Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner
True Crime

BBC One documentary explores evidence against Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner

He insists he's innocent

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Prime Suspect: Who Took Madeleine McCann? airs on BBC One this week, more than 16 years since the disappearance of the three-year-old in Portugal – but what’s the evidence against Christian Brueckner?

The German authorities are pursuing a theory that she was murdered by the drifter. He’s a known paedophile from Germany, who has a history of sex crimes.

In this BBC One documentary, journalist Richard Bilton reports on the discovery of prime suspect Christian. He’s currently serving time in a German prison for another heinous crime.

Richard travels across Germany and Portugal to examine the evidence. He aims to determine how strong the case is that Christian Brueckner abducted and murdered the missing girl Madeleine McCann.

Reporter Richard Bilton
Richard Bilton reports for Panorama (Credit: BBC/Maurice May)

Christian Brueckner names as an ‘arguido’ in abduction of Madeleine McCann

Portuguese police named Christian Brueckner as an “arguido” – an official suspect – in the abduction and murder of three-year-old Maddie.

Investigators working on McCann’s disappearance insisted they had “concrete evidence” that she is dead and believed Brueckner killed her.

Christian B is a known paedophile, and is being investigated over several other sex crimes. In addition to being investigated over the disappearance of Maddie, Christian Brueckner was also being investigated over the disappearance of five-year-old Inga Gehricke.

Inga went missing during a family barbecue by the Wilhelmsholf, an assisted living facility located in the district of Stendal in May 2015. Christian was living in the same area as the location of the barbecue. But prosecutors eventually dropped the Gehricke investigation in relation to him.

In June 2020, Portuguese police named German-born Christian as the man “responsible” for Maddie’s kidnap and probable murder. However, police have so far not bought charges against him.

Christian Brueckner, who is 46, was born in 1976 as Christian Fischer in Bavaria. His birth mother gave him up for adoption, and placed him in a children’s home in Würzburg.

The evidence against Christian Brueckner in the Madeleine McCann case

Christian Brueckner was living near where Madeleine McCann was staying around the time of her disappearance in 2007. He was living on the Algarve coast in a motorhome.

Three-year-old Madeleine vanished from her family’s holiday flat on the Algarve in 2007. Reports say Christian B changed his appearance just weeks after the crime.

The suspect in the case was described as strange and intimidating by people in the Portuguese village. One resident even claimed people were terrified of the man because he was said to carry a gun.

Madeleine McCann turned 20 on May 12, 2023. She has been missing for more than 16 years. She was presumed dead in absentia on May 04 2020 at the age of 16.

Madeleine McCann prime suspect Christian Brueckner
Madeleine McCann prime suspect Christian Brueckner (Credit: Shutterstock)

A friend of Christian B made a damning statement

A former friend of Christian B previously made a damning statement against the convicted paedophile. The statement became the cornerstone of the case led by German police.

Helge Busching was a friend of Christian B when they lived in the Algarve around the time Maddie disappeared. He told police that Christian made a confession in 2008. It happened during a conversation about Maddie’s disappearance at a music festival in Spain.

When Helge B speculated over “how Madeleine McCann could have disappeared without a trace”, Christian said: “She didn’t scream.” Helge explained: “I thought, he knows that. He has something to do with it.”

However, a source close to the German probe later claimed that Helge B was “wobbling” and threatening to withdraw his evidence.

Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner is currently in jail for rape

Christian B is currently in a high-security prison in Oldenburg, near the small northern prison of Bremen dubbed the Alcatraz of Germany. He is due to be released in 2026. German authorities convicted him of the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old woman in the Algarve.

The crime took place 18 months before Maddie was abducted on May 02 2007.

The McCanns holding Maddie's soft toy
The McCanns holding Maddie’s soft toy during appeal (Credit: Bruce Adams/Shutterstock)

He’s a convicted criminal with a history of abuse

He is known to have sexually abused girls from a young age. Police first arrested him in 1992 on suspicion of a burglary in his hometown of Würzburg.

In 1994, when he was just 18, police sentenced him for the sexual abuse of children when he molested a six-year-old girl in a public playground. A judge gave him a two-year youth jail sentence for “abusing a child” and “performing sex acts in front of a child”.

In 1995, he travelled to Portugal and began working as a caterer in the seaside resorts of Lagos and Praia da Luz. Friends, however, say he began to traffic drugs into the Algarve.

As well as his two year youth jail sentence for sexually abusing a child, Christian has a string of other convictions. He spent two months in Evora prison in 1999 for a minor offence, and nine months in 2006 after being caught stealing diesel from lorries on a garage forecourt.

In 2011, police sentenced him for “dealing narcotics” in Niebüll, northern Germany. In 2016, a judge gave him 15 months in prison for “sexual abuse of a child in the act of creating and possessing child pornographic material”.

Police extradited him from Portugal back to Germany in June of 2017, for the Braunschweig district court 15 month sentence for the sexual abuse of a child. He lived on the streets after being released in August of 2018. Police jailed him again shortly after for drug offences.

In September of 2018, police arrested him in Milan, Italy, extradited him to Germany, and put him on trial for the rape of an American tourist in 2007. Police found a DNA match to his hair at the crime scene. A judge and jury convicted him in Braunschweig in 2017.

Mobile phone records place Christian Brueckner at the scene of Madeleine McCann crime

Mobile phone records allegedly placed Christian Brueckner in Praia da Luz the night Madeleine McCann vanished. Christian received a 30 minute call in Praia da Luz (the area in which the resort McCann was last seen) around an hour before she disappeared.

However, new evidence found by former detective Mark Williams-Thomas found that the phone evidence linking Christian to Madeleine’s disappearance – the crucial 680 number – could have been up to 35 kilometres away.

In July 2020, it was reported that Christian B modified his VW camper van so that he could use it to hide a child.

Madeleine McCann's parents Kate and Gerry hold up poster of what she'd look like now
Madeleine McCann’s parents Kate and Gerry hold up poster of what she’d look like now (Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA/Shutterstock)

Christian Brueckner insists he’s innocent

Christian B has always maintained that he had nothing to do with Maddie’s disappearance. He denied killing the toddler in disturbing letters written from his prison cell.

He wrote a string of letters to exonerate himself of anything to do with Maddie’s disappearance 16 years ago. In a neatly, pencil-written letter, he tried to persuade the authorities and public that he is innocent.

Brueckner wrote in a letter in May: “You can never imagine how it is when the whole world believes you are a child murderer, and you are not.”

He added: “I got told a long time ago that the prosecutor’s office was closing the Maddie case because there is not even the smallest evidence. There will never be a trial.

“The prosecutors are not saying anything to the public because they must give the files to my lawyers – and they contain many (sic) material which confirms my innocence.”

Brueckner even alleged that police and prosecutors were “attempting to create a monster” to “divert and let people think that I am the right one”.

Graphologist Tracey Trussell, who examined the letters, said they showed Brueckner was “distorted, deluded” and his “fantastical views are constant, unchanging”.

According to former detective Mark Williams-Thomas, Christian has an alibi for the night of Madeleine’s abduction. Christian claimed he had a holiday fling with a German 18-year-old girl the week of Madeleine’s disappearance.

Mark believes there are major flaws in the case against Christian. During the filming of a Channel 5 documentary, investigator Mark Williams-Thomas – the man who exposed Jimmy Savile – comes to the conclusion that Christian Brueckner is innocent of killing Madeleine McCann.

Read more: Madeleine McCann case against Christian B set to collapse as key witness ‘about to withdraw evidence’

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Prime Suspect: Who Took Madeleine McCann? airs on BBC One at 8pm on Monday, October 30, 2023.

Do you think Madeleine McCann could still be alive? Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.

Helen Fear
TV Editor