination of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsanaro.

After a delay, lead judge Christina Engelmann announced that the other judge would be replaced, and the case would be back in court next Friday.

Brueckner, who is already in prison in Germany for raping a woman in the Algarve, faces three charges of aggravated rape and two of sexual abuse of children committedbetween 2000 and 2017.

Among the new charges is the alleged rape of a woman in her 70s in her home in the Algarve, the sexual abuse of a girl aged at least 14, and a 2004 rape at knifepoint of ayoung woman in her own home, an act he is said to have videotaped.

Two years ago, Portuguese prosecutors identified a man matching Brueckner’s description as the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance while she was on holiday with her parents in the resort of Praia da Luz.

German police said in June 2020 that the girl, from Rothley in Leicestershire, is presumed dead and that Brueckner was likely responsible for it.

Brueckner has denied being involved in the disappearance and has not been charged with any crime related to it.

In his trial, Brueckner faces a 100-page indictment which will be overseen by four judges and a four-person lay jury.