McCann suspect raped woman at knifepoint, trial told

Picture shows Christian B, a suspect in the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann in Portugal, stands trial in Germany on unrelated sexual assault charges in Braunschweig, Germany.
Christian Brückner, 47, is on trial for five sex offence charges [Reuters]

A woman who alleges she was raped by the man suspected of murdering Madeleine McCann has been giving harrowing evidence in court.

Hazel Behan said she felt a “fear that I could never ever put into words” after being woken by a masked stranger.

It is one of five sex offence charges against Christian Brückner who is also the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

He denies involvement in both cases.

Warning: This article contains distressing details

Madeleine McCann went missing from Praia de Luz, aged three, in Portugal’s Algarve region in 2007.

The case remains unsolved but German investigators have identified 47-year-old Brückner as a prime suspect though he has never been charged.

The sex offence accusations he is on trial for are unrelated to McCann but all allegedly took place in Portugal between 2000 and 2017.

A court in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, has heard from an Irish woman, Hazel Behan, who used to work as holiday rep in Praia de Rocha.

The 40-year-old – who sat just metres away from Brückner in the court room – has previously waived her anonymity.

She told judges how on a night in June 2004, aged 20, she went to a bar.

She then walked the short distance back to her apartment block alone, as her boyfriend had become involved in an argument.

“I never walked home alone other than that night,” and she felt a “bit upset” by her boyfriend’s behaviour, she said.

After falling asleep, in her clothes, the next thing she remembered was being woken “by someone calling my name.”

handout photo of Madeleine McCann in an Everton Football shirt
Christian Brückner is the prime suspect in the Madeleine McCann case but has never been charged [Everton Football Club]

She said she briefly thought it might be her boyfriend coming to apologise before realising he did not have a key and then seeing a man dressed in black “from head to toe”, armed with a knife.

In what would become a prolonged ordeal, she described being raped three times – in her bedroom and at the apartment’s breakfast bar.

“I have had three children and I have never felt that pain,” she told the court.

Ms Behan, who became emotional during parts of her testimony, recalled being tied up and whipped – with the attacker filming part of the assault.

She said the man, more than once, ordered her not to scream and asked if she was scared.

She added that he spoke English with a German accent, had piercing blue eyes and a mark on his thigh.

At one point she feared he would “chop my head off” but she eventually saw him flee through the balcony door.

In the weeks prior, money she kept in a box under her bed had been stolen which had left her feeling “unsafe” in the apartment.

Ms Behan talked about the alleged callous treatment she would go on to receive by Portuguese police handling her case.

At a scheduled appointment, she said officers chatted to each other, one of them with his feet on the desk, before they “threw” some of her belongings at her.

Years later, Hazel Behan read a news article about Brückner, googled him and said she recognised his distinctive eyes in a photo that made her physically sick.

An assault he had already been convicted of bore a strong similarity to her own, she has said – prompting her to come forward.

Discussing the longer-term impact of the attack that Brückner is alleged to have carried out, Ms Behan suggested she would no longer be here if she had not – at a later date – become pregnant with her son.

She told the court that, before the attack, she had been “carefree”.

“When something like that happens to you, you are no longer the same person.”

Ms Behan told the court she is still taking panic attack medication to this day.

Christian Brückner’s legal team has previously said the overall case is based on shaky foundations and are contesting the charges.

The trial continues.

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