‘Essential’ that truth is discovered, Kate and Gerry McCann say on 15th anniversary of daughter’s disappearance
The man suspected of abducting Madeleine McCann has reportedly claimed he was having sex in a camper van at the time of the girl’s disappearance with a woman he said would provide him with an alibi.
Christian Brueckner was revealed in 2020 to be the chief suspect in a German probe into the British toddler’s disappearance in Portugal – exactly 15 years ago on Monday – and was officially named a suspect by Portuguese police last month.
While German prosecutors say telecomms data shows Brueckner received a phone call on 3 May 2007 near the Praia da Luz holiday apartment from which the three-year-old went missing, he now reportedly claims to have been miles from the scene in the company of a young German woman.
The 44-year-old insists he drove the woman – who was on holiday with her parents – to the airport in Faro for her return flight home the following day, and they were stopped and photographed at a police roadblock, according to Sky News.
The woman was then arrested at airport security for carrying an illegal pepper spray and later appeared in court, Brueckner reportedly claims.
While he had previously been unable to remember the woman’s full name, Brueckner has since been able to identify her and believes Portuguese authorities should have a record of the encounters, the broadcaster reported.
It is claimed that, while investigating the rape of a 72-year-old woman for which Brueckner is now serving a seven-year prison sentence in Germany, police found a photograph of the woman lying in Brueckner’s camper van.
But German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the probe with detectives from Portugal and the UK, appeared to contradict the claims of a potential alibi.
“We actually haven’t found a single piece of the puzzle in the two years that would have somehow helped to exonerate Christian B,” Mr Wolters told Sky News. “So it’s really nothing that would somehow maybe be an alibi or something. Nothing of that has come to light, really at any point.
“What we found out, it all went in the other direction, so was rather incriminating, without me being able to elaborate on that now.”
He said it was “not foreseeable” when his team’s investigation would end, adding: “I can’t say that we will definitely conclude the investigations this year. That really also depends on how this develops.”
There have also been reports that British investigators have found an alibi for Breuckner during the days around Madeleine’s disappearance, and a Channel 5 documentary airing on Tuesday is reportedly set to include four different people backing it up.
Portuguese police named Bruckner an arguido – a formal suspect – on 21 April. It is the first time they have identified an official suspect since 2007, when they named Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann as suspects, both of whom were later cleared.
It has been suggested that the move could potentially be “procedural”, in connection with the fact that Portugal’s statute of limitations does not allow certain crimes to be prosecuted more than 15 years after they were committed.
But Portugal’s office of public prosecutions said the announcement was driven not by timing, but by “strong indications” of criminality.
In comments made ahead of the 15th anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance, Madeleine’s parents said it remains “essential” they learn the truth of what happened to her.
This year’s anniversary “feels no harder than any other but no easier either”, the couple said in a message on the Official Find Madeleine Campaign Facebook page on Monday in which they thanked their supporters for the “huge comfort” of knowing that, “regardless of time passed, Madeleine is still in people’s hearts and minds”.
“Many people talk about the need for ‘closure’. It’s always felt a strange term,” they said. “Regardless of 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.”
They expressed their gratitude for the “ongoing work and commitment” of police in the UK, Portugal and Germany “as it is this combined police effort which will yield results and bring us those answers”.
In July 2013, Scotland Yard launched its own investigation, Operation Grange, into Madeleine’s disappearance.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who leads the operation, said: “Fifteen years on from Madeleine’s disappearance in Praia Da Luz our thoughts, as always, are with her family.
“Officers continue to investigate the case and our dedicated team are still working closely with law enforcement colleagues from the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria as well as the German Bundeskriminalamt.
“At this time, the case remains a missing person’s inquiry and all involved are committed to doing what we can to find answers.”
Brueckner has reportedly denied any involvement in the case and has not been charged.
He is currently serving a seven-year jail term in Germany for raping a pensioner in Praia da Luz and has reportedly been denied parole, despite being eligible after serving half of his sentence, because he was deemed a high risk of reoffending.
Additional reporting by PA