Police officers have begun searching a reservoir in Portugal at the request of German authorities in the search for Madeleine McCann amid an investigation into prime suspect Christian Brueckner.
The search of Arade dam - which is 50km from the location of the hotel resort Madeleine went missing from in 2007 - is allegedly in connection with the main suspect in the disappearance, Christian Brueckner, with the convicted criminal having connections to the area. Portuguese officer are conducting the search with British officers also present.
Brueckner was named as a “formal suspect” almost 15 years after the three-year-old vanished from her Portuguese holiday accommodation.
He is currently serving a sentence in Germany for rape. German prosecutors have previously said they have evidence that he abducted and murdered Madeleine in 16 years ago.
Who is Christian Brueckner?
Christian Brueckner is currently serving seven years in prison for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman. The woman had been staying at the Praia da Luz resort in Portugal at the time of the attack - the same resort from which Madeleine went missing from her hotel room in 2007.
The Mirror reports he has now exhausted his appeal process and will stay in jail until at least May 2023, when another parole request can be considered again. German authorities named Brueckner as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine in June 2020, however strict German privacy laws only allowed him to be identified as “Christian B”.
He has now been named as a formal suspect, however he has continued to protest his innocence. Speaking to a German documentary makers SAT.1, who recently released a programme on his links to the incident, Brueckner said: “I see no reason to comment on the allegations made by the Braunschweig public prosecutor. In principle, I could sit back and relax and let the results come to me.”
Will Christian Brueckner be charged for the disappearance of Madeleline McCann?
German prosecutors previously said that they are aware of evidence which points towards the 46-year-old abducting and murdering then three-year-old Madeleine. Brueckner, who was allegedly “very familiar” with the Praia da Luz resort, is said to have been traced to within five minutes of the Ocean Club apartments on the night of the young girl’s disappearance.
There were reports last summer that German authorities were preparing to formally charge Brueckner with the disappearance. Witnesses were allegedly told to be on high alert for an imminent trial however, he was not charged by police at the time.
German authorities requested the search of the Arade dam on 23 May 2023. Officers said that the site was an "area of interest" which Brueckner referred to as his "little paradise".
A statement from Germany’s Braunschweig Public Prosecutor’s Office, reported by The Independent, said: “Criminal proceedings are currently taking place in Portugal as part of the investigation into the Madeleine McCann case. The measures are implemented through mutual legal assistance by the Portuguese law enforcement authorities with the support of officials from the Federal Criminal Police Office. For tactical reasons, no further information on the background is currently being released.”
What has Christian Brueckner said?
Brueckner has vehemently denied that he had anything to do with the disappearance of Madeleine. He has claimed that at the time of the incident, he was miles away from the Ocean Club apartment complex.
Brueckner has said that he was in the company of a young German woman, driving her to Faro airport in his van, claiming the pair were photographed at a police roadblock. The 44-year-old has identified her to police but prosecutors say that his alibi is not concrete.
Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters told Sky News: “We actually haven’t found a single piece of the puzzle in the two years that would have somehow helped to exonerate Christian B. So it’s really nothing that would somehow maybe be an alibi or something. Nothing of that has come to light, really at any point.
“What we found out, it all went in the other direction, so was rather incriminating, without me being able to elaborate on that now.”
What happened to Madeleine McCann?
On 3 May 2007, Madeleine disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve. Her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, dined 55 metres away from the ground floor room while Madeleine and her twin siblings slept.
Both parents periodically checked in on the children throughout the evening, before Kate found Madeleine missing at around 10pm. Kate and Gerry reported their children missing to Portuguese police, with a high profile search for the missing toddler publicised across the world.
The pair were originally suspected to have accidentally killed their daughter and covered it up - they were made suspects in 2007, after Portuguese authorities misinterpreted British DNA analysis. However, Portugal’s attorney general lifted their “suspect” status in 2008 due to a lack of evidence.
Inquiries into the incident continued in the following years, including Scotland Yard’s Operation Grange, with Brueckner named as a suspect by the German city of Braunschweig in June 2020.