On Thursday, German prosecutor Hans Christian Walters said in a press conference that while detectives are still investigating Brueckner, they do believe McCann is dead at this time. Walters stated, “With the suspect, we are talking about a sexual predator who has already been convicted of crimes against little girls and he’s already serving a long sentence.”
Three-year-old Madeleine went missing from the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz, Portugal, while on a family vacation in May 2007. At the time, her parents, Kate and Gerry, were eating dinner at a tapas restaurant on the resort with seven other people. Madeleine was asleep in her bed just 50 yards away from the restaurant. When Kate checked in on Madeleine and her two siblings at 10 p.m., Madeleine’s bed was empty.
For the past thirteen years, detectives in Portugal, Germany, and the UK have worked tirelessly to identify the person responsible for Madeleine’s alleged kidnapping. Now, they may be closer than ever to solving the mystery of her disappearance.
Here’s what we know:
1. Brueckner Is Serving Time for an Unrelated Sex Crime
Brueckner, who is now 43, is a convicted child sex offender and rapist, according to The Guardian. He is currently serving time at a prison in the northern German city of Kiel. Brueckner would have been 30-years-old at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance, but German prosecutors say he “may have looked between 25 and his early 30s” at the time.
The German newspaper Braunschweiger Zeitung reports that Brueckner is now serving a seven-year sentence for the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal. He was convicted in Braunschweig district court in December 2019.
According to SPIEGEL, Brueckner has a total of 17 convictions.
Christian Hoppe, from the Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany (BKA) tells the ZDF television channel that two of Brueckner’s previous convictions are for “sexual contact with girls,” according to Metro UK. Hoppe adds that German police have “not ruled out a sexual motive for the alleged crime against Madeleine.”
While police have not revealed how Brueckner emerged as a suspect, The Australian reports that the 43-year-old confessed that he knew “all about” Madeleine while drinking with friends one night when German television was airing a broadcast on the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance. Suspicious of Brueckner’s statements, one of those friends later came forward to the police.
2. Brueckner Was Living in the Algarve Between 1995 & 2007
According to BBC, Brueckner was living in the Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal where the Ocean Club was located, between 1995 and 2007. He held a variety of jobs in the area, and BBC reports that he also committed burglaries in hotels and dealt drugs.
The detective in charge of the Met investigation has said that Brueckner lived a “transient” lifestyle in his camper van in 2007, not far from the resort where Madeleine was stolen from, according to BBC.
The outlet writes that Brueckner was verified as being in the area where the family was staying when McCann was taken. Records indicate he received a phone call at 7:32 p.m. which ended at 8:02 p.m.. It is believed that Madeleine disappeared between 9:10 p.m. and 10 p.m. that same evening.
3. The Metropolitan Police Have Revealed the Details of 2 Vehicles That Brueckner Is Known to Have Had Access To
On Thursday, The Metropolitan Police revealed the details of two vehicles that Brueckner is known to have had access to and used at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
The first vehicle they mentioned is a VW T3 Westfalia campervan– an early 1980s model. DCI Mark Cranwell states, “We believe he was living in this van for days, possibly weeks, and may have been using it on 3 May 2007.”
The second car, a 1993 British Jaguar, model XJR 6, with a German license plate, is believed to have been in the areas surrounding Praia da Luz in 2006 and 2007. The Jaguar was originally registered in Brueckner’s name. One day after Madeleine’s disappearance, the car was re-registered to someone else in Germany, according to The Met Police.
Speaking on Thursday, DCI Mark Cranwell asked anyone who saw either car during the spring and summer of 2007 to contact them.
4. The Mccanns Believe the Development Is ‘Potentially Very Significant’
Kate and Gerry McCann believe the development in the case is “potentially very significant.”
The Australian quotes the McCann’s as saying, “We would like to thank the police forces involved for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine. All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice. We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive, but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace.”
The family’s spokesperson adds, “Of all the thousands of leads and potential suspects that have been mentioned in the past, there has never been something as clear cut as that from not just one, but three police forces.”
Jim Gamble, who was the senior child protection officer in the UK’s first investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, is quoted by the BBC as saying this is the first time in 13 years “when I actually dare to hope.”
5. Police Have Made a Public Appeal to Gather More Information on Brueckner
While it is too early to tell if Brueckner is a breakthrough in the case, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner has said that he is the “main line of inquiry” at this point in time. The Guardian quotes the deputy assistant commissioner as saying, “He is the main focus of our investigation, which is why we are making this appeal, to help us with that investigation, to prove or disprove his involvement.”
Police have released Brueckner’s phone number, and the number he dialed on the night Madeleine vanished, and are asking for the public for any information related to these numbers.
Those with information can contact the Operation Grange incident room on 020 7321 9251. As of 4 pm on Thursday, Detective Chief Crankwell stated he had received over 270 calls and emails linked to McCann’s disappearance.
A joint appeal from the British, German, and Portuguese police currently includes a £20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance.
READ NEXT: Where Are Madeleine McCann’s Parents Today?