Madeleine McCann: ‘We believe she is dead’ say German prosecutors as investigation homes in on suspect

Suspect named in Germany as Christian Brueckner is already in prison for raping an American woman in Portugal

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 04 June 2020 13:19 BST
German authorities give statement on latest in Madeleine McCann investigation

German investigators believe that Madeleine McCann is dead, an official has said as they appeal for information on a new suspect.

Britain’s Metropolitan Police are still treating the inquiry as a missing person investigation and say there is no definitive evidence on whether she is alive or dead.

“We are investigating a 43-year-old German man on suspicion of murder,” said Christian Wolters, of the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office.

“You can gather from this that we assume the girl is dead.”

The suspect, who has been named in reports as Christian Brueckner, is currently in prison for unrelated offences in Germany.

Local reports suggest he is the same man who was jailed for seven years in December for raping an American woman in Portugal in 2005.

The attack happened around a year-and-a-half before Madeleine’s disappearance on 3 May 2007.

Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is now leading the investigation.

“There is reason to assume that there are other persons, apart from the suspect, who have concrete knowledge of the course of the crime and maybe also of the place where the body was left,” a statement said.

“We explicitly ask these persons to contact us and provide information.”

Convicted paedophile Christian Bruckner has emerged as the lead suspect in the case

The Metropolitan Police said they were still treating the case as a missing person investigation, and that they had no “definitive evidence” indicating whether Madeleine is alive or dead

“As the years go on, we are realistic about what we might be dealing with but there is always hope,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy.

“We are asking the public for help to prove or disprove whether this man was involved in Madeleine’s disappearance. We retain an open mind about his involvement and we will follow the evidence wherever it may take us.”

In a statement, her parents said: “All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice.

“We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive, but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace.”

German police said they first received information on the suspect in 2013 after an appeal by Gerry and Kate McCann on the country’s equivalent of Crimewatch.

BKA officer Christian Hoppe said it was not sufficient to trigger an investigation and “certainly not for arrest”, but police zoned in on the suspect after further details were given to the Metropolitan Police four years later.

“The information that we can gain from our investigations is increasingly leading us to believe that the suspect could be the culprit,” he added.

The BKA said the man had a criminal history including convictions for child sexual abuse and was serving a long prison sentence, but did not give further details.

German suspect identified in Madeleine McCann disappearance

But the Braunschweiger Zeitung reported that he is the same man convicted in December of raping an American woman in Portugal a year-and-a-half before Madeleine’s disappearance.

The 43-year-old was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for the violent attack on the 72-year-old victim in September 2005.

The Metropolitan Police have refused to confirm the suspect’s identity or further details of his criminal history.

But comparisons between the man wanted over Madeleine’s disappearance and the rapist who was tried at the Regional Court of Braunschweig last year strongly indicate they are the same person.

Both men are 43, originally from Braunschweig in Lower Saxony and moved to Portugal in 1995.

Both lived near Praia da Luz, where Madeleine disappeared on 3 May 2007 from the holiday apartment rented by her parents at the Ocean Club resort.

Last year’s court case heard evidence describing a room with a sofa and a wooden beam, which matches photos of the new suspect’s home shown on German television.

Witnesses said the rapist drove a Jaguar. Police are seeking information on a German-registered Jaguar that was used by the suspect at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.

A 1993 Jaguar XJR6 that has been linked to the suspect (Metropolitan Police)

The BKA said the suspect had several previous convictions including for sex offences, child sexual abuse, burgling holiday apartments and hotels and drug trafficking.

The rapist has the same criminal history, and reports of his trial said he had previously been jailed in both Portugal and Germany.

He was convicted and sentenced in December, but German reports say his defence team have launched an appeal over issues with the evidence, extradition process and use of a European Arrest Warrant.

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice referred the case to the European Court of Justice in April.

Investigators are appealing for information on a campervan, car and mobile phone number linked to him that could be “critical” for the case.

Police are seeking information on:

  • A VW T3 Westfalia campervan. Early 1980s model, with two tone markings, a white upper body and a yellow skirting. It had a Portuguese registration plate.
  • A 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German number plate and registered in Germany.
  • The phone number +351 912 730 680, which was being used by the suspect.
  • The second number is +351 916 510 683, which called the suspect on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance.

The Operation Grange incident room can be contacted via 0207 321 9251 or

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