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Germany investigating McCann suspect’s links to other similar cases

The Portuguese detectives are facing fresh scrutiny over missed opportunities to focus on a local sex criminal in their investigation into the disappearance of McCann.

German authorities this week said they had identified the 43-year-old German citizen as a suspect in the McCann case and are investigating him on suspicion of murder.

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The suspect, who is currently in prison in Germany, spent many years in Portugal, including in Praia da Luz around the time of McCann’s disappearance, and has two previous convictions for “sexual contact with girls,” authorities said.

The suspect’s description fits that of a 43-year-old man who was convicted in December in the city of Braunschweig of the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in her apartment in Portugal, based largely on DNA evidence.

The suspect denied the charges during his trial and has appealed his conviction.

According to a copy of the rape verdict – which has all names redacted – sent by the Braunschweig court in response to a question by the Associated Press about the McCann suspect’s December conviction, the German man was a career criminal who was in and out of jail.

His crimes included the sexual abuse of a child in 1994 when he would have been around 17 and was tried in youth court, as well as a 2016 case in which he was convicted abusing another child and of possession of child pornography. Other convictions include drug trafficking, burglary and weapons violations.

Gerry and Kate McCann, pictured in 2012 with a photograph of what Madeleine would look like as an older girl.

Gerry and Kate McCann, pictured in 2012 with a photograph of what Madeleine would look like as an older girl.Credit:AAP

While in Portugal he worked odd-jobs, and had experience of breaking into apartments as police said he burgled hotels and villas as well as selling drugs.

Madeleine, then three, was abducted from a room in the Ocean Club holiday complex in the area on May 3, 2007.

Brueckner received a half-hour phone call from an unknown person around an hour before Madeleine was last seen, and a Jaguar car registered in his name was re-registered to someone else in Germany the day after.

Reports say he had lived at a rented farmhouse around a 1.5km from the resort and was staying in a distinctive VW campervan at the time, living in a “transient” manner.

German police have released images of the farmhouse in an appeal for witnesses.

Grassy scrubland near the property on the outskirts of the town was extensively searched by British and Portuguese police seven years later in 2014, but no evidence was found.

Portuguese police would not answer questions about whether Brueckner was ever spoken to as part of their initial investigation, but reports suggest a German pedophile was looked at and ruled out as a suspect in 2008.

Portuguese detectives were widely criticised for their handling of the case, missing chances to secure potentially key forensic evidence in the room from where Madeleine was taken.

They shelved their investigation as unsolved after just 14 months, a period that saw Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry made formal suspects.

Ex-lead detective Goncalo Amaral, who was removed from the case after criticising British police, wrote a bestselling book in 2008 implicating them in their daughter’s abduction and accusing them of hiding her body.

Amaral, who has made outlandish claims including that MI5 was involved in a cover-up, said last year that a German pedophile currently in jail was “probably going to be the scapegoat” in the case.

Brueckner was known to Scotland Yard’s investigation but did not become an official suspect until 2017 following information received after the 10-year anniversary appeal and subsequent inquiries, the force said.

AP

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