The prime suspect in the case of the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann in 2007 could be freed from custody tomorrow if a ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg goes his way.
Christian Brückner, aged (43) is contesting a European arrest warrant issued after he was arrested in Italy in 2018. He was extradited to Germany on the basis of the warrant, which mentions only a drugs conviction.
However he was also convicted and sentenced to seven years for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz in Portugal in 2005 – the very same town from where Maddie went missing two years later.
Brückner is known to have drifted around Portugal in a camper van at the time of Maddie’s disappearance, and to have a history of sex crimes, including the sexual assault of a six-year-old when he was still a teenager.
The case before the court in Luxembourg concerns the very technical issue of the exact terms of the arrest warrant, which his lawyers claim make the warrant invalid.
Because he is appealing the 2005 rape conviction, he has not started serving that sentence. If he is now illegally in custody, the court could decide to release him.
Hans-Christian Wolters is the prosecutor for Braunschweig in Germany, where Brückner is currently in custody under the warrant. He firmly believes Brückner is responsible for Maddie’s disappearance, and that he knows what became of her later.
But the suspect is refusing to cooperate, and the warrant is all Wolters has to keep him in custody.
“Of course we want to keep our suspect behind bars, so we can interrogate him immediately under indictment,” said Wolters. “But there is no point endlessly stretching the investigation. One day we will have to being an end to it.”
Wolters and his team fear that if the Luxembourg court frees Brückner, he will flee and be unable to be interrogated further, leaving the investigators and Maddie’s family none the wiser as to the fate of the child.
In Portugal, meanwhile, police are searching wells in the area of Praia de Luz, as well as the vicinity of the beach at nearby Boca do Rio, where Brückner was camping with his van at the time Maddie went missing.