Convicted rapist, Christian Brueckner, 44, is made official suspect in Madeleine McCann case as 15-year anniversary of three-year-old’s disappearance approaches next month
- Christian Brueckner is now an ‘official suspect’ in the Madeleine McCann case
- The convicted rapist, 44, has been made an ‘arguido’ by Portugal, it is reported
- Portugal has a statute of limitations for serious crimes after 15 years of incident
- If charges are not brought before May 3, there is a reduced chance of conviction
Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner has been made an ‘official suspect’ in the case, by Portuguese prosecutors, it has been reported.
Convicted rapist Brueckner, 44, was sensationally named by German prosecutors as the man ‘responsible’ for Madeleine’s kidnap and murder in June 2020.
But since then no charges have been brought.
However today respected German daily Bild claimed he has had been made an ‘arguido’ or official suspect in the case by Portugal which is usually the precursor to charges.
They are thought to have acted in the last few days after it emerged that he could avoid charges due to Portugal’s statute of limitations which kicks in for serious crimes after 15 years.
Convicted rapist Brueckner, 44, was identified by German police in June 2020 with prosecutors saying they believed he had murdered Madeleine McCann. He has now been named an official suspect
One well-placed source said: ‘The legal grounds for making Brueckner an arguido include the fact that he allegedly confessed to a friend he had snatched Madeleine and mobile phone records placed him in Praia da Luz the night she vanished.
‘But it is obviously linked to the fact that the Portuguese authorities want to keep their options open with the 15-year deadline looming.’
Portugal’s Attorney General’s Office and the country’s Policia Judiciaria have yet to make any official comment.
Next month will be the 15th anniversary of then three-year-old Madeleine’s disappearance from the Portuguese Algarve resort of Praia da Luz where she was on holiday with parents Kate and Gerry on May 3, 2007.
Portuguese police would have had to charge him by the anniversary of her disappearance on May 3 in less than two weeks or face a seriously reduced risk of convicting him.
According to Portuguese law, crimes punishable by more than 10 years in jail, which covers kidnap and murder must be heard within 15 years.
Shortly after she disappeared Kate and Gerry, from Rothkey, Leicestershire, were also made arguidos in the case and questioned at length several times before they were cleared of any involvement.
Portuguese police chief Gonçalo Amaral who led the initial investigation and ordered the couple to be made official suspects was later taken off the case.
On May 3 it will be the 15th anniversary of then three-year old Madeleine’s disappearance from her holiday apartment
Bild quoted Brueckner’s lawyer Friedrich Fulscher saying: ‘The step taken by the Portuguese authorities should not be overrated.
‘Without knowing the Portuguese legal situation in detail, I assume that this measure is a procedural artifice to stop the statute of limitations threatening in a few days.’
Brueckner stayed silent after being informed he had been made an arguido and declined to be questioned as part of the Portuguese criminal procedure.
It is not yet clear who told him he was being given arguido status but it happened after a formal international letter of request issued by Portuguese authorities to their German counterparts.
The Portuguese move paves the way for him to be flown from Germany to the Algarve for formal questioning but there are not thought to be any immediate plans to try to quiz him in Portugal.
It is understood German investigators are currently focusing their efforts on forensic work on the VW camper van Brueckner used while he lived on the Algarve which featured in a police appeal about the convicted rapist’s vehicles.
Last week Brueckner wrote exclusively to MailOnline revealing he still had not been officially questioned by German investigators about Madeleine’s disappearance.
Brueckner is currently serving seven years in Oldenburg prison, northern Germany, after being convicted of raping a 72-year-old woman in 2005 in the Portuguese report of Praia da Luz, from where Madeline vanished two years later.
In his letter – the first to a British media organisation – he said:’ I haven’t been questioned on any allegations as required by German law, but it is obvious the German authorities and especially the Department of Justice, are providing the media with information about me that is likely to make me appear contemptible.
‘This also applies to the authorities at the correctional facility in which I am currently being held.’
Then taking a swipe at the investigators he said: ‘By now it should be most obvious to anyone with halfway reasonable thinking that the German authorities are trying by all means necessary to cover up the mistakes that have been made.
‘By ‘mistakes’ I mean blatant violations of German criminal law and international human rights. This statement on my part has so far only been laughed at as ‘wailing’ which gives me an approximate insight into the hopeless situation of the Jews, or in general, of the minorities in the Second World War.’
In his letter Brueckner makes no direct mention of Madeleine but highlights how he is constantly hearing he is being investigated for various sex crimes but that no one from the police has interviewed him about any of them.
Besides the McCann investigation, Brueckner is also being probed over the 2004 rape of Irish tour rep Hazel Behan, who has waived her anonymity, and a sex assault on a ten-year-old girl at Praia da Luz just a month before then three-year-old Madeleine vanished.
German authorities are adamant they have the right man, although Scotland Yard, who last month announced they were winding down their 11-year investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance codenamed Operation Grange.
Privately they are said to be dubious of any charges against Brueckner, as the only evidence against him appears to be circumstantial and from unreliable witnesses.
However German prosecutors have insisted they will continue their investigation even though they admit they have no idea if it will end with him being charged.
Madeleine McCann’s family’s lawyer Rogerio Alves warned in July 2020 Portugal’s 15-year limit on prosecutions meant there was less than two years left to take action against Brueckner, who German authorities were treating as their chief suspect.
Portugal’s Attorney General agreed to reopen the investigation into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in October 2013, more than five years after it was archived, following a formal request from the Policia Judiciaria
Lawyer Spencer Dohner, of MDM Legal, said: ‘I think the likeliest scenario with the information we have right now is that it all falls after 15 years.
‘Portugal has a statute of limitations which means the authors of crimes punishable by a maximum prison sentence of more than 10 years cannot generally be prosecuted once 15 years has passed.
‘This of course means the ability to prosecute in Portugal in the Madeleine McCann case after May 3 this year could be terminated.
‘If she were found alive and had been the victim of sex crimes as a minor, legal proceedings could take place until she was 23.
‘But if Madeleine is dead as the German authorities believe and was murdered in Portugal around the time she vanished, the cut-off point for prosecution would be the 15th anniversary of her disappearance under normal circumstances barring any technical issues that could potentially pause the time limit like the Covid pandemic.
‘There are some arguments that could be debated but my perception and understanding of the law is that it’s 15 years and that’s it.
‘If we had a situation where a body was found and we had reasons to believe it was murder and the authorities here had a person to accuse, we would have a limitation of those 15 years.’
Another Lisbon-based lawyer, who asked not to be named, added: ‘Police and prosecutors in Portugal will be acutely aware of the time limits hanging over the Maddie case.
‘Our statute of limitations brings with it the probability that within a matter of weeks, the person responsible for her disappearance may never be brought to justice in the country where she vanished even with an arrest and confession.’
Earlier this year German police revisited every major witness in an attempt to ramp up their probe.
Hans Christian Wolters, a prosecutor in the German McCann investigation, insisted that Scotland Yard’s decision would have no bearing on their work.
He told MailOnline: ‘Our investigations are independent of the British ones.
‘We have no time limit. Therefore, we have the time to investigate as long as we have investigative approaches.
‘At this moment I cannot say when the investigations will be completed but we are confident they will, and he is still seen as a prime suspect in the case.’
Portugal’s Attorney General agreed to reopen the investigation into Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in October 2013, more than five years after it was archived, following a formal request from the Policia Judiciaria.
PJ chief Helena Monteiro is still heading an ongoing Portuguese police ‘cold case’ review from the northern city of Porto.
In October 2013 she quizzed the widow of a former worker at the tourist complex where Madeleine’s parents were staying when she vanished.
Serial thief Euclides Lopes Monteiro, who died in a tractor accident in August 2009, has never been publicly ruled out as a suspect despite calls from his family for police to confirm his innocence.
It emerged last June police homed in on Brueckner in the Madeleine McCann case after he told a friend in a pub: ‘I snatched her.’
He allegedly confessed to kidnapping the youngster while sitting in a German bar on the 10th anniversary of her abduction.
Reports at the time said he and a friend were watching a TV news report on the case in 2017 when he said he knew what had happened to her. He is also said to have boasted that he had ‘snatched her.’
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