Who Is Christian Brueckner, The Official Suspect In Madeleine McCann's Disappearance?

In 2007, the McCann family was on vacation in Portugal, dining at a resort with friends when their 3-year-old daughter Madeleine vanished from her bedroom. The case set off an international search for answers, and suspicions eventually turned toward Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann. However, as the investigation continued, the two of them were cleared of any wrongdoing, and the case became more or less stagnant for over a decade as investigators had trouble finding a viable suspect (via CNN).

In 2020, German authorities that they had evidence that led them to believe that a German man imprisoned on unrelated charges may have been involved in Madeleine's disappearance, per CNN. The suspect was initially identified only as Christian B. and he happened to have lived in Portugal's Algarve region, from which Madeleine vanished, between 1995 and 2007, at one point even living in the same town of Praia da Luz, a former fishing village now known for attracting tourists (via Algarve Tourist). In 2022, investigators further identified Christian B. as Christian Brueckner, a convicted pedophile who was named an official suspect in the case (via The Telegraph).

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann

Kate and Gerry McCann were having dinner with seven other people on the night of May 3, 2007, while their three kids were asleep in their apartment around 50 meters from the tapas restaurant where they were dining. According to Sky News, they had done the same thing earlier in their trip, but the next morning when Madeleine asked why they weren't in the apartment when she woke up, they made sure that the next time they would check on the kids more frequently.

On May 3, the couple left for dinner with the kids asleep, leaving the apartment door slightly ajar. Around 9 p.m. that evening Gerry McCann returned to the apartment to check on the kids and found the door in a different position than how it was left. He noticed all three kids still inside and fast asleep.

Another member of the McCann's dining party was in the apartment complex approximately 15 minutes later and reported seeing an unidentified man carrying a young girl. Six years later, police identified the man and determined that he was carrying his own daughter. Another friend checked on the kids around 9:30 p.m. and reported that they were all there, but when Kate McCann checked on them half an hour later, Madeleine was missing.

The investigation

The search for Madeline McCann started the very next day, and within two weeks Portuguese police had identified a suspect and interviewed him, But he was quickly cleared of any involvement.

The McCanns traveled around Europe and made media appearances in an effort to dredge up any information leading to their missing daughter, even meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City. A few months later Portuguese newspapers reported that police dogs had found blood believed to belong to Madeleine in the family's apartment, and not long after that Kate and Gerry McCann were named "arguidos" — a Portuguese word for suspects, per Sky News. The McCanns subsequently returned to the United Kingdom. They were later cleared of any involvement in their daughter's disappearance and later won several libel suits.

Over the years, investigators had what seemed like promising leads eventually fall apart or go nowhere, including an alleged "Victoria Beckham lookalike" with a New Zealand accent (other sources claimed it was an Australian accent, per The Sun) who had reportedly been spotted in neighboring Spain just a few days after Madeleine vanished. Despite occasional leads, no trace of Madeleine McCann has ever been found.

Who is Christian Brueckner?

In 2022, authorities officially named a new suspect in the case: Christian Brueckner, a German reported to be 44 years old (via CNN). According to The Daily Mail, Brueckner being named a suspect comes just shy of the 15th anniversary of McCann's disappearance, and perhaps uncoincidentally, Portugal has a 15-year statute of limitations for serious crimes.

Brueckner was reportedly born in Würzburg, Germany in 1976, though it's thought that he was born with a different name, believed to be Fischer. His criminal rap sheet started more than 30 years ago when he was arrested on suspicion of burglary in 1992. He later spent two years in prison for abusing a child and performing sex acts in front of a child.

He first arrived in Portugal in the 1990s after leaving prison and started working in resorts in the Algarve region, but it has since been alleged by those who knew him at the time that he was also involved in the area's illegal drug trade.

Brueckner in Portugal and becoming a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case

According to The Telegraph, back in 2007, Brueckner lived in a camper van not far from where Madeleine McCann vanished. It's been reported that he took up a nomadic, van-dwelling lifestyle to elude capture following a 2005 incident in which he broke into the home of a 72-year-old woman and raped her, for which he was finally arrested in 2018, and sentenced to seven years in jail the following year. Brueckner also had previous convictions related to both child abuse and drug offenses. However, in the years prior he was known to favor flashy cars and clothing, often wearing nice shirts and jackets while behind the wheel of a sports car.

The van in which he was living at the time — a white and yellow Volkswagen — is now a focus of the investigation. Both the van and a Jaguar with German license plates registered to Brueckner were reportedly seen in the area in 2007. Even more eyebrow-raising is that the day after McCann disappeared, Brueckner re-registered the Jaguar under the name of an acquaintance.

It's reported that Brueckner appeared on investigators' radar after he allegedly told someone in a bar he knew what happened to the McCann when a television displayed a news story commemorating the 10th anniversary of her disappearance.

Brueckner was made aware that he is now an arguido

According to The Telegraph, it isn't known who was responsible for letting Brueckner know that he was being named an arguido by German investigators working in conjunction with Portuguese investigators, but he was certainly made aware. Brueckner issued a statement claiming that he had not been questioned about any involvement in the case.

"I haven't been questioned on any allegations as required by German law, but it is obvious the German authorities and especially the Department of Justice are providing the media with information about me that is likely to make me appear contemptible," Brueckner said in a letter to The Daily Mail. He claimed that the allegations also had an impact on the staff of the prison where he's presently incarcerated. He closed the letter by throwing a barb at German investigators alleging that they had pointed the finger at him to "cover up the mistakes that have been made."