“Major breakthrough” as new suspect identified in Madeleine McCann investigation

A man in jail in Germany has been identified today as a suspect in the 13-year-old mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann.

The 43-year-old has not been named but reports suggest he may be – on German television – later this evening (see update below).

He is known to have been living in Praia da Luz at the time that three-year-old Madeleine went missing in May 2007. 

Indeed he is described as having lived in the Algarve since 1995 – that is, since he was 18 – leaving not long after Madeleine disappeared.

Reports describe him as having a transient lifestyle: living in a Portuguese-registered VW camper van but also driving a German-registered Jaguar XJ6 – ownership of which was transferred into the name of another person in Germany the day after Madeleine went missing.

Releasing the news simultaneously, German and British police are appealing for ‘further information’ on both the vehicles (which are now in police hands).

The suspect is known to have received a call on his mobile phone between 7.32 and 8.02pm on the night the child vanished. 

“Someone out there knows a lot more than they’re letting on” DCI Mark Cranwell leading the Met’s Operation Grange inquiry is cited by the BBC as saying.

The significance of this latest lead is the amount of information police seem to be giving out. There is also a reward offered of £22,000. 

The wording used by Público this evening is that the money will be paid for “information that leads to the conviction of the person or persons responsible for the disappearance of Madeleine McCann”.

Police have also released two Portuguese mobile phone numbers. One is for the phone the suspect was using, and which they want to see if anyone ‘recognises’. The other is the number that made the call. The  numbers are 912 730 680 and 916 510 683.

According to the BBC, police “want the person who called the suspect to come forward”.

Said DCI Cranwell:”Some people will know the man we’re describing today… you may be aware of some of the things he’s done. He may have confided in you about the disappearance of Madeleine. More than 13 years have passed and your loyalties may have changed. Now is the time to come forward.”

The suspect is described as white, slim, around six foot tall, with short blonde hair. 

Say reports he was ‘identified’ by investigators back in 2017, during appeals put out to mark the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance.

The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy has stressed however that the man’s name was known to Grange before 2017: “ I am not going to give details on how it was known, but it was known before we received the new information in 2017”, he said. “Since then we have continued to work closely with colleagues in Portugal and in Germany”.

For now, the British police are continuing to refer to the case a missing person’s inquiry – but reports say German police insist they are leading a murder investigation.

The suspect is in prison on an unrelated matter, but has previous convictions. Says the BBC, detectives have ‘declined to supply more details” (see below).

It’s unclear what exactly has prompted today’s sudden breaking of this story (see update below), but the Mail online does mention the fact that funding for Operation Grange, which has already “exceeded £11 million, expired at end March”.

In other words, the investigation has been running for the last two months on empty.

Reacting to the news – and thanking police for their continued efforts in the search for their daughter – Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann have said in a statement: “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 suspect “accused of sex crimes against minors”

Further breaking news on Wednesday evening was that the 43-year-old suspect “has been accused of various crimes, among them child abuse”.

Germany’s Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) – the federal department of criminal police – has revealed he has been jailed twice before for the sexual abuse of girls.

The German force is still not giving the reason for his current jail term – but according to other sources the man has been convicted to eight years for the rape and torture of a 72-year-old American tourist – again in Praia da Luz – two years before Madeleine went missing.

More and more is emerging about what the suspect is supposed to have done during his time in the Algarve.

He wasn’t always living in his van. For a time he lived in a modest house outside Luz, with a girlfriend. He did ‘odd jobs in and around Lagos’, sometimes working in restaurants.

There are indications, say German police, that he earned his living from committing crimes “like thefts from hotel and holiday apartment complexes”, as well as selling drugs.

The BKA’s official page  – stressing that its investigation is going forwards in “strict cooperation with British and Portuguese authorities” – appeals to “all German” to “collaborate with information that might be useful”, adds Lusa.


The suspect has been named as Christian Brueckner.

It appears Brueckner’s name came up as early as 2008, in the original investigation led by Portuguese PJ – but there was no conclusive evidence for police to take their inquiries further.

Interest in him resurfaced after a remark he made in a bar in Germany, to the effect that he ‘knew all about what happened to Maddie’.

That ‘confession’ has now been blown into a murder inquiry by the Germans – but hard forensic evidence is still missing: hence the reason for the appeal for information.

It also appears the appeal has been timed to pre-empt any chance of release from jail, as Brueckner has a couple of legal cases going trying to challenge the terms of his extradition from Italy to Germany to serve a new prison. If successful he could be out of jail by Sunday (June 7), says the Daily Mail. (This is the point where he reaches the limit of having served 2/3 of the sentence he is currently in jail for).

Thus the pressure is on to find more than simply circumstantial evidence linking Brueckner to this long running mystery.

German authorities are so focused on this latest suspect that they are ‘reconsidering’ other missing children cases – including the disappearance of six-year-old René Hasse from Amoreira beach in Aljezur in 1996.

As ‘timings’ go, Brueckner was in the Algarve at this point, aged 18.

Only a year ago, British police were reported to be questioning another jailed German, pedophile Martin Ney, over this case (click here).

Ney too had originally been interviewed by Portuguese police in 2008 and discounted as a suspect.

At the time, former PJ coordinator Gonçalo Amaral – who led the original investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance – let drop that he understood a “German pedophile in jail” was going to be used as a “scapegoat” to wrap up the Madeleine case ‘once and for all’.

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