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Madeleine McCann case: major suspect in her disappearance on trial as van searched for DNA

Christian Brueckner was using a white van in Portugal at the time of Maddie's disappearance

madeleine mccann disappearance timeline what happened
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
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German police will reportedly be searching a van used by their prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, Christian Brueckner.  

The white Mercedes Sprinter was a rental from the Rosier dealership in Braunschweig, Germany, and police hope that it will still contain DNA relating to Brueckner’s victims. Kate and Gerry McCann have yet to release an official statement on the latest update, HELLO! has reached out for comment. 

WATCH: A brief history of the Madeleine McCann case

Speaking to The Sun about the van, an employee at the company said: “We cleaned it and repaired it but it wouldn’t have been wiped of all DNA. There could still be hairs and other traces of anyone who was kept inside. Due to data protection issues, we cannot give you exact dates or further details of the client.”

An undated handout image supplied shows a police mug shot of Christian Brueckner© Handout
An undated handout image supplied shows a police mug shot of Christian Brueckner

The rapist and sex offender used the white van while living in Praia de Luz, Portugal at the time of Maddie’s disappearance. The then-three-year-old went missing from a hotel room that she shared with her younger twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, while her parents Kate and Gerry dined at a nearby restaurant. 

German police named Brueckner as the official suspect in her disappearance back in 2022, and have gone to some lengths to discover evidence, including recently searching a reservoir nearby to the hotel. 

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

A witness, Helge Busching, claimed that he overheard the suspect speak about Madeleine during a music festival in 2008, claiming that she "didn't scream". He used the police hotline for Madeleine tips then - but never heard anything back from them. In 2023, he told German newspaper Bild: “I called Scotland Yard back in 2008, at the Maddie hotline. I said I knew someone who might have something to do with it and gave them the name. But nothing happened there. Nothing! I was never called back.” However, it has also been reported that the witness was not believed to have been reliable by authorities. 

Speaking about the situation to the BBC, former police officer Jim Gamble said at the time of the reservoir search 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”. 

Kate and Gerry McCann hold up a picture of Madeleine during a press conference in 2007© Getty
Kate and Gerry McCann hold up a picture of Madeleine during a press conference in 2007

Brueckner, who is currently serving a jail sentence for raping a 72-year-old woman in 2005, is also on trial on five charges, including sexually assaulting an underage girl, an Irish tour guide and an elderly woman. 

During the trial, his prison cellmate is reportedly set to testify against him by sharing details of stories he heard during their time in prison together, including that Brueckner allegedly claimed to have held a teenage girl hostage. 

Madeleine McCann went missing when she was three© Getty
Madeleine McCann went missing when she was three

3 May 2024 will mark 17 years since Madeleine’s disappearance. Speaking on the 15th anniversary of her disappearance in 2022, Kate and Gerry released a statement on the Find Madeleine website that read: “Many people talk about the need for ‘closure’. It’s always felt a strange term. Regardless of the outcome, Madeleine will always be our daughter and a truly horrific crime has been committed. These things will remain. 

“It is true though that uncertainty creates weakness; knowledge and certainty give strength, and for this reason our need for answers, for the truth, is essential. We are grateful for the ongoing work and commitment of the UK, Portuguese and German authorities as it is this combined police effort which will yield results and bring us those answers. 

madeleine mccann eyes photos© Photo: Getty Images
It has been almost 17 years since Maddie disappeared

“As always, we would like to thank all of our supporters for their continued good wishes and support. It is a huge comfort to know that regardless of time passed, Madeleine is still in people’s hearts and minds. Thank you.” 

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