07:04 GMT05 December 2020
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    Three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished from a Portugese holiday apartment 13 years ago. In the following years, a huge, costly police operation has taken place across much of Europe which has failed to reach any tangible results. The latest development is focused upon a German sex offender who is currently in jail.

    A German national has been identified as the new prime suspect in the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal 13 years ago.

    The man, who has been named by sources in Portugal as Christian Brueckner, is the subject of a joint appeal for information by British and German police.

    It is understood that Brueckner is currently in prison for a sex crime and has two previous convictions for ‘sexual contact with girls’.

    The announcement on June 3 came as the biggest breakthrough to date in the case of Madeleine, who disappeared from the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.

    German prosecutors have since said that  they believe Madeleine is dead

    What happened to Madeleine McCann?

    In May 2007, Gerry and Kate McCann were staying in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal with their three children.

    The couple went for dinner with a group of friends in a nearby restaurant, leaving their three children asleep in the apartment.

    They checked on them throughout the evening but when Mrs McCann returned to the apartment at about 10pm, she discovered Madeleine was missing.

    Her disappearance sparked a huge international search and sprawling investigation that continues to this day. The announcement of this new suspect is the most significant development to date.

    An undated handout photograph released by the Metropolitan Police in London on June 3, 2020, shows Madeleine McCann who disappeared in Praia da Luz, Portugal on May 3, 2007
    © AFP 2020 / HANDOUT / METROPOLITAN POLICE
    An undated handout photograph released by the Metropolitan Police in London on June 3, 2020, shows Madeleine McCann who disappeared in Praia da Luz, Portugal on May 3, 2007

    Who is the suspect?

    The suspect has been partially named as Christian Brueckner by German newspaper Der Spiegel.

    According to the Met Police, he is described as being white with short blond hair, possibly fair and around 6 ft in height with a slim build. 

    He is now 43-years-old, but may have looked between 25 and early 30s in 2007.

    Why have the police focused on him?

    The suspect is known to have been in Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance. For the last three years, the Met has been working with German and Portuguese police in order to track his movements.

    Police believe that he was living in a VW T3 camper van, which has a white upper body and yellow skirting, for “days, possibly weeks”. Up until a year previously, he lived at a nearby bungalow around two miles from the Ocean Club.

    Data shows that his phone was in the resort on the night of her disappearance. The man’s Portuguese phone received a 30-minute call from another Portuguese number at 7:30pm.

    Both German and British police are now looking for information about the phone numbers.

    What were his movements between Germany and Portugal?

    Police have established that Brueckner lived in Portugal sporadically between 1995 and 2007, and described him as an “itinerant”.

    They added that he “spent some short spells” of time in Germany, and is thought to have been living in the VW T3 camper van in Praia da Luz for “days, possibly weeks”.

    Bruecnkner has also been linked to a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany, which is believed to have been in the Praia da Luz and surrounding areas in 2006 and 2007. 

    The car was originally registered in the suspect’s name but was re-registered to someone else in Germany the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, although the vehicle is believed to have still been in Portugal.

    Police said:"To re-register the car in Germany you don't have to have the car in the country or region. We believe the car was still in Portugal and would like information if you saw it."

    What are his past convictions?

    He has been described as a “multiple” child sex offender currently serving a jail term in Germany for matters unrelated to the Madeleine McCann case.

    Christian Hoppe, of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, told a press conference that the suspect has two previous convictions, for “sexual contact with girls”

    A report in the German Braunschweig Zeitung newspaper has claimed that the suspect shared many identical details with a criminal who was convicted of the rape of a 72-year-old American tourist. 

    An appeal on German Crimewatch-style programme XY, said he is also suspected of burgling hotel complexes and tourist apartments, as well as selling drugs.

    German police said that while they are treating this as a murder case, they can not rule out a sexual motive.

    Hoppe also said that police now believe they have almost enough evidence to charge the Breuckner with Madeleine’s abduction and murder.

    British police, meanwhile, are still treating the investigation as a missing person case.

    Tags:
    Portugal, Germany, suspect
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