McCann suspect in German trial for unrelated sex offences

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Christian Brückner is serving a seven-year jail term for rape committed in Portugal in 2005
By Jessica Parker & Daniel Sandford
BBC News in Braunschweig, Germany

The prime suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann goes on trial in Germany on Friday for unrelated sex offences.

Christian Brückner will be in court in the northern city of Braunschweig, facing three allegations of rape and two of sexual abuse, dating back to between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal.

He is already serving a seven-year jail sentence for rape.

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

He has denied any involvement.

The three-year-old British girl vanished from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region, in 2007. It remains one of the highest-profile missing persons cases in the world.

Christian Brückner, 47, was identified as a suspect by German investigators in 2020, in what they have classed as a murder inquiry. He was subsequently made an arguido, or formal suspect, by Portuguese authorities.

However no formal charges have ever been brought against Brückner in the McCann case, and the full details of the German investigation have never been released.

Warning: You may find some of the details of the German case distressing

Friday’s public court appearance in Braunschweig in Lower Saxony will be his first since he was linked to Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.

The charges he faces, in a trial that will be heard by judges not a jury, are for five unrelated and separate offences in Portugal:

The rape of a woman aged 70 to 80 in her holiday apartment in Portugal between 2000 and 2006
The rape of a German-speaking girl of at least 14 at a house where he lived in Praia de Luz, again between 2000 and 2006
The rape of an Irish woman whose holiday flat he is alleged to have broken into from her balcony in Praia da Rocha in 2004. In all three rape cases, Brückner is accused of whipping the victim and filming the assaults
Sexual abuse of a 10-year-old German girl on a beach in Salema in 2007. This was three and a half weeks before Madeleine McCann disappeared
Forcing an 11-year-old girl to watch a sex act at a playground in Bartolomeu de Messines during a festival in 2017.

The trial is taking place in the north-western state of Lower Saxony because that was where Brückner was last officially registered.

According to the German criminal code he could be given between five and 15 years in prison, if found guilty.

Brückner’s lawyer, Friedrich Fülscher, has previously said that the charges are based on “very, very shaky foundations” and recently told the BBC he expected his client to stay largely silent during the trial.

But “no negative conclusions” could be drawn from this, the lawyer emphasised.

Christian Brückner was born in Bavaria, Germany in December 1976 and reportedly spent time in care during his youth.

Brückner is said, by prosecutors, to have lived “more or less permanently” in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, working in odd jobs.

BBC Panorama has seen parts of his Portuguese criminal file which shows years of convictions including petty crime, theft and rape.

In the immediate wake of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, Brückner was not closely investigated.

However, Portuguese police went on to name the three year old’s parents as suspects.

Madeleine McCann’s disappearance is still unsolved, 17 years later

Kate and Gerry McCann’s arguido status was lifted in 2008 and the couple later received an apology for how the case was handled.

Brückner would go on to move back and forth between Germany and Portugal.

He is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence for raping a 72-year-old American tourist in 2005 in Praia da Luz.

This trial may determine whether he remains behind bars after that sentence, which is due to end in December 2026.

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