Madeleine McCann suspect to stay silent in German rape trial

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Christian Brückner is serving a seven-year jail term for rape committed in Portugal in 2005
By Jessica Parker
BBC Berlin correspondent

The prime suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann in Portugal in 2007 is expected to stay largely silent at his forthcoming trial in Germany for unrelated sexual offences – according to his lawyer.

Christian Brückner is due in court on 16 February, accused of five offences between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal.

He is already serving a jail sentence for rape.

Brückner has never been charged with Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.

He has denied any involvement.

Three-year-old Madeleine, from Rothley in Leicestershire, was on holiday with her family at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, in Portugal’s Algarve when she disappeared on 3 May 2007. Her whereabouts remain unknown.

Brückner, a German national, was made a formal suspect by Portuguese prosecutors in 2022.

He had already been identified as a suspect by German prosecutors in 2020, named at the time only as Christian B.

Brückner’s lawyer told the BBC via email that he did not expect his client to make “substantive submissions” during the upcoming trial in Braunschweig, in Lower Saxony, which could last for months.

“We will see whether the defendant will defend himself in silence or make statements denying individual acts,” said Friedrich Fülscher, a public defender.

“At the moment, I do not assume that there will be any substantive submissions.”

Brückner’s lawyer said that “no negative conclusions” could be drawn from this.

“Whether a defendant declares ‘I have nothing to do with it’, ‘I am innocent’ or the like, or whether he uses his right to remain silent, leads to the same result in criminal proceedings,” said Mr Fülscher.

“So this does not mean that there is something to hide, but is simply due to the fact that it makes sense from a procedural point of view.”

Brückner would still be expected to confirm biographical details such as his name and date of birth.

Braunschweig’s chief prosecutor has charged Brückner with five offences, alleged to have been carried out between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal, including the rape and sexual abuse of children.

A subsequent ruling found that the court in Braunschweig had no jurisdiction over the case but that was later overturned.

The five charges he faces include:

The rape of an unidentified woman aged between 70 and 80 in her holiday home in Portugal at some point between 2000 and 2006
The rape of a girl believed to have been at least 14 years old at his home in Praia da Luz at some point between 2000 and 2006
The rape of a young woman after entering her apartment in 2004
The sexual abuse of a child on a beach in 2007
The sexual abuse of a child in a playground in 2017.

Originally the case was taken up in Braunschweig because that was the region where he was last officially registered.

Christian Brückner is currently serving a seven-year sentence for rape which he committed in 2005 in Portugal.

The trial, due to start next week, will determine whether he remains behind bars at the end of that sentence.

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