What We Know About Christian Brueckner, the Man Suspected of Murdering British Girl Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann was 3 years old when she went missing while on vacation with her family in Portugal's resort town of Praia da Luz

<p>Collect/Handout / Alamy Stock Photo, Carabinieri via AP</p> Madeleine McCann, Christian Brueckner

Collect/Handout / Alamy Stock Photo, Carabinieri via AP

Madeleine McCann, Christian Brueckner

Madeleine McCann vanished without a trace while on vacation with her family in the resort town of Praia da Luz on Portugal’s western Algarve coastline in on May 3, 2007.

The 3-year-old's parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, left her and her 2-year-old twin siblings in an unlocked rental while they ate at a restaurant 130 feet away.

When Madeleine's mother went to check on the children, Madeleine was missing.

Initially, her parents were suspects in her disappearance, but they were cleared by authorities the following year.

The case made international headlines and spawned several theories about what happened to the young girl.

In 2011, British authorities took an invested interest in the case, and Prime Minister David Cameron announced a British inquiry called Operation Grange. Since then, a team of detectives have investigated 60 people of interest, taken over a thousand statements and looked into countless potential sightings of Madeleine around the world, per The Guardian.

<p>HANDOUT/METROPOLITAN POLICE/AFP via Getty</p> Madeleine McCann


Madeleine McCann

In 2020, German prosecutors said Christian Brueckner, a 47-year-old German national who lived in the Algarve region on and off for years, was the main suspect in her disappearance and presumed murder, per the Times of London.

In an unrelated case, Brueckner is currently facing three counts of rape and two counts of sexual abuse against children in a trial in Germany, the BBC reports.

Related: Where Are Madeleine McCann’s Parents Now? A Look at Their Lives After Their Daughter's 2007 Kidnapping

Brueckner Is a Convicted Rapist

Brueckner’s name made headlines in mid-2020 when German authorities said they were investigating the German national in connection with Madeleine’s death.

Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters told the Times of London that it was his “private opinion” that the convicted rapist “relatively quickly killed the girl, possibly abused her and then killed her.”

Wolters added, “We believe our suspect committed further crimes, especially sexual crimes, in Portugal possibly but also elsewhere like Germany.”

A year earlier, in Dec. 2019, Brueckner was given a seven-year sentence for raping a 72-year-old American woman in 2005 in Portugal, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

According to the documents, the rape occurred at a villa close to Praia da Luz, where Madeleine’s family had rented a vacation home. A video of the assault allegedly showed him assaulting the woman, another woman, and a teenager, per the Times.

In 2022, Portuguese prosecutors announced that there was an official suspect in Madeleine’s case. However, they did not reveal his name, but said that he was identified as a suspect after they acted on a request made by German and British police, the Associated Press reported. It remains unclear if Brueckner was the official suspect or if it was someone new.

<p>LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty</p> Kate and Gerry McCann pose with an artist's impression of how their daughter might look now at the age of nine on May 2, 2012.


Kate and Gerry McCann pose with an artist's impression of how their daughter might look now at the age of nine on May 2, 2012.

Brueckner also served time in prison for dealing drugs, according to the Times.

In May 2023, authorities spent three days searching the Barragem do Arade reservoir in Portugal, about 30 miles from where Madeleine went missing, the Evening Standard reported.

The same spot was searched in 2008 by divers commissioned by a Portuguese lawyer who claimed he was told by criminal contacts that Madeleine’s body was there, reported the Evening Standard.

On Trial in Germany

Brueckner has been on trial in Germany’s Braunschweig state court for unrelated rape and sexual assault charges since February, the Associated Press reported.

The attacks allegedly took place in Portugal between 2000 and 2017, the BBC reported.

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Brueckner is accused of raping a woman in her 70s in her Algarve home, sexually abusing a girl aged at least 14, and the sexual assault of a woman at knifepoint in her home in 2004, according to the Evening Standard. He allegedly videotaped that attack, per the Evening Standard.

Related: Prosecutor Thinks Madeleine McCann Was Killed Shortly After Abduction

Email Account Allegedly Linked to Madeleine's Case

In early June 2024, a German investigator testified that authorities discovered an email account that is “related to the killing” of Madeleine.

Titus Stampa, a detective with Germany’s Federal Crime Police, told a court that the Hotmail account allegedly belonged to Brueckner, per the Times of London.

Stampa said he wasn't allowed to talk about the account, according to the Times.

At trial, Stampa alleged that authorities found a second email account he used to share photos and videos of child abuse, and that emails from that account were deleted in early 2007 when Madeleine disappeared, per the Telegraph.

“I can remember that things were massively deleted in the inbox. There was nothing in there from January 2007,” he testified, according to the Telegraph.

Once Suspects, Madeleine's Parents Say They're 'Living in Limbo'

Gerry and Kate McCann continue to advocate for their daughter and believe that they will one day be reunited with her.

“It’s 17 years since Madeleine was taken from us. It’s hard to even say that number without shaking our heads in disbelief. Whilst we are fortunate in many ways and able to live a relatively normal and enjoyable life now, the ‘living in limbo’ is still very unsettling,” they shared on the Find Madeleine website on May 3, the 17-year anniversary of her disappearance.

They continued, “Your support continues to encourage us and bolsters our strength to keep going. We know the love and hope for Madeleine and the will to find her, even after so many years, remains, and we are truly thankful for that. Thank you again for remembering Madeleine and all missing children.”

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