Inga Gehricke, 5, who has been missing since Saturday, May 2, 2015. Picture: Polizei Sachsen-Anhalt via AP
Inga Gehricke, 5, who has been missing since Saturday, May 2, 2015. Picture: Polizei Sachsen-Anhalt via AP

Prosecutors probe links between Madeleine McCann case and German girl's 2015 disappearance

By dpa correspondents Time of article published Jun 5, 2020

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Magdeburg, Germany - German prosecutors said on Friday they were investigating a possible link between the Madeleine McCann case and that of a German girl who went missing five years ago, but that they lacked decisive evidence to charge a murder suspect.

"It is not yet enough for an arrest warrant or an indictment," said Hans Christian Wolters of the Braunschweig public prosecutor, which is leading the investigation.

Earlier this week, Wolter's office announced it was investigating a 43-year-old German man who has been convicted of multiple sexual offences as a murder suspect in the Madeleine McCann case.

The then 3-year-old British girl disappeared from a holiday villa in Portugal in 2007. Wolters told press on Thursday that German prosecutors are working on the assumption that McCann is dead.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in the north-eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt said they were looking into a possible link between the McCann case and that of a German girl who went missing five years ago.

Inga was 5 years old when she disappeared without trace while on a family trip to a forest near the town of Stendal on May 2, 2015.

Despite a thorough search and investigation, police were unable to determine what became of the girl.

Investigations are in the early stages, with authorities saying they would check whether there were any indications of a connection between the disappearances. No further details were given.

5-year-old Inga Gehricke has been missing since Saturday, May 2, 2015. German prosecutors have opened an investigation into whether a 43-year-old who has emerged as a possible suspect in the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann in Portugal may have been involved in a similar crime in Germany. Picture: Polizei Sachsen-Anhalt via AP

The German authorities have yet to explain what led them to conclude their current suspect was involved in Madeleine's disappearance or why they believe she is dead.

Christian Hoppe, of the German federal police, told a ZDF programme aired this week that investigators were first tipped off to the suspect in October 2013.

Back then, the information was not enough to continue probing, let alone for an arrest. Another tip about the suspect in 2017 was also insufficient, he said.

Prosecutors said they had received more tips following the broadcast on Wednesday night, which was watched by some 5.2 million viewers.

Prosecutors announced they had the German suspect at the same time.

Wolters said the show resonated widely, and that "numerous tips have been received and are currently being evaluated."

It is still unclear why exactly the 43-year-old is suspected of murder. Investigators have not yet commented on the possible evidence against the man.

Police said the suspect, whom they have not named, is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for a narcotics conviction from 2011. He is being held in the far northern city of Kiel, dpa has learned.

Meanwhile more details about the murder suspect and his life emerged on Friday.

Braunschweig prosecutors are leading investigations into the suspect because that was the location of the man's last known German residence.

Court documents show the man opened a kiosk in Braunschweig together with his then partner in December 2012.

After they separated, the man ran the business on his own for a further 18 months before giving up the kiosk and adjacent apartment, documents show.

"I experienced him as aggressive," the tenant who took over the suspect's lease told the Bild newspaper on Friday, adding that he believed the man owed debts to many creditors.

The man lived regularly in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, including several years in a house between Lagos and Praia da Luz.

He commuted regularly between Germany and Portugal, and has been convicted of crimes in both countries, including child abuse.

The man's earliest conviction is believed to date back to 1994.

Court documents show that in February 2016, a court in Braunschweig sentenced the man to a total of one year and three months in prison for the sexual abuse of a child and possession of child pornography.

Files show European arrest warrants were also issued against the man for outstanding prison sentences. He was last arrested in Italy in September 2018.

In December 2019 a court in Braunschweig sentenced the man to seven years' imprisonment for aggravated rape, including earlier sentences.

In 2005, he allegedly raped a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz. The sentence is not yet final.

dpa

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