Irish woman raped in Algarve wants Madeleine McCann investigators to review her case

Victim comes forward following reports suspect raped an American woman in similar way one year after her attack

Kate Ng
Tuesday 09 June 2020 17:14 BST
Convicted paedophile Christian Bruckner has emerged as the lead suspect in the Madeleine McCann case
Convicted paedophile Christian Bruckner has emerged as the lead suspect in the Madeleine McCann case

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Louise Thomas

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An Irish woman who was raped in 2004 has asked detectives who are looking into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann to review her case after it emerged a new suspect was convicted of a sexual assault similar to what she experienced.

In 2004, Hazel Behan had been working as a holiday representative in the beach town of Praia da Rocha in the Algarve region of Portugal when she was assaulted by an unknown man, who was never caught. Praia de Rocha is a 30-minute drive from where Madeleine vanished while on holiday with her family in 2007.

Last week, German authorities said they were investigating a 43-year-old man who had a criminal history including convictions for child sexual abuse, said Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

The suspect was named in reports as Christian Brueckner and he was convicted in December of brutally attacking and raping a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal in September 2005.

Ms Behan, who waived her right to anonymity, told The Guardian that “the tactics and the methods he used, the tools he had with him” reminded her of her own experience the year before.

“I puked, to be honest with you, as reading about it took me right back to my experience,” she was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

On the night she was assaulted, she was woken late at night by “someone calling my name”. She saw a 6ft-tall man dressed in a full face mask, tights and a leotard, who was holding a “machete around 12 inches long”.

The stranger spoke English with a German accent, she told police later, and she could see he had blonde eyebrows and blue eyes despite his face mask.

Ms Behan also said he had a mark on top of his right thigh that could have been “either a pull in the tights, a birthmark or a tattoo”.

Descriptions of Mr Bruckner in German media report he has birthmarks on his upper right thigh.

The man reportedly set up a video camera in the room and warned Ms Behan not to scream. After dragging her into the living room, he tied her to the breakfast bar, removed her clothes with scissors and brought out a bag of whips and chains, before gagging her with cloth and beating and raping her.

“It seemed to me he had worked everything out, he had a plan and was very deliberate,” she said. “He consistently cleaned his hands and repeatedly changed condoms. This went on, I guess, for around four or five hours.”

After the ordeal, the attacker fled and Ms Behan was able to call the police. A gynaecologist examined her at the local hospital, but she said no one made any attempt to examine her wounds for evidence.

She was told at the time she “should just be quiet” about the incident, as talking about it would “bring bad publicity to the resort and put off tourists”.

“Then I read about the poor American woman who was raped in September 2005 — who I would love to talk to — and the possible link that was being made between her attack and the person who abducted Madeleine McCann, and I was so full of anger, I knew in my gut it was the right thing to do to speak out,” she said.

Madeleine’s disappearance commanded global attention and her parents’ struggle for answers still resonates strongly with much of the British public
Madeleine’s disappearance commanded global attention and her parents’ struggle for answers still resonates strongly with much of the British public (AP)

Ms Behan has given a statement to the Met Police, who informed her they would be contacting the Portuguese police about her case.

The Met would not comment on her case, but urged “anyone with information to come forward and speak with us”.

The father of a student nurse who was last seen in Germany in July 2001 also wants German police to question Brueckner about her whereabouts.

Louise Kerton’s father, Phil, from Kent, told PA news agency the latest development in the investigations on Madeleine’s disappearance confirmed “the family have been right to keep persisting”.

Louise vanished just as she was due to catch a train from the city of Aachen near the border with Holland and Belgium, before taking a ferry to Dover. There is no direct evidence of anyone having seen her in Aachen or on the train she was supposed to take, nor at her intended destination of Ostend.

German prosecutors are reportedly examining any links between the suspect and the disappearance of two other children, and believe there are victims of related sex crimes who have not come forward.

Mr Kerton said: “Certainly the German police seemed confident they are onto something. It gives one some sort of hope that the truth is out there to be found.

“I am letting the authorities get on with investigating the Madeleine link, I do not want to distract them.”

He said he just wants to ask them about what happened to his daughter when Brueckner is questioned.

Additional reporting by agencies

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