According to investigators in Portugal, 44-year-old Christian Brueckner was named an “official suspect” in the case just last week — roughly two years after he became a “person of interest” in the case. Now, as the news continues to spread, even Madeleine’s parents have spoken out about the latest developments, which could finally crack the entire case.
Three-year-old Madeleine disappeared on May 3, 2007, while vacationing with her family in Portugal.
At the time, the McCanns were staying at a resort complex in Praia de Luz and had traveled to the tropical beach town from their home in Rothley, a small village in Leicestershire, England.
But they certainly weren’t there alone.
Kate and Gerry McCann were vacationing with three other couples they knew, many of whom had children that they’d brought along, too. In fact, the parents felt so safe at the resort that on the night of Madeleine’s disappearance, all of the kids were put to bed inside their hotel rooms before the adults grabbed dinner and drinks at a nearby tapas restaurant.
The restaurant was 100 yards away from the strip of hotel rooms, and the parents developed a system that involved checking on them every 30 minutes, in shifts.
It was during their fifth night away that tragedy struck.
It had been Kate McCann’s turn to check in on the kids when she poked her head inside her hotel room and felt her stomach drop. The McCanns’ 2-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie, were safe and sound asleep, but 3-year-old Madeleine was nowhere to be found.
The frantic mother immediately notified hotel security, as well as her husband and their friends. Police soon swarmed the resort, as well, and continued to broaden the search for Madeleine in the days and weeks that followed, with no luck.
Madeleine’s disappearance would go on to captivate the world for years.
But sadly, few details about her abductor (or where she might have wound up) were ever really known. For more than a decade, wild theories popped up as the perplexing case continued to fascinate the public and haunt her parents.
Over the past two years, interest in the case has been somewhat revived.
In 2020, British police made a bombshell announcement: they had zeroed in on a “person of interest” whom they strongly believed was behind the toddler’s kidnapping. At the time, authorities declined to reveal the suspect’s full name or even a photograph. Instead, they described the suspect as a 6-foot-tall, white German national with blond hair who was about 30 years old when the crime was committed.
The mystery man was said to have lived a “transient lifestyle” in the region of Portugal where Madeleine disappeared and was determined to be in the area of the Praia da Luz resort when she vanished. Officials also shared that he was currently imprisoned on an “unrelated matter,” which was not disclosed.
Now, it appears they were talking about Brueckner the whole time.
According to BBC News, Brueckner has not been charged with any crime related to Madeleine’s disappearance and denies any involvement in the case.
That said, he has not yet issued a public response. That’s likely because the 44-year-old is currently imprisoned in Germany on two different offenses. In addition to serving time for drug charges, Brueckner was also given a seven-year sentence for raping a 72-year-old woman in 2005 — in the same town where Madeleine went missing.
Brueckner was formally identified in a statement issued by prosecutors on April 21.
According to a Portuguese source who spoke with Sky News, interest in Brueckner as a suspect isn’t just circumstantial.
“The legal grounds for making [Brueckner] an ‘arguido’ [formal suspect] include the fact that he allegedly confessed to a friend he had snatched Madeleine and mobile phone records placed him in Praia da Luz the night she vanished,” the source shared.
As for the timing of it all, there’s been much speculation that authorities made the announcement this week due to a statute of limitations that would soon run out. According to a report by BBC News, “it would no longer be possible to declare someone a person of interest beyond May 3, which will be 15 years since Madeleine was reported missing.”
But Portugal’s office of public prosecutions stated that the move to identify Brueckner publicly had less to do with the timing and more to do with “strong indications” that he committed a crime. Whatever the case, it has now made it possible for authorities to take an even closer look at Brueckner, which could include bringing him in so police can formally question him. According to the Daily Mail, investigators have already seized the VW camper van Brueckner lived in at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance in order to process it for DNA.
After hearing about the new development last week, the McCanns issued a brief statement to the public.
It was shared on the Official Find Madeleine McCann Campaign page on Facebook, and makes it clear that the couple maintains hope their daughter is still alive.
“We welcome the news that the Portuguese authorities have declared a German man an ‘arguido’ (formal suspect) in relation to the disappearance of our beloved daughter Madeleine,” it read. “This reflects progress in the investigation, being conducted by the Portuguese, German, and British authorities.”
“It is important to note the ‘arguido’ has not yet been charged with any specific crime related to Madeleine’s disappearance,” the statement noted, adding that “Even though the possibility may be slim, we have not given up hope that Madeleine is still alive and we will be reunited with her.”
In the meantime, the community of Rothley, where Madeleine once lived, has renewed hope that justice will be served.
“I think the whole area was affected by it because you always think what would happen if that was one of your children or grandchildren,” Barbara Stevenson, 84, told the BBC. “I just remember a very pretty little girl who had different colored eyes and she was an absolute little gem and I thought, ‘If that was my granddaughter how on earth would I cope?'”
“I just feel that any outcome that gives the family some sort of closure is the best that can really be hoped for now after such a long time,” added Ruth McPheat, 67, who also lives in Rothley. “You just really do hope that this will be some sort of explanation and give the family that feeling that at least they have some chance of moving on, because I don’t think up to now they’ve had that opportunity.”