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German prosecutor on McCann case says naming of suspect is legal formality

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By Reuters
German prosecutor on McCann case says naming of suspect is legal formality
German prosecutor on McCann case says naming of suspect is legal formality   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Maria Sheahan and Catarina Demony

BERLIN/LISBON – A German prosecutor investigating a jailed rapist over the 2007 disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann said on Friday that the man’s naming as a suspect in the case by Portuguese police was a legal formality while investigations continued.

Braunschweig prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said the suspect – whom he identified as Christian B but has previously said a man called Christian Brueckner is his main suspect in the case – had been told of the development by German prosecutors in prison in the northwest German city of Oldenburg.

Wolters said the suspect status related solely to the Portuguese enquiry – there are separate British, German and Portuguese investigations – and that his own probe could take longer to yield results.

“We can’t say whether we’ll come to a conclusion this year or next year,” he said.

Portuguese prosecutors announced on Thursday that Brueckner was now an official suspect, the first in the long-running case since the little girl’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, were named suspects in 2007. They were later cleared.

They declined to give the reason for the move but the prosecutor’s website says people are declared “arguidos” (a named suspect) if there are “well-founded suspicions of them having committed or participated in a crime”.

Wolters told Reuters that the move to declare Brueckner an official suspect was designed to interrupt Portugal’s 15-year statute of limitations for crimes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more.

Madeleine disappeared from her bedroom on May 3, 2007 during a family holiday in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz while her parents were dining with friends nearby.

German police said in June 2020 that Madeleine was assumed dead and that convicted child abuser and drug trader Christian Brueckner was likely responsible for it.

Brueckner lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007 and burgled hotels and holiday flats, according to court documents seen by Reuters in 2020.

He has been behind bars in Germany since 2019 for raping and robbing a 72-year-old American woman in the Algarve. He denies any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Wolters is also investigating Brueckner on suspicion of the rape of a young Irish woman in the same area in 2004.

He said he expected to make further announcements in May: “We have found some more evidence in other cases in Portugal, the rape of the Irish woman and other cases of abuse,” he said.

“We have intensified our investigation there, and results are foreseeable.”

Brueckner’s lawyer, Friedrich Fuelscher, declined to comment on the case, saying that the move by Portuguese authorities was merely to halt the statute of limitations.

British police declined on Friday to make a statement on the case.