Portuguese knew German suspect was a paedophile when Madeleine McCann vanished
London - Portuguese authorities knew Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner was a convicted sex offender a year before she disappeared, court papers reveal.
Police on the Algarve have defended the five-year gap between Madeleine going missing in 2007 and the new suspect coming into the frame by claiming that they knew nothing of his past at the time.
But court papers released on Friday show Brueckner admitted his sordid past, telling a Portuguese judge in 2006 that he was a convicted paedophile.
The German drifter, who molested a six-year-old schoolgirl when he was 17, told the court of his crime as he was jailed for stealing diesel in the Algarve.
It means that the Portuguese police and judiciary will once again face troubling questions over why Brueckner was not part of the Madeleine investigation from the start, given that he was released from prison five months before the then three-year-old vanished.
After Brueckner, 43, was named earlier this month as a suspect in the 13-year-old inquiry, questions were immediately asked as to why he was not on the radar of the original investigation. Just this week, amid criticism of their investigations, a Policia Judiciaria source told local media: ‘Nearly all the Portuguese nationals and foreigners living on the Algarve with sex offence convictions were questioned at the time.
‘Although Brueckner had arrived in Portugal from Germany in 1996 after fleeing a child sex abuse conviction, he wasn’t on that list of predators.
‘That case of sexual abuse of a minor did not cross the German borders and that meant the PJ didn’t know about it.
‘The German was known to police in Portugal, but for petty crimes he’d been convicted of which didn’t raise any alarm bells in May 2007.’
The force has said the German’s name was among 600 passed to British police in case files in 2012 –five years after Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.
The court files released yesterday also reveal that a blue Bedford van belonging to Brueckner was unwittingly destroyed by Portuguese police before it could be searched for evidence.
The drifter used to sleep in the van on a beach near Praia da Luz before he was jailed in mid-2006.
Six months after her disappearance, police visited an unofficial scrapyard which Brueckner gave as his address to the court to order him to pay the fine for stealing fuel, only to find he had disappeared.
It is thought they then impounded the van for a number of months before it was sold to a breaker’s yard to satisfy the £90 fine. Portuguese newspaper Expresso said: ‘It will never be known if the vehicle could have contained any clues about the missing British youngster.’
Brueckner, described by German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters as ‘a multiple sexual predator already convicted of crimes against little girls’, was first convicted of child sex crimes in 1994. He has 17 convictions, including child pornography, theft and drug dealing.
Brueckner, who was adopted, is nearing the end of his latest sentence for drugs charges.
Last year, he was also convicted over the vicious rape of a 72-year-old American widow in Praia da Luz in 2005. He argued, unsuccessfully, at his trial in Germany in December that the 240billion-to-one DNA hair sample that convicted him must have come via her pet cat which he stroked outside her villa. Brueckner was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, pending the outcome of an appeal.
Last night, Graham Hill, a former senior British detective who was sent to Praia da Luz days after Madeleine vanished, said: ‘The question for the Portuguese is: what system did you have, if any? Because I’m not sure they had a system back in 2006 and 2007 which allowed them to easily record information about sex offenders and then search for them.
‘If they didn’t have it, they are now getting caught out because they knew about this man in 2006 and knew he had convictions for sex offences back in Germany.’Daily Mail