Portuguese police missed the opportunity to question Christian Brueckner, the prime suspect in the Madeleine McCann case, as he wasn’t home when they called on him, former police chief Goncalo Amaral told Portuguese TV on Sunday night.
“I have been told by colleagues, who are retired like me, that they had come knocking on the door. That person was not at home,” Amaral said in an interview.
Amaral, 60, led the official investigation when the three year-old went missing from the Ocean Club holiday complex in Praia de Luz in 2007, but was removed from the case after criticising British detectives.
Amaral has repeatedly claimed that Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate McCann are responsible for her death.
In his book The Truth of The Lie, he wrote that the McCanns had faked their daughter’s abduction after accidentally killing her.
The McCanns sued Amaral in 2009, claiming that the book was "unfounded and grossly defamatory.”
The pair were awarded £450,000 in libel damages by a Portuguese court, although this decision was later overturned.
According to British media, Amaral first claimed last April that a German paedophile who was in prison would be accused of abducting Madeleine.
He told Portuguese broadcaster TVI, “He's an almost perfect suspect. All that's lacking for him to become the perfect suspect is for him to be dead.”
Amaral was asked if he believed Brueckner was responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance to which he said, “To answer that question it has to be proven first that an abduction took place.”
The former detective also claimed that authorities had altered photos of the two-tone VW camper van Brueckner was using at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
Amaral showed the interviewer Jose Alberto, photos he claims were taken in Portugal of the same vehicle. One had a series of Minion-style characters painted on the front and back of the camper van, while the one handed out by police had no markings on it.
He claimed it was the same vehicle flagged up in the police appeal.
“I think it's important to ask why the photo put out by the authorities of the van was altered. Would that vehicle have gone unnoticed in Praia da Luz with those markings on it? I don't think so,” he said.
He also said that Portuguese police were unaware of Brueckner’s past teenage conviction of molesting a six year old girl in 1994.
“At the time all we knew was that this man was a paedophile,” he said.
He also criticised German authorities for wanting to re-examine DNA evidence taken from the McCann’s hire car and holiday apartment.
He scoffed at reports of a saliva sample being found on Madeleine’s bedspread that could be used as evidence to prove Brueckner’s conviction.
The saliva, which was reportedly found on the bed where Madeleine was sleeping, has an incomplete DNA profile and has not yet been linked to any suspects of her abduction.
This was Amaral’s first television appearance since Brueckner was named as the prime suspect in the McCann case.
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.