McCann disappearance 'could be solved within months' prosecutor claims

Madeleine McCann disappearance ‘could be solved within months’ German prosecutor claims following successful appeal for witnesses

  • Hans Christian Wolters said his team had received some ‘very interesting tips’ 
  • He said suspect Christian Brueckner would be questioned at end of the probe
  • Madeleine McCann went missing from Praia da Luz, Portugal on May 3, 2007
  • Brueckner was revealed as a suspect last year and lived in a van nearby in 2007
  • He is serving a seven-year sentence in Germany following a conviction for rape

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann ‘could be solved within months’ after a successful appeal for witnesses, the German prosecutor leading the investigation has said.

Hans Christian Wolters said his team had received ‘very interesting tips’ but that there were still questions to be answered.

‘We hope we can solve the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, although this will take several months. 

‘We are pleased with the response to our appeal for witnesses. But unfortunately not all our questions have been answered,’ he told The Mirror. 

Wolter said suspect Christian Brueckner would be questioned ‘at the end of the investigation’, adding that the public will be informed of the result and any further details once the probe had concluded.

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann (left) ‘could be solved within months’ after a successful appeal for witnesses, the German prosecutor leading the investigation said, adding that suspect Christian Brueckner (right) would be questioned at the end of the probe

Three-year-old Madeleine, known as Maddie, vanished from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.

She had been left sleeping alone with her younger twin siblings while her parents were dining in a nearby tapas restaurant with friends. 

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann, known as Maddie, disappeared from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.

She was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann; her two-year-old twin siblings; and a group of family friends and their children.

She and the twins had been left asleep at the apartment, while the McCanns and friends dined in a restaurant 55 metres (180 ft) away.

The parents checked on the children throughout the evening, until Kate discovered she was missing at 10pm.

What followed is widely regarded as one of the most reported on missing person investigations in the world.

Portuguese authorities closed their enquiries in July 2008 but Maddie’s parents continued with private detectives.

Scotland Yard launched their own investigation – Operation Grange – in 2011 and enquiries are ongoing.

Brueckner, a 44-year-old convicted rapist, was living in a camper van near Praia da Luz at the time of the disappearance.    

Last June, German and UK police revealed Brueckner as a suspect after first becoming aware of his potential connection to the case in 2017. 

He is currently serving a prison term in Germany on unrelated charges.

Brueckner’s phone pinged close to where Madeleine vanished from just an hour before her parents noticed she was gone, investigators have said.

Wolters told The Mirror his team had not uncovered who the suspect called that night. 

Brueckner has denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance, refusing to speak to police or prosecutors so far. 

Investigators have interviewed a number of potential witnesses in Germany and Portugal, including Brueckner’s British ex-girlfriend, who claims he assaulted her. 

Brueckner is serving seven years for raping an elderly woman in Praia da Luz.

He is also being investigated for allegedly exposing himself in a playground while children were present.

Wolters, who believes Madeleine is dead, said authorities have not spoken to her parents Kate and Gerry McCann. 

Last month, the McCanns said they ‘hang on to hope, however small’ that they will see their daughter again as they marked the 14th anniversary of her disappearance.

In a message shared online, they noted that this year’s anniversary was even more poignant because it would have been Maddie’s 18th birthday.

The message, which was shared on the Find Madeleine website, read: ‘Every May is tough – a reminder of years passed, of years together lost, or stolen.

‘This year it is particularly poignant as we should be celebrating Madeleine’s 18th birthday. Enough said.’

What do we know about Maddie murder suspect Christian Brueckner and his criminal past?

Sex criminal Christian Brueckner

1976: Christian Brueckner is born in Würzburg under a different name, believed to be Fischer. He was adopted by the Brueckner family and took their surname.

1992: Christian Brueckner is arrested on suspicion of burglary in his hometown of Wurzburg, Bavaria.

1994: He is given a two-year sentence for ‘abusing a child’ and ‘performing sex acts in front of a child’.

1995: Brueckner arrives in Portugal as an 18-year-old backpacker and begins working in catering in the seaside resorts of Lagos and Praia da Luz. 

But friends say he became involved with a criminal syndicate trafficking drugs into the Algarve.

September 2005:  He dons a mask and breaks into an apartment where a 72-year-old American tourist.

The victim was bound, gagged, blindfolded and whipped with a metal cane before being raped for 15 minutes. She said afterwards that he had clearly enjoyed ‘torturing’ her before the rape.

April 2007: He moves out of a farmhouse and into a campervan linked to the crime. The farmhouse is cleaned and a bag of wigs is found.

May 3, 2007: Madeleine McCann is snatched at around 10pm from her bed as her parents eat tapas with friends yards away.

Brueckner’s mobile phone places him in the area that night.   He returns to his native Germany shortly after that. 

October 2011: He is sentenced to 21 months for ‘dealing narcotics’ in Niebüll, in northern Germany. 

2014: He moves to Braunschweig where he starts running a town-centre kiosk. He then goes back to Portugal with a girlfriend.

2016: He is back in Germany. He is given 15 months in prison for ‘sexual abuse of a child in the act of creating and possessing child pornographic material’. 

May 3, 2017: Brueckner is said to be in a bar with a friend when a ten-year anniversary appeal following Madeleine’s disappearance is shown on German television. He is said to have told him in a bar that he ‘knew all about’ what happened to her. He then showed his friend a video of him raping a woman.

MailOnline understands the friend went to police shortly afterwards.

June 2017: He heads back to Portugal and extradited again to Germany. The reason was a sentencing of the Braunschweig district court to 15 months’ imprisonment for the sexual abuse of a child. 

August 2018: After his release from prison he lives on the streets. But he was jailed again for drug offences. 

First Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters addresses the media on the Madeleine McCann case in Braunschweig

September 2018: Brueckner is arrested in Italy and extradited to Germany and put on trial for raping an American in 2007 after a DNA match was found at the crime scene.

July 2019: He is jailed for 21 months for drug dealing in the northern German resort of Sylt.

August 2019: Brueckner  is charged with the rape of the American tourist in Praia da Luz in 2005.

December 2019: He is convicted of rape of extortion of the tourist based on DNA evidence. He is given a seven year sentence, but this has not been imposed pending an appeal. 

June 3, 2020: Scotland Yard and the German police reveal that that they have identified a suspect in the Maddie McCann case

June 4, 2020: Prosecutors in Braunschweig, where he lives, say they believe Madeleine McCann has been murdered, says spokesman Hans Christian Wolters. He is named in the German press as the prime suspect.

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