The prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance has been charged with multiple sex offenses allegedly committed in Portugal.
German prosecutors charged convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner, 45, who was named a suspect in the case by Portuguese officials in April as he approached the statutory 15-year term, and had been under investigation by German officials for two years.
The offenses were committed between December 2000 and June 2017, prosecutors said.
“The defendant is the same person who was charged in connection with the disappearance of the then 3-year-old British Madeleine Beth McCann,” the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
“Specifically, the accused is accused of three offenses of rape and two offenses of sexual abuse of children,” added the prosecutor’s office.
The office did not say the charges related to the McCann case.
In May, German police claimed to have found new evidence of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in a van belonging to Brueckner.
As Madeleine’s parents held a vigil to mark the 15th anniversary of her disappearance during a family holiday in Portugal, lead investigator Hans-Christian Wolters revealed evidence possibly linking the convicted rapist to the three-year-old’s disappearance.
The parents said they remain hopeful that tri-county police efforts to solve their daughter’s disappearance will finally provide some answers. Prosecutor Mr Wolters has previously stated that he believes Madeleine is dead.
Brueckner is a German citizen and that country’s law states that evidence cannot be made public until a suspect and his legal team have been given full details.
He was reportedly using a yellow and white VW T3 Westfalia motorhome in and around Praia da Luz – the Algarve resort where the McCanns frequented – at the time Madeleine disappeared just days before her fourth birthday.
Brueckner emerged as the prime suspect in the German investigation into the toddler’s disappearance two years ago in 2020 – and was officially named as a suspect by Portuguese police last month.
But while German prosecutors say telecommunications evidence shows Brueckner received a phone call on May 3, 2007 near the Praia da Luz holiday apartment from which the three-year-old disappeared, he is now reportedly claiming he was miles away from the scene with a young German woman.
The 45-year-old, who has always denied any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance, insists he drove the woman – who was on holiday with her parents – to Faro airport for her flight home the following day, and was stopped and photographed in police roadblock, according to Sky News.
Portuguese police named Bruckner an arguido – an official suspect – on April 21. It is the first time they have identified an official suspect since 2007, when Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann were named as suspects, both of whom were later cleared.
It has been suggested that the move could potentially be “procedural”, given that Portugal’s statute of limitations does not allow certain crimes to be prosecuted more than 15 years after they were committed.
Last month Kate and Gerry McCann lost their legal battle over comments made by a former Portuguese detective. Goncalo Amaral has claimed in a book, a documentary and a newspaper interview that Kate and Gerry McCann were involved in the disappearance of their three-year-old daughter.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected the couple’s complaint that the Portuguese authorities failed to respect their right to private and family life in their defamation case against Mr Amaral.
The ECtHR found that the claims against them had already been widely publicized before the publication of Mr Amaral’s book in July 2008. It also found that their reputation had not been damaged by him, but rather by the fact that they had been official suspects for a short time.
In a statement released by their lawyers, the McCanns said they were “disappointed” by the decision.