Madeleine McCann suspect launches SECOND bid to walk free

Madeleine McCann suspect launches new bid to walk free: Christian Brueckner seeks early release from drugs sentence just two days after scrapping first appeal

  • Brueckner is currently in prison in Kiel on a drugs charge but is eligible for parole after two-thirds of his term 
  • He is appealing a separate rape conviction and cannot be locked up over Madeleine while he is only a suspect 
  • German police this week searched his garden in Hanover and could now investigate a second allotment  

Madeleine McCann’s suspected kidnapper has launched a fresh attempt to get out of prison just two days after scrapping his first parole bid. 

Christian Brueckner is currently behind bars in Kiel on a drugs charge, but is eligible for release under German law after serving two-thirds of his sentence.  

While he has separately been convicted of rape in Braunschweig, he is still appealing that verdict which means his sentence has not yet begun – and he cannot be locked up over Madeleine while he is only a suspect. 

Brueckner had previously appealed to judges in Braunschweig to set him free in the drugs case, but after abandoning that bid on Tuesday he has now re-submitted the parole request to a different court in Kiel. 

A German lawyer said Brueckner would be hoping for a more favourable hearing from the judges in Kiel, because Braunschweig authorities are still pressing to have him imprisoned in the rape case.    

Brueckner’s legal wrangling comes after police staged a two-day search of his vegetable garden near Hanover this week, prompting speculation that another of his allotments would be searched in Braunschweig.  

One neighbour has even voiced fears that the body of missing toddler Inga Gehricke – described as the ‘German Madeleine’ – could be buried under the plot. 


Christian Brueckner (pictured left) has launched a second bid to walk free from prison while the investigation continues into whether he abducted Madeleine McCann (right) in 2007 

Christian Brueckner lived at this allotment in Braunschweig, 40 miles from the vegetable garden which was searched by police this week – meaning it could be the next target of the Madeleine investigation 

Police use rakes to search an allotment in Hanover this week where bags of evidence were taken away from the garden 

Brueckner’s drugs sentence is due to expire on January 7 next year, but he reached the two-thirds mark on June 7 which makes him eligible for early release under German law. 

His lawyer Friedrich Fuelscher told German media that the new application had been submitted to Kiel because that is where the suspect is currently in prison. 

The previous application was withdrawn after a German federal court ruled that Braunschweig was responsible for deciding on it. 

The Braunschweig court convicted him last December for the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old woman in Praia da Luz, the same Portuguese seaside resort where Madeleine vanished in 2007.     

Speaking to Bild, lawyer Alexander Stevens said Brueckner would have reasoned that ‘the court in Braunschweig has convicted me for rape… it’s perhaps not very good if the court in Braunschweig then decides on my parole.’    

Asked about the chances of Brueckner being paroled, Stevens assessed it as ’50/50′ and said the suspect was still considered innocent in the rape case because the appeals process is ongoing.

He added that the Madeleine case could not lead to Brueckner being kept in custody, saying: ‘He is regarded as innocent until you can prove the opposite. 

‘And even if he was convicted, he could lodge an appeal, the whole thing would take forever, and at that point you’re still regarded as innocent in Germany. The two things have nothing to do with each other.’  

Brueckner was identified as the new chief suspect in the Madeleine case last month, but German authorities do not have enough evidence to charge him with Madeleine’s abduction. 

Fuelscher branded the allotment search as ‘pure desperation’ and accused the German authorities of backing the ‘wrong horse’ in comments to the local HAZ newspaper.   

‘The search is a pure desperate act of the public prosecutor’s office. The police won’t find anything about Maddlie there,’ he said. 

‘Apparently, it’s hard for investigators to admit they backed the wrong horse.’

The lawyer, who maintains Bruecker had nothing to do with Madeleine’s disappearance, claims the police have known about the allotment for years.

He said: ‘The site has been known to the authorities for years. So far, however, it has not been of any interest.’ 

Madeleine detectives are currently analysing a trove of items which were seized from Brueckner’s allotment in Hanover after a two-day search of the plot on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Neighbours at his second allotment in Braunschweig said yesterday that Brueckner had dug a 10ft cellar there which could be searched by police for traces of the missing youngster.   

Manfred Richter, 80, said: ‘Brueckner excavated the floor of the house. He took out the rocks and the earth. He dug a big hole. It was 10ft deep and 20ft wide. He carried out the rocks and earth by hand and dumped it out by the front of the house.  

‘He put put planks of wood over the top of the hole. It took him two months to complete. He started in the morning and worked until evening. Doing this work got him in trouble with the authorities in charge of the gardens.’

The woman who now owns the plot has encouraged police to come and search it, saying: ‘I worry that I could be sleeping on top of the body of Madeleine McCann.’

Another neighbour said the woman was also worried that Inga Gehricke – the German toddler whose 2015 disappearance is seen as a parallel of the Madeleine case – could be buried under the shed. 

‘She is convinced Inga is under there. That cellar was built by a previous tenant,’ the neighbour told the Mirror. 

Prosecutors have confirmed they are probing possible connections between the two cases, while saying that Brueckner was not currently a suspect in Inga’s disappearance. 

Another neighbour said Brueckner had never done any gardening in Braunschweig but would visit the allotment with his girlfriend and work in his shed, before he left the plot abruptly and was never seen again.  

The allotment in Braunschweig which neighbours say could be searched by police after Brueckner occupied it between 2013 and 2016 and spent some time living there 

Manfred Richter (pictured), a neighbour of Christian Brueckner in Braunschweig, said the Madeleine suspect had dug a 10ft cellar underneath his allotment shed 

Owners of the adjoining gardens in Braunschweig believe that the garden where Brueckner used to work in a shed will soon be probed as part of the Madeleine investigation

Neighbour Juergen Krumstroh said: ‘I believe the police will come soon and start digging up the garden to for traces of Madeleine McCann, just like they did in Hanover.

‘I used to see Brueckner sitting in the garden. Sometimes he used to come with his young girlfriend. He did not grow any vegetables or plants. But I know that he built something inside the shed because I could hear him working.

‘Brueckner was a strange man. I was not close to him. Although I would drink a beer with him occasionally. Then one day he gave me a letter saying he wanted to give up the allotment and he left the next day.’   

The Braunschweig garden is one of dozens of council-run plots rented out to city dwellers, and a small wooden house now stands at the entrance to the green space.

Garden owners are not supposed to live at the sites permanently but they are allowed to build simple houses and occasionally overnight. 

Brueckner is believed to have visited the garden numerous times between 2013 and 2016 when he ran a kiosk in Braunschweig, usually at weekends with his young girlfriend Nakscije Miftari. 

She had an 18-month relationship with Brueckner while she was a teenager and it is alleged by her family that he beat up and did ‘horrible things to her’.  

Another neighbour added: ‘This is a strange situation because a woman bought the allotment from Brueckner and she has no idea what he may have done.’ 

Prosecutors in Braunschweig – who are handling the case because Brueckner’s last known address was there – would not comment on whether the second allotment would be searched like the Hanover one. 

Christian Brueckner’s former allotment in Germany was covered in a layer of sand after detectives finished their two-day search in the Madeleine McCann investigation 

Police officers were seen carrying large blue bags away from a German allotment where kidnapping suspect Christian Brueckner allegedly lived in 2007

Items including a blue bucket were loaded into a skip after they were found at the search site where detectives found a hidden cellar underneath a long-demolished building 

The allotment has now been covered in sand with samples of mud and soil sent away for analysis by German investigators 

Police officers fill up a skip during their search of Christian Brueckner’s former allotment near Hanover, which ended last night after a two-day investigation 

The sudden interest in Brueckner’s Braunschweig allotment comes after investigators ended their two-day search of the garden near Hanover. 

Samples of mud and soil have been sent away for analysis while a trove of items were loaded into a skip after excavators dug up the plot.   

The allotment has now been cleared and covered in a layer of sand, with fencing removed except for a line of police tape, but prosecutors are refusing to reveal what they were looking for or whether they found it.   

The search team discovered dozens of items in a secret cellar under a long-demolished shed, including a blue bucket, a plant pot, tarpaulin, a string bag, bags of gravel, corrugated iron, wooden floor boards, iron bars, plastic piping, a laundry bag, plastic covering and a tree trunk.  

The potential evidence was loaded into a skip by a German police search team and taken away on a truck on Wednesday night.  

Prosecutors last night refused to disclose whether any new evidence linking the suspect Brueckner to Madeleine McCann had been discovered during their operation.

Spokeswoman Julia Meyer said simply: ‘We do not want to make any reports in order not to jeopardise the investigation.’

Brueckner’s former neighbours say he set up camp at the Hanover allotment in 2007 – the year Madeleine vanished – before the buildings on his plot were demolished in late 2007 or 2008, leaving the hidden basement.   

Wolfgang Kossack, 73, who owns the plot next to Brueckner’s Hanover allotment, told MailOnline that Brueckner had lived off-grid at the site in 2007 and talked about planning his return to southern Europe.   

The police cordon as it looked after investigators left the scene, covering the area in sand to stop anyone entering the cellar 

An excavator on the plot of land near Hanover where Brueckner’s former neighbour says there used to be a shed and cellar

Mr Kossack said he only realised the link to Brueckner this week when police started digging up the allotment, saying: ‘I remembered his face from the pictures in the news. And I remember his van and his dogs. I had completely forgotten about him up until then.’  

The allotment is only a short drive away from an apartment block where Brueckner was registered while living in Hanover, and the ‘Havana Club’ bar which he is thought to have frequented is also nearby. 

German media says he received at least two criminal convictions from a Hanover court, one for forging documents in 2010 and another for theft in 2013.   

He split his time between Germany and Portugal from 2013 to 2015, prosecutors in Hanover have said. 

Speaking to MailOnline, neighbour Mr Kossack said: ‘Christian Brueckner had the garden next to mine. He arrived in 2007 and left within a year. He told me that he was living off the grid, that he had not registered with the authorities – no one knew he was there.

‘He never did any gardening. He did not plant anything or try to grow anything. He just sat around drinking beer.

‘At the time there was a building on the garden. It was a small wooden structure with only one room to keep tools and other things but it had a kitchen.

‘The building was not really a house, you might call it a shed. But it had a cellar and underneath there would be foundations. This building was destroyed in 2008.’   

He added: ‘I feel so sorry for the parents of Madeleine McCann. I hope they can find out what happened to their daughter.’  

A police officer uses a detection dog while digging at an allotment as police searched the area in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

A map showing the location of Brueckner’s apartment block in Hanover and of the vegetable garden which is being searched in northern Germany

Specialist search dogs that look for dead bodies and computer equipment were being used as part of the huge investigation

What do we know about Maddie murder suspect Christian Brueckner and his criminal past?

1976: Christian Brueckner is born in Würzburg under a different name. He was adopted by the Brueckner family and took their surname.

1992: Brueckner is arrested on suspicion of burglary in his hometown of Wurzburg, Bavaria.

1994: He is given a two-year youth jail sentence for ‘abusing a child’ and ‘performing sex acts in front of a child’.

1995: Brueckner arrives in Portugal as an 18-year-old backpacker and begins working in catering in the seaside resorts of Lagos and Praia da Luz. But friends say he became involved with a criminal syndicate trafficking drugs into the Algarve.

September 2005:  He dons a mask and breaks into an apartment where he rapes a 72-year-old American tourist.

The victim was bound, gagged, blindfolded and whipped with a metal cane before being raped for 15 minutes. She said afterwards that he had clearly enjoyed ‘torturing’ her before the rape.

April 2007: He moves out of a farmhouse and into a campervan now linked to the crime. The farmhouse is cleaned and a bag of wigs and ‘exotic clothes’ is found.

May 3, 2007: Madeleine McCann is snatched at around 10pm from her bed as her parents eat tapas with friends yards away. Brueckner’s mobile phone places him in the area that night.   He returns to his native Germany shortly after that. 

October 2011: He is sentenced to 21 months for ‘dealing narcotics’ in Niebüll, in northern Germany. 

2014: He moves to Braunschweig where he starts running a town-centre kiosk. He then goes back to Portugal with a girlfriend.

2016: He is back in Germany. He is given 15 months in prison for ‘sexual abuse of a child in the act of creating and possessing child pornographic material’. 

May 3, 2017: Brueckner is said to be in a bar with a friend when a ten-year anniversary appeal following Madeleine’s disappearance is shown on German television. He is said to have told him in a bar that he ‘knew all about’ what happened to her.  The friend apparently went to police.

June 2017: He heads back to Portugal and is extradited again to Germany to face 15 months’ imprisonment for the sexual abuse of a child. 

August 2018: After his release from prison he lives on the streets. But he was jailed again for drug offences. 

September 2018: Brueckner is arrested in Milan and extradited to Germany and to face trial for raping the American tourist after a DNA match to hair found at the scene. 

July 2019: He is jailed for 21 months for drug dealing in the northern German resort of Sylt.

August 2019: Brueckner  is charged with the rape of the American tourist in Praia da Luz in 2005.

December 2019: He is convicted of rape raping the tourist based on DNA evidence. He is given a seven year sentence, but has not yet started it because of an ongoing appeal.  

June 4, 2020: Brueckner is named by German media as the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Brueckner, a career criminal, was identified as the new lead suspect in June after German police released a trove of new evidence including details of his cars and phone numbers, urging people to come forward with new tip-offs.  

Investigators in Germany said at the time that Madeleine was assumed to be dead, going further than British police who are still treating the toddler’s disappearance as a missing-person case. 

Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, last month denied receiving a letter from German investigators stating that ‘there is evidence or proof’ Madeleine is dead.

German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the German investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, said that a letter had been written to the couple, but would not reveal what it said.

Mr Wolters said prosecutors have ‘concrete evidence’, but not ‘forensic evidence’ that Madeleine was killed by the suspect and may ‘know more’ than Scotland Yard, who are still treating the case as a missing person investigation.

The Metropolitan Police maintain their active investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, Operation Grange, is a missing person inquiry as there is no ‘definitive evidence whether Madeleine is alive or dead’.

In the days after the renewed appeal, Scotland Yard said they received hundreds of tips to their Operation Grange team. 

Portuguese authorities are also continuing their investigation and earlier this month searched a series of wells in the Algarve region.   

Police and divers in the Algarve region examined a series disused wells in Vila do Bispo, around 10 miles from Praia da Luz. 

Multiple investigators were at the scene with specialist diving equipment to examine the wells, with the largest thought to be more than 40ft deep.

Brueckner is known to have lived on the Algarve coast and his Portuguese mobile phone received a half-hour phone call in Praia da Luz around an hour before Madeleine went missing 13 years ago – a key piece of evidence in the German investigation.

Police hope to track down the person who placed the call, regarding them as a crucial witness to Brueckner’s movements on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance.  

Brueckner made a living doing odd jobs in the area where Madeleine disappeared, and was also known to have burgled hotel rooms and holiday flats. 

He has not yet spoken to investigators, who say they are convinced that he has committed other sex attacks. 

Madeleine went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in the Portuguese holiday resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday, as her parents dined with friends at a nearby tapas bar.

Despite a huge international manhunt, no trace of her has been found, nor has anyone been charged over her disappearance.

In September 2007, Gerry and Kate McCann were questioned by police as formal suspects. The following July, the Portuguese police dropped their investigation because of a lack of evidence and cleared the McCanns of any involvement.

The UK government has continued to fund Scotland Yard’s investigation despite increasing doubts over whether the case would ever be solved.  

The McCanns’ lawyer Rogerio Alves said police have only 22 more months to nail down the case because of a 15-year statute of limitations in Portugal. 

Speaking on McCann: The Hunt for the Prime Suspect on ITV, Alves said: ‘We have a 15 years time barrier, even to manslaughter, to homicide, to certain sexual offences — and even to the most serious kind of kidnapping.

‘So we are still on time. But time is getting short now.’ 

Brueckner’s last known address in Hanover was at this apartment block, around three miles from the allotment which is being searched by German police

The Euro Hobbywerkstatt car mechanics workshop where Christian Brueckner rented a space. Brueckner rented a space at the mechanics workshop in Hanover where he worked on numerous different cars and vans

Kate and Gerry McCann (pictured together) discovered their daughter Madeleine missing in Praia da Luz in May 2007  

Brueckner’s name has also been mentioned in connection with other missing children, some of whom vanished in similar circumstances to Madeleine. 

In one case, five-year-old Inga Gehricke vanished from a forest in Saxony-Anhalt in 2015 and prosecutors confirmed they were probing possible connections to the McCann case, while saying that Brueckner was not currently a suspect. 

He reportedly had a property in the town of Neuwegersleben, around 60 miles south-west of Stendal when Inga went missing. 

Separately, the family of German six-year-old René Hasse, who went missing in the Algarve in 1996, revealed that police are re-investigating the case for the first time in 20 years. 

Dutch police have also prepared a dossier for German police to look for a possible link to the disappearance of seven-year-old Jair Soares in 2005. 

Jair went missing when he went to buy chips near the town of Monster in the South Holland province of the country on August 4, 1995. 

A spokesman for police in The Hague confirmed that after announcing their intention to exchange information they have now presented the case and ‘were in talks’.

He said: ‘Presenting the case means that we look if there are any similarities between the cases. So we look for clues that connect them.’

How the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann unfolded over 13 years  

2007

May 3: Gerry and Kate McCann leave their three children, including Maddie, asleep in their hotel apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, as they eat with friends in a nearby restaurant. When they return, they find Maddie missing from her bed

May 4: A friend of the McCanns reports of seeing a man carrying a child away in the night.  Meanwhile, airports and borders are put on high alert as search gets underway

May 14: Robert Murat, a property developer who lives a few yards from the hotel, is made a suspect by Portuguese police

May 30: The McCanns meet the Pope in Rome in a bid to bring worldwide attention to the search

August 11: Police in Portugal acknowledge for the first time in the investigation that Maddie might be dead. 

September 7: Spanish police make the McCanns official suspects in the disappearance. Two days later the family flies back to England

2008

July 21: Spanish police remove the McCanns and Mr Mural as official suspects as the case is shelved

2009

May 1: A computer-generated image of what Maddie could look like two years after she disappeared is released by the McCanns 

2011

May 12: A review into the disappearance is launched by Scotland Yard, following a plea from then-Home Secretary Theresa May 

2012

April 25: After a year of reviewing the case, Scotland Yard announce they belief that Maddie could be alive and call on police in Portugal to reopen the case, but it falls on deaf ears amid ‘a lack of new evidence’

Kate and Gerry McCann mark the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine with the publication of the book written by her mother in 2011

2013

July 4: Scotland Yard opens new investigation and claim to have identified 38 ‘people of interest’

October 24: A review into the investigation is opened by Portuguese police and new lines of inquiry are discovered, forcing them to reopen the case

2014

January 29: British officers arrive in Portugal as a detailed investigation takes place. During the year, several locations are searched, including an area of scrubland near the resort 

2015

October 28: British police announce that team investigating Maddie’s disappearance is reduced from 29 officers to just four, as it is also revealed that the investigation has cost £10million 

2016

April 3: Operation Grange is handed an additional £95,000 by Theresa May to keep the investigation alive for another six months  

2017

March 11: Cash is once again pumped into keeping the investigation alive, with £85,000 granted to keep it running until September, when it is extended once again until April next year

2018

March 27: The Home Office reveals it has allocated further funds to Operation Grange. The new fund is believed to be as large as £150,000

September 11: Parents fear as police hunt into daughter’s disappearance could be shelved within three weeks by the new Home Secretary amid funding cuts

September 26: Fresh hope in the search for Madeleine McCann as it emerges the Home Office is considering allocating more cash for the police to find her

2019  

April: Controversial new Netflix documentary re-examining Maddie’s kidnap is released, triggering a barrage of online abuse against Kate and Gerry by heartless trolls. They pair, who refused to take part in the eight hour programme series, slammed it for ‘potentially hindering’ the search for their daughter while an active police hunt is ongoing

June 5: The Home Office gives the Metropolitan Police enough funding to investigate for another year

June 22: Detectives say they are ‘closer than ever’ to solving the disappearance as they look into a new suspect. A joint effort by British and Portuguese police narrowed in on a ‘foreign’ man who was in the Algarve when she went missing in 2007

December 7: Paulo Pereira Cristovao, a long-time critic of Maddie’s parents who angered them with a controversial book about the mystery disappearance, was convicted of participating in the planning of two violent break-ins at properties in Lisbon and the nearby resort of Cascais. He is jailed for seven and a half years

December 11: Maddie’s parents revealed a touching list of what they miss most about their daughter as they spent their 13th Christmas without her

2020

February 22: Scotland Yard detectives questioned a British expat about her German ex-boyfriend. Carol Hickman, 59, claims police entered her bar in Praia da Luz, Portugal to ask questions about her former partner 

March 27: Detectives requested extra money to continue their investigation into the disappearance of the toddler in Portugal back in 2007, with funds for the operation set to run out at the end of the month

 June 3: Police reveal that a 43-year-old German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.

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