possibly one of the most important breakthroughs since 2007

The disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine “Maddie” McCann in 2007 remains one of the most mysterious disappearance cases of this century to this day. In the past two years, however, things seem to be moving forward. And the most recent discovery may bring researchers a big step closer to the facts.

KL and editorial

Who is Maddie McCann?

Madeleine McCann, known as Maddie, disappeared on May 3, 2007 while on holiday in Praia da Luz, a seaside town in southern Portugal. The father and mother say they were having dinner with some traveling companions when the 3-year-old Maddie disappeared, between nine and ten o’clock in the evening.

Her disappearance sparked a massive international campaign to find Maddie. Photos of the toddler, with her light brown hair and big eyes, went around the world.

After a 14-month investigation, during which Maddie’s parents were also suspected for a time, the Portuguese police closed the case in 2008, only to reopen it five years later. The case only gained momentum in 2020, when the German Public Prosecution Service announced that it was certain that Maddie had died and that a 43-year-old man was seen as the prime suspect.

Who is the prime suspect?

At the end of April, at the request of the Portuguese police, a suspect was officially charged in Germany in the investigation into the disappearance of British Maddie McCann. The identity of the suspect has not been officially confirmed, but it is believed to be Christian Brückner, a German pedophile previously named in the case and currently in custody. The man has been declared an “arguido”, which is the term in Portugal for an official suspect who has not yet been charged.

The decision to officially designate Christian Brückner as a suspect may have to do with the fact that in Portugal a limitation period of fifteen years applies. British and German police first tracked down Brückner in 2017, but the big breakthrough was not made public until 2020.

Brückner is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in Germany for raping a 72-year-old American tourist in Praia da Luz. An investigation is also underway into a sex crime on a playground in the Algarve. He denies any involvement in the toddler’s disappearance.

Why is he the prime suspect?

The German lived regularly in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, including several years in a house between Lagos and Praia da Luz. He then had several occasional jobs in the region, including in the catering industry, according to the German federal police.

There are also indications that the man made money by committing crimes, including burglaries at hotel complexes and holiday apartments, plus drug trafficking, German police said.

Christian Bruckner.Image BILD

A year before Maddie disappeared, Brückner suddenly left his rented farm near Praia da Luz. However, the police suspect that he remained close to the holiday resort in Praia da Luz. He then drove around in a striking Volkswagen van. And it’s because of that van that he came into sight later. The day after Maddie disappeared, the vehicle was suddenly registered under a different name in Germany. However, the van was still in Portugal.

An investigation shows that the German suspect was near the seaside resort in the Algarve on the evening of May 3, 2007, when Maddie disappeared. That’s according to a phone call he had just over an hour before Maddie’s disappearance.

The German himself claims that he was kilometers away from the place of the disappearance.

What is the latest development in the case?

New evidence may have been found in Brückner’s motor home, evidence belonging to Maddie. That became known earlier this week through Sandra Felgueiras, a Portuguese television journalist who also interviewed Maddie’s parents earlier.

German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who has been investigating Brückner since 2020 about the Madeleine case and other alleged criminal offenses, would neither confirm nor deny the report. He nevertheless said on Portuguese television on Tuesday evening that “new facts and evidence have been found, not forensic evidence, but evidence”.

He added: “The investigation is still ongoing, but we are certain he is Madeleine McCann’s murderer.”

What now?

Agents of the Portuguese judicial police will travel to Germany in response to the new find to assist in the investigation. A Portuguese police source reports this to the British newspaper The Telegraph† This visit may already take place next week.

The discovery of an object, or traces thereof, belonging to Maddie would be one of the most important breakthroughs in the many investigations that have been conducted since her disappearance in 2007.

possibly one of the most important breakthroughs since 2007
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