Convicted child abuser Christian Brueckner, who is behind bars in Germany for raping a woman in the same area of the Algarve region of Portugal from where Madeleine went missing in 2007, was formally identified as an official suspect in the McCann case in April 2022.
Under German privacy rules, a spokesperson would not give the name of the suspect, who is charged with three counts of aggravated rape and two counts of sexual abuse of children in Portugal between 12 December 2000 and 11 June 2017.
The court in the German city of Braunschweig set 16 February as the start date for the trial.
Brueckner was first named as an arguido, or formal suspect, in Madeleine’s disappearance in April 2022 after coming to the attention of the authorities in 2017.
He had reportedly been using a yellow and white VW T3 Westfalia campervan in and around Praia da Luz – near the resort where the McCanns were holidaying at the time Madeleine vanished.
German prosecutors say telecomms data shows Brueckner received a phone call on 3 May 2007 near their apartment, despite him denying he was in the area at the time.
At the end of May 2023, a major search was undertaken of a Portuguese reservoir that Brueckner had allegedly described as his “little paradise”.
“Whether individual items actually have a connection to the Madeleine McCann case cannot yet be said. The investigations conducted here in Braunschweig against the 45-year-old suspect are expected to continue for a long time.”
Police in Germany claim to have “concrete evidence” that the British girl is dead though this has not been proven.
This development comes shortly after Portguese police travelled to London earlier this year to apologise to the McCann family on how they handled the investigation.
In September 2007, four months after their daughter had vanished, Kate and Gerry McCann were named as suspects, and were questioned by detectives who believed they had strangled and concealed Madeleine’s body.
Mrs McCann later said she was offered a deal to admit covering up her daughter’s death in exchange for a shorter sentence.