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Madeleine McCann case: everything to know about prime suspect Christian Brueckner?

BBC's Panorama episode Prime Suspect: Who Took Madeleine McCann? looks at the prime suspect in the kidnapping, Christian Brueckner 


An undated handout image supplied shows a police mug shot of Christian Brueckner© Handout
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
October 30, 2023
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BBC's new Panorama episode, Prime Suspect: Who Took Madeleine McCann? looks into the 2003 disappearance of the British girl who went missing aged three back  in Praia de Luz, Portugal. The episode will look at the German authorities' prime suspect, Christian Brueckner. But who is he, and why do the German authorities believe he is connected to the case? Here’s what we know… 

Who is Christian Brueckner? 

Brueckner is a German national currently serving prison time for rape in Praia da Luz. He was linked to the Madeleine McCann case back in 2020, with the police stating him as the person they believe to be behind Maddie’s abduction and murder.

WATCH: The theory behind how Madeleine McCann's kidnapper would have known her parents were in a nearby restaurant hs been revealed

The convict lived in Portugal from 1995 to 2007, and is currently serving a seven-year sentence after raping a 72-year-old American woman in 2005. He has been charged with several sex crimes including exposing himself to a child and three rape counts between 2000 - 2017. 

After being charged, a spokesperson from the Braunschweig prosecutor's office said: “The accused is the same person against whom charges were brought in connection with the disappearance of the then three-year-old British girl Madeleine Beth McCann. 

A likeness of what missing child Madeleine McCann would look like aged six© Getty
A likeness of what missing child Madeleine McCann would look like aged six

“Specifically, the accused is charged with three offences of aggravated rape and two offences of sexual abuse of children. The investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann continues.” 

Why is Christian Brueckner connected to Madeleine McCann’s disappearance?

Brueckner’s camper van was reportedly spotted near the area of Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007, and back in 2017 he reportedly told a friend that he knew all about what had happened to her. German authorities made him the official prime suspect in 2022.  

Portuguese authorities from the Judicial Police criminal investigation unit work during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Portuguese authorities work during a new search operation amid the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine in 2023

The reservoir currently being searched is around 30 miles from where Maddie was taken from her room in Praia de Luz and is believed to be a favourite place for Brueckner to visit, with the convicted sex offender calling it his “little paradise”. 

madeleine mccann disappearance timeline what happened© Photo: Getty Images
Maddie went missing aged three

Speaking to the BBC about the current search into the reservoir, which was previously searched in 2008, former police officer Jim Gamble said that the German authorities have “gone further to state that they believe Madeleine has died, and that she was killed in Portugal. 

“Given that they are pursuing these lines of inquiry in such a positive and direct way, I would make the assumption that this is going to be a very deliberate, direct and focused search.” He added that he believes the police have "more information than they're sharing with the public, so ultimately they will be trying to corroborate issues they have already hypothesised”. 

madeleine mccann photo© Photo: Getty Images
Madeleine went missing in 2007

German authorities released a short statement about their search of the reservoir, which read: “As part of the investigation into the case of Madeleine McCann there are currently measures related to the criminal process taking place in Portugal. The measures are being implemented... by the Portuguese law enforcement authorities with the support of officers of the [German] Federal Criminal Police Office. Further information on the background will not be released at this time.” 

Everything to know about Prime Suspect: Who Took Madeleine McCann

The one-off special is now available on iPlayer, with the description reading: "It’s been 16 years since the disappearance of a three-year-old girl shocked the world. The German authorities now think Madeleine McCann was murdered by a drifter with a history of sexual violence. 

"So, who is Christian Brueckner and how strong is the evidence against him? Reporter Richard Bilton, who has followed the case since the first days of Madeleine’s disappearance, travels across Portugal and Germany to find out more about the man suspected of abducting and killing her."

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