Christian Brückner: Here's all we know about the German pedophile suspected in Madeleine McCann's disappearance
Thirteen long years after she disappeared, police appear to be close to a breakthrough in the case of Madeleine McCann and have announced a German sex offender is under investigation on suspicion of murder.
Madeleine was just three years old when she disappeared on the evening of May 3, 2007, from her bed in a holiday apartment at a resort in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve region of Portugal, where she had been on a vacation with her parents.
Her disappearance attracted widespread media attention, sparked an international manhunt, multiple investigations that have cost millions of dollars, and has since come to be described as "the most heavily-reported missing-person case in modern history."
And it appears to be coming to a close if German authorities are to be believed. Christian Hoppe, a criminal investigator at Germany's Federal Criminal Police (BKA), announced that they had zeroed in on a 43-year-old German man currently behind bars for sex crimes as the prime suspect in the young girl's disappearance. German authorities also said that they are assuming Madeleine to be dead.
The man, who has been identified by the Guardian and sources in Portugal as Christian Brückner, would have been 30 at the time Madeleine went missing. He had worked in restaurants and had a record of break-ins at hotels and dealing drugs in the region where Madeleine's family was vacationing.
The night she vanished, police said he had a long telephone conversation from the area near Praia da Luz with a person on a Portuguese cellphone, who police are now urging to come forward as a witness. They have also appealed to anyone who might have noticed one of two conspicuous vehicles Brückner used at the time and which they believe was used to kidnap Madeleine. One was a maroon Jaguar XJR 6 with a German license plate that was changed several times, including the day after she disappeared.
The other was a white-and-yellow Volkswagen camper van with a Portuguese license plate he is believed to occasionally have lived in but did not own. Authorities said he frequented the Algarve region between 1995 and 2007 and would stay for "days upon end" in the camper van while living a "transient lifestyle."
Brückner's name is not a new one for police. He was listed amongst the hundreds of possible suspects in 2007, but there was not enough information to open an investigation. Then, in 2013, his name was once again brought up on German public television show 'File Number XY Unresolved' during an appeal for more information about the case.
It was after the 10th anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance that Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who is leading the Met Police investigation into the case in Britain, said his detectives received more information about Brückner and they began looking into him in earnest. He had come to their attention after allegedly confessing to a person at a bar in Germany that he knew what had happened to the three-year-old girl.
The New York Times reported that German authorities used the tip and gathered enough evidence to allow prosecutors in the city of Braunschweig — near his last home in Germany before he moved to Portugal in his late teens — to open a preliminary investigation that could lead to homicide charges.
A statement released by German police promised 10,000 euros to anyone providing information that could help them solve the case and provided a link where the public can submit photographs or any other evidence. Scotland Yard has also launched a joint appeal with the BKA and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ) with a reward of £ 20,000 for information.