German police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have reportedly discovered a secret cellar on the property where the main suspect Christian Brueckner lived.
The “ominous” hideaway near Hanover was discovered underneath a demolished shack on the plot allotment on Wednesday night (local time) as officers ended the third day of their search, The Sun reported.
Police used excavators, sniffer dogs, shovels and rakes to investigate the plot, where neighbours said Brueckner, 43, moved to 10 years ago and left within a year.
Some officers appeared exhausted and one woman was seen wiping what seem to be tears from her face.
One neighbour told the publication the cellar had been there for years but wasn’t filled in when the shed on top was torn down in 2007 – the same year Madeleine, 3, vanished from a Portugal hotel.
Wolfgang Kossack, who lived on a nearby property, said Brueckner wanted to insulate the cellar.
“Given all I know now, it was possible he was trying to cut himself off and hide from society,” he told The Mirror.
“He was living there. The allotment plot with the cellar beneath it was something he wanted to insulate.
“It was a sort of cellar. It was two square metres wide and one and a half deep. Nobody else had one, he inherited it from a previous resident who used to plant vegetables there straight after the war.”
Mr Kossack said Brueckner hoarded polystyrene foam boards in the shack, which he thought was odd because people are not supposed to stay overnight on the plots, except the occasional hot summer night.
Others said the suspect, who was nicknamed “the screwdriver” because he always smelled like oil and petrol, was well known in the area for selling cannabis.
Prosecutors have declined to say what the investigators were looking for.
A spokeswoman for the Braunschweig prosecutor’s office said she could not comment further than that the activities on the site were connected to their investigation regarding Madeleine.
Brueckner is in prison in Germany for selling drugs and for raping a 72-year-old woman in Praia da Luz, the same seaside town in Portugal’s Algarve region where Madeleine vanished while her parents, Kate and Gerry, dined nearby, The Mirror reported.
He has two previous convictions for “sexual contact with girls,” authorities have said.
He was last registered living in the city of Braunschweig, which is about 70 kilometres from Hannover.
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