Madeleine McCann suspect posed as a Jaguar-driving wannabe playboy

Maddie murder police lay bare the child sex crime past of Jaguar-driving wannabe playboy who was actually a drug-dealing drifter and rapist – as it’s revealed he could be out of jail on parole in days

  • Christian Brueckner spent 12 years pursuing a bohemian lifestyle in resort town of Praia da Luz, Portugal
  • He left to return to his native Germany in 2007 – shortly after Madeleine McCann’s disappearance on May 3
  • Alleged to have told a drinking partner he ‘knew all about’ Maddie in a bar on kidnapping’s 10th anniversary
  • Also claimed he showed his companion a video of himself raping an American widow in Portugal in 2005
  • Now 43, Brueckner is in a German prison serving a seven-year sentence for a sex crime
  • Revealed he has been on police radar for more than two decades and has ‘as many as 17 criminal convictions’ 

The new Madeleine McCann suspect was unmasked last night as it emerged he had been on the police radar for more than two decades – and he could be let out of jail on parole within days.

As prosecutors labelled him a ‘multiple sexual predator’, it was claimed Christian Brueckner, 43, had been convicted of a child sex offence in his native Germany when aged just 17.

Yet the drifter, who reportedly has as many as 17 criminal convictions, was apparently overlooked by Portuguese police.

It also emerged yesterday that he had been convicted of raping a 72-year-old US widow in her Algarve home 18 months before Madeleine disappeared.

Brueckner is now the focus of the 13-year investigation into the disappearance of the three-year-old from the Algarve.

Yesterday a spokesman for her parents Kate and Gerry McCann hailed the ‘significant’ breakthrough. But they faced renewed anguish as German prosecutors stated they believed their daughter was dead and also suggested officers knew how she died.

Brueckner is behind bars in Germany. But it was claimed that he could walk free within days, as he will become eligible for parole on Sunday.

Cruising the Algarve in his classic Jaguar, Christian Brueckner posed as a fun-loving playboy.

The German drifter spent 12 years pursuing a bohemian lifestyle – but not long after Madeleine McCann vanished in 2007, he left Portugal and returned to his homeland.

It was in a German bar exactly ten years later – on the anniversary of the three-year-old’s disappearance – that Becks-drinking Brueckner turned the spotlight on himself.

As Madeleine’s face flashed up on the bar’s television screen, he reportedly turned to his drinking partner and claimed he ‘knew all about’ the case. He is alleged to have said something to suggest he knew what had happened to Maddie, according to a report on Sky News.

Later, it is claimed, he showed his companion a video of himself raping an elderly American widow in Portugal in 2005. The friend contacted German police.

Brueckner – who chose a moniker for his Facebook page that means ‘madness’ in German – swiftly became of interest to the detectives probing Madeleine’s disappearance. It was three more years before his name became public.

Photographs obtained by the Mail show blue-eyed Brueckner enjoying a night out in a Hanover bar in 2011. Wearing a pinstriped blazer, the self-styled Romeo appeared to be enjoying himself with a group of friends. One picture shows him cradling a small dog.

Christian Brueckner spent 12 years pursuing a bohemian lifestyle – but not long after Madeleine McCann vanished in 2007, he left Portugal and returned to his homeland. Photographs obtained by the Mail the drifter enjoying a night out in a Hanover bar in 2011, wearing a pinstriped blazer, the self-styled Romeo appeared to be enjoying himself with a group of friends


Portuguese detective says ‘Christian B’ was dismissed as a suspect in 2008 – but a discussion ‘years later’ on an online forum about Maddie and her abduction was brought to the attention of police;

The German drifter spent 12 years pursuing a bohemian lifestyle in and around Praia da Luz at two houses, one in the town and one two miles away between the neighbouring town of Lagos


As Madeleine McCann’s face flashed up on a bar’s television screen in 2017, Bruekner reportedly turned to a drinking partner and claimed he ‘knew all about’ the case. He is alleged to have said something to suggest he knew what had happened to Maddie

Last night one friend told the Mail that Brueckner’s ‘life situation’ was ‘a bit chaotic’, but added that ‘if everything is true then he was indeed a master of illusion’.

In fact, despite the Renaissance man image he seemed desperate to cultivate, Brueckner, 43, has long tried to hide a gruesome life of crime ranging from petty thefts to horrific sexual assaults.

As more details come to light over the new prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, it also emerged that:

  • Portuguese police face serious questions as it is revealed that the man who may have taken Maddie spent 12 years in Portugal before her disappearance committing serious sexual and drugs crimes without ever being arrested;
  • German police were told about his bar chat about Maddie with a friend in 2017 – but three years on have finally confirmed he is a suspect;
  • His VW campervan and Jaguar have been located by police who believe one or both were – but a lack of DNA evidence means a 10,000 euro reward has been put up for any information that leads to his conviction;
  • Portuguese detective says ‘Christian B’ was dismissed as a suspect in 2008 – but a discussion ‘years later’ on an online forum about Maddie and her abduction was brought to the attention of police;
  • Her parents Gerry and Kate McCann have not given up hope that their daughter is alive but are ‘realistic’ that she might not be, their spokesman Clarence Mitchell said today;
  • Downing Street said the latest developments appeared to be significant and added that Number 10’s thoughts were with the McCann family ‘who have had to endure so much’. 

Born in 1976, Brueckner was raised ‘in a home’ according to German news magazine Focus.

He committed his first burglary in his home town of Wuerzburg in Bavaria when he was just 15.

Within two years, he was convicted of sexually abusing a child, earning him a two-year youth sentence in 1994. A report by Germany’s Der Spiegel claimed he served only part of this term.

Brueckner went on to notch up convictions for drug dealing, driving under the influence and without a licence, the news magazine reported. As a young man, Brueckner is said to have dreamed of emigrating with his girlfriend of the time. After turning 18 – and acquiring a driver’s licence – he took off to the Algarve town of Lagos with his girlfriend, the German newspaper Bild reported.

It quotes him as saying: ‘We didn’t know anything about Portugal. We went to Lagos because we liked the name so much. We had a tent with us and camped in the wild.’

He eventually settled in Praia da Luz – the picturesque resort where the McCanns took their three children on holiday.

Brueckner stayed there for 12 years, telling families he was working as a caterer and odd-job man. In truth, he was dealing cannabis, trafficking drugs and burgling holiday homes and hotel rooms.

The farmhouse where the new prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance lived was located just two miles from where she went missing from her family’s holiday apartment

Pictured above and below, the Jaguar he re-registered the day after Maddie disappeared 

The suspect’s battered camper van. Scotland Yard released images of the VW T3 Westfalia camper van, with a white upper body and a yellow skirting, with a Portuguese registration plate

He was briefly locked up for diesel theft, and is also said to have traded passports and stolen goods, according to Bild.

He initially lived in a dilapidated house accessed by a dirt road. ‘In terms of furnishings, it was a typical bachelor’s apartment,’ said one acquaintance. After a decade on the Algarve, Brueckner burgled a 72-year-old American widow and subjected her to a violent sexual assault, which he recorded on camera.

By this time Brueckner lived in a rented whitewashed villa on a remote hillside – above the beach where the McCanns played during their week’s holiday.

Neighbours described him as an ‘angry’ car dealer who sped along country roads. They say that when he vanished, he left behind a collection of exotic clothing, including wigs and fancy dress. Brueckner left Portugal after Madeleine disappeared on May 3, 2007. The previous month, he had moved out of the villa and into a VW Westfalia campervan. Police have now linked this vehicle to Maddie’s disappearance.

Brueckner also retained his prized 1993 Jaguar XJR6. Scotland Yard has now revealed that the day after Madeleine vanished, Brueckner re-registered the classic British car to someone else, even though he was still driving it.

On May 3, 2007 Kate and Gerry McCann went to a small tapas bar metres away from their apartment to dine with friends. But when Kate returned to do a routine check on their children, she found that Madeleine had disappeared

Yesterday a spokesman for her parents Kate and Gerry McCann hailed the ‘significant’ breakthrough. But they faced renewed anguish as German prosecutors stated they believed their daughter was dead and also suggested officers knew how she died 

Extraditing a foreign suspect will be difficult

It is expected that Met Police will want any suspect charged in the Madeleine McCann case to be tried in the UK, given the nationality of the victim.

The force has consistently said that if the suspect were British, then they would push for a prosecution at the Old Bailey, rather than Portugal where the crime was committed.

But if the suspect happens to be from any other country, the chances of extraditing them to the UK for a crime which took place overseas is unlikely.

If a German national is ever charged, it is unclear if Portuguese authorities, who have been heavily criticised for their involvement in the past, who pursue a prosecution of allow Germany to try their own citizen.

Portugal the maximum prison sentence that can be imposed is 25 years, whereas Germany can hand down an indeterminate life sentence – although there can be the option for parole after 15 years.

After returning to Germany, Brueckner continued stealing and drug-dealing. In October 2011, a district court in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein sentenced him to one year and nine months for a crime involving ‘narcotics in large quantities’. The term was initially suspended.

By 2014, Brueckner was living in Braunschweig, near Hanover, where he boasted to friends he had opened a local shop. He claimed he worked from seven in the morning until midnight but the business, along with his relationship, failed and he began to hit the bottle and live on benefits.

In 2016 he was sentenced to one year and three months’ imprisonment for ‘sexually abusing a child in the act of procuring himself and possessing child pornography’.

After his bar-room claims about Madeleine in May 2017, Brueckner appears to have returned to the Algarve. Within a month he was held under a European Arrest Warrant and extradited back to Germany.

That September, he was sentenced to 15 months in prisonfor the sexual abuse of a child according to Thomas Klinge, spokesman for the Hanover public prosecutor’s office.

After his release in August 2018, he later told a court, he was homeless, spending nights sleeping on park benches. He travelled to Milan – but within a month he was arrested and extradited to Germany yet again, this time to face trial for drugs offences.

In October 2018, he was convicted of dealing drugs and sent to prison in Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein, where he remains to this day. Prosecutors also had enough evidence to charge him with the horrific sex attack he had filmed 13 years earlier.

His rape trial took place last December. Reports of the proceedings descibe Brueckner as ‘eloquent’ and state he leafed through legal texts as evidence was heard. He called what had happened to the traumatised pensioner a ‘bad deed’, but denied any role in it.

In court he repeatedly mentioned the names of ex-lovers, insisting they would testify as to the ‘normalcy’ of his sex life.

He branded witnesses as liars and claimed that DNA from a strand of hair used to convict him must have ended up on the victim’s bed after he had petted one of her cats. Yet as so often before, the court rejected his denials and Brueckner was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years, pending the outcome of an appeal.

One trial witness described Brueckner as someone who ‘always paid attention to his appearance’.

As the Madeleine case enters a dramatic new phase, there will certainly be a lot more attention paid to him now.

New Madeleine McCann sex offender suspect had been on police radar for ‘more than two decades’ and ‘has as many as 17 criminal convictions’ 

The new Madeleine McCann suspect was unmasked last night as it emerged he had been on the police radar for more than two decades.

As prosecutors labelled him a ‘multiple sexual predator’, it was claimed Christian Brueckner, 43, had been convicted of a child sex offence in his native Germany when aged just 17.

Yet the drifter, who reportedly has as many as 17 criminal convictions, was apparently overlooked by Portuguese police. It also emerged yesterday that he had been convicted of raping a 72-year-old US widow in her Algarve home 18 months before Madeleine disappeared. Brueckner is now the focus of the 13-year investigation into the disappearance of the three-year-old from the Algarve.

Yesterday a spokesman for her parents Kate and Gerry McCann hailed the ‘significant’ breakthrough. But they faced renewed anguish as German prosecutors stated they believed their daughter was dead and also suggested officers knew how she died.

Brueckner is behind bars in Germany. But it was claimed that he could walk free within days, as he will become eligible for parole on Sunday. 

Brueckner is in jail in Kiel, northern Germany. But one German media report yesterday suggested he was on the verge of getting parole, having served two thirds of his sentence. According to a German newspaper, he becomes eligible for freedom from Sunday, if the Federal Court of Justice in Germany decides to grant him parole.

On Wednesday, Scotland Yard, which has been carrying out a £12million review of the Madeleine case, dropped the bombshell revelation there was a new suspect, as German police launched an appeal via that country’s equivalent of CrimeWatch.

Yesterday Mr Wolters said: ‘We think that Madeleine McCann is dead and are appealing for witnesses. The 43-year-old is a multiple sexual predator already convicted of crimes against little girls.’ He suggested police had determined the method used to kill the three-year-old and said others would have ‘concrete knowledge’ of how she died and where her body was hidden.

Scotland Yard still insists that it is a missing person inquiry and the McCanns say they have never given up hope she will be found alive.

Madeleine disappeared while her parents, from Rothley in Leicestershire, were having a meal with friends at a tapas bar close to their apartment. Portuguese police were facing serious questions yesterday about why Brueckner was not identified earlier as a suspect given he had child sex abuse convictions dating back to 1994.

He lived two miles from the resort where she vanished and phone data indicates he was in the area on the night. If Portuguese officers had done basic checks of known sex offenders his name could have emerged within months. The ex-lead Portuguese investigator on the case, Goncalo Amaral, has claimed the suspect had been ruled out of the inquiry in 2008.

But he allegedly came back into the frame after a conversation in an internet chatroom about Madeleine and her abduction. Yesterday it emerged Brueckner only became a suspect for Scotland Yard in 2017 when he is said to have told a friend at a bar he ‘knew all about’ what had happened to Madeleine.

According to Sky News, Brueckner was prompted to make the comment when her face flashed up on a TV screen in a German pub during a report on a UK appeal for information on the tenth anniversary of her disappearance. A spokesman for the McCanns said: ‘This would appear to be the most significant lead they are trying to close down in 13 years.’

German police said their phones ‘rang hot’ after the appeal went live. Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, leading the Met Police investigation, said more than 270 calls and emails had been received. 

How the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann unfolded over 13 years  

2007

May 3: Gerry and Kate McCann leave their three children, including Maddie, asleep in their hotel apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, as they eat with friends in a nearby restaurant. When they return, they find Maddie missing from her bed

May 4: A friend of the McCanns reports of seeing a man carrying a child away in the night.  Meanwhile, airports and borders are put on high alert as search gets underway

May 14: Robert Mural, a property developer who lives a few yards from the hotel, is made a suspect by Portuguese police

May 30: The McCanns meet the Pope in Rome in a bid to bring worldwide attention to the search

August 11: Police in Portugal acknowledge for the first time in the investigation that Maddie might be dead. 

September 7: Spanish police make the McCanns official suspects in the disappearance. Two days later the family flies back to England

2008

July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved

2009

May 1: A computer-generated image of what Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns 

2011

May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May 

2012

April 25: After a year of reviewing the case, Scotland Yard announce they belief that Maddie could be alive and call on police in Portugal to reopen the case, but it falls on deaf ears amid ‘a lack of new evidence’

Kate and Gerry McCann mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine with the publication of the book written by her mother in 2011

2013

July 4: Scotland Yard opens new investigation and claim to have identified 38 ‘people of interest’

October 24: A review into the investigation is opened by Portuguese police and new lines of inquiry are discovered, forcing them to reopen the case

2014

January 29: British officers arrive in Portugal as a detailed investigation takes place. During the year, several locations are searched, including an area of scrubland near the resort 

2015

October 28: British police announce that team investigating Maddie’s disappearance is reduced from 29 officers to just four, as it is also revealed that the investigation has cost £10million 

2016

April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months  

2017

March 11: Cash is once again pumped into keeping the investigation alive, with £85,000 granted to keep it running until September, when it is extended once again until April next year

2018

March 27: The Home Office reveals it has allocated further funds to Operation Grange. The new fund is believed to be as large as £150,000

September 11: Parents fear as police hunt into daughter’s disappearance could be shelved within three weeks by the new Home Secretary amid funding cuts

September 26: Fresh hope in the search for Madeleine McCann as it emerges the Home Office is considering allocating more cash for the police to find her

2019  

April: Controversial new Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie’s kidnap is released, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls. They pair, who refused to take part in the eight hour programme series, slammed it for ‘potentially hindering’ the search for their daughter while an active police hunt is ongoing

June 5: The Home Office gives the Metropolitan Police enough funding to investigate for another year

June 22: Detectives say they are ‘closer than ever’ to solving the disappearance as they look into a new suspect. A joint effort by British and Portuguese police narrowed in on a ‘foreign’ man who was in the Algarve when she went missing in 2007

December 7: Paulo Pereira Cristovao, a long-time critic of Maddie’s parents who angered them with a controversial book about the mystery disappearance, was convicted of participating in the planning of two violent break-ins at properties in Lisbon and the nearby resort of Cascais. He is jailed for seven and a half years

December 11: Maddie’s revealed a touching list of what they miss most about their daughter as they spent their 13th Christmas without her

2020

February 22: Scotland Yard detectives questioned a British expat about her German ex-boyfriend. Carol Hickman, 59, claims police entered her bar in Praia da Luz, Portugal to ask questions about her former partner 

March 27: Detectives requested extra money to continue their investigation into the disappearance of the toddler in Portugal back in 2007, with funds for the operation set to run out at the end of the month

 June 3: Police reveal that a 43-year-old German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.

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