A suspect has been formally identified in the case of missing British toddler Madeleine McCann, according to a statement by the Prosecutor’s Office in Faro, Portugal.
The man has been made an official suspect by German authorities at the request of Portuguese authorities, but the Faro prosecutors did not name him publicly. He has not yet been charged.
It is the first time Portuguese prosecutors have identified an official suspect in the case since Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s parents, were named suspects in 2007. They were later cleared.
Madeleine was three years old when she vanished from her bedroom on May 3, 2007 during a family holiday in the Algarve region while her parents were dining with friends nearby in the resort of Praia da Luz. Despite an international hunt, she has never been found, and no one has ever been charged over her disappearance.
German prosecutors revealed in June 2020 that they had evidence that a man jailed for another crime, named as Christian B. at the time, killed the British toddler, but said there was not enough evidence to charge the suspect in court. In June 2020, the spokesman for the State Prosecutor’s Office of Braunschweig, in the state of Lower-Saxony, told CNN his office assumes McCann is dead.
But since then the 45-year-old suspect has not been charged with any crime relating to the disappearance. He is behind bars in Germany for raping a woman in the same area of the Algarve region where Madeleine went missing in 2007.
The suspect’s lawyer, Friedrich Fülscher, confirmed to CNN Friday that he was still representing the suspect, confirming his name to be Christian Brueckner.
Brueckner has denied being involved in the disappearance of McCann.
He lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007 and burgled hotels and holiday flats, according to court documents seen by Reuters in 2020. He also falsified passports and was caught stealing diesel from a Portuguese harbor.
Portugal’s Judiciary Police handed over documents with hundreds of names related to Madeleine’s case, including Christian Brueckner, to British authorities in 2012, according to the force.
German police received their first tip-off linking Brueckner to Madeleine’s case in 2013.
The suspect had previously been convicted for sexually abusing children, the German State Prosecutor’s Office of Braunschweig, in the state of Lower-Saxony, said in a 2020 statement, which added that he was serving a “long” jail sentence “for an unrelated matter.” He was being investigated for “possible murder” in connection with McCann, the office said at the time.
The reasons that led Portuguese prosecutors to identify a suspect now are not clear but it could be related to Portugal’s 15-year statute of limitations for crimes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more.
Brueckner’s lawyer said he believed the latest “measure taken by the Portuguese authorities should not be overestimated.” Instead, the lawyer said, the latest development could be seen as a formal legal tool. “In Portugal, the statute of limitations for murder is 15 years, if the period isn’t interrupted. The latter has now been done – presumably out of caution. I do not assume there to be any new findings,” Fülscher added.
Prosecutors said the investigation has been carried out with cooperation from British and German authorities.
Next month will mark 15 years since Madeleine disappeared.