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Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann are now waiting for the results of forensic tests carried out on German rapist Christian Brueckner’s VW van.
Brueckner, 44, who has been linked to four other child murders across Europe since 1996, was sensationally named by German prosecutors as the man ‘responsible’ for Madeleine’s kidnap and murder in June 2020.
On Thursday, the child sex offender was handed a document in prison informing him he was being made an ‘arguido’ by Portuguese prosecutors – the Portuguese term for an official suspect.
German detectives interviewed Brueckner at Oldenburg jail, where he is serving a rape sentence.
They quizzed him for the first time on missing Maddie, asking him a series of questions including: ‘Where were you the night Madeleine McCann disappeared? If you weren’t by the apartment she disappeared from, where were you?’
Now, investigators are combing the VW van Brueckner drove while living on the Algarve, where Madeleine vanished on May 3, 2007, aged three from her family’s holiday apartment in the beach resort of Praia da Luz.
Convicted rapist Brueckner, 44, was identified by German police in June 2020 with prosecutors saying they believed he had murdered Madeleine McCann. He has now been named an official suspect
The suspect, who is in prison in Germany for rape, has been linked to an early 1980s camper van – with a white upper body and yellow skirting, registered in Portugal – which is seen here on the Algarve in 2007. Police believe it may have been used in the crime but they have not found the DNA evidence needed to charge him
Sources have said he answered none of the questions asked to him.
Brueckner is also under investigation for two further rapes carried out in Portugal close to where she vanished.
Madeleine McCann’s parents last night ‘welcomed’ news that German rapist Brueckner has been made an ‘arguido’.
Kate and Gerry have said they are fully aware of the latest development in the case which emerged last night – and are understood to be encouraged by the news.
A source close to the couple told MailOnline: ’Anything that implies progress in the case is to be welcomed and that is the view of both Kate and Gerry.
‘They won’t be saying anything publicly just yet but that’s not to say they won’t in the next few days ahead of the anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance.
‘Kate and Gerry both still have hope they will get answers in due course to what happened to Madeleine and anything which goes towards that is welcomed.’
The couple later added in a statement: ‘We welcome the news that the Portuguese authorities have declared a German man an “arguido” in relation to the disappearance of our beloved daughter Madeleine.
‘This reflects progress in the investigation, being conducted by the Portuguese, German and British authorities. We are kept informed of developments by the Metropolitan police.
‘It is important to note the “arguido” has not yet been charged with any specific crime related to Madeleine’s disappearance.
‘Even though the possibility may be slim, we have not given up hope that Madeleine is still alive and we will be reunited with her.’
Earlier this year it was reported that Home Office funding for Operation Grange – the Metropolitan Police investigation into their daughter’s disappearance – would be shelved in the autumn but their was no official response from Kate and Gerry.
Parents Kate and Gerry McCann will welcome the latest development in their daughter’s case, a source said
The last photograph taken of Madeleine shows her smiling next to her little sister Amelie and their father Gerry at 1.30pm on May 3, 2007 in Portugal, the day she went missing
Hans-Christian Wolters, from the Brunswick prosecutor’s office in Germany, revealed that Bruekner faces investigation over the cases.
Wolters, from the Brunswick prosecutor’s office in Germany, said: ’We haven’t spoken in depth about the other two cases, but I confirm we are looking into them.
‘These are two further rape cases and are in addition to the sexual assault on a little girl at the beach and the case of Hazel Behan.
‘These two rape cases are from evidence provided at Brueckner’s trial in 2019 from two witnesses who said they found footage on a video camera of him attacking these two women.
‘We have not been able to identify either of the victims.
‘We actually hope to have these cases all closed within the next few weeks and then it will be possible to consider charges for these but for the Madeleine McCann investigation we still need more time.’
The new allegations stem from a video camera found by two former friends of Brueckner but which has since disappeared.
Footage found on the camera allegedly shows an ‘older’ woman asking for ‘help’ in Italian as she is being whipped and raped by a masked man.
Madeleine McCann would have turned 18 last year. In 2012, five years after her disappearance, her family issued an age progression efit photo to show what Madeleine may have looked like aged nine (right)
It is suspected that Brueckner received a telephone call shortly before three year old Maddie was abducted from her ground floor apartment. Pictured: The Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, where Madeleine disappeared during a family holiday in 2007
On May 3, 2007 Kate and Gerry McCann went to a small tapas bar metres away from their apartment to dine with friends. But when Kate returned to do a routine check on their children, she found that Madeleine had disappeared
According to the men who have seen and described the footage, the attacker then takes off his mask and they say it is clearly Brueckner.
While another clip, according to the men, shows a younger woman, speaking German, tied to a wooden beam in his house, as she begs to be freed.
The men told police they also recognised the man in the second video as Brueckner and that it was filmed in his Portuguese home.
Their testimony was used to convict Brueckner of raping a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz just two years before Madeleine was abducted.
The victims have never been identified but Mr Wolters said:’The additional rape cases are from the testimony of the witnesses at his trial who described what they had seen on a video they found at Mr Brueckner’s house.’
These two new alleged rapes are in addition to a sex assault on a ten-year-old girl and another rape, that of Irish tour guide Hazel Behan, who has waived her right to anonymity and both of which happened in the same area.
Brueckner is currently serving a seven-year jail term for the rape of the elderly American woman in her home at Praia da Luz in 2005 and was convicted in Germany in December 2019.
The farmhouse where the prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance lived was located just two miles from where she went missing from her family’s holiday apartment
As part of that case witnesses described how they had found the graphic video in Brueckner’s home in Portugal which showed him raping two women.
Last night respected German daily Bild claimed he has had been made an ‘arguido’ – an official suspect in the case by police in Portugal, which is usually the precursor to charges. It brings new hope that one of the world’s most harrowing unsolved crimes could still be closed.
Brueckner, a convicted paedophile, is currently languishing in a German prison for the rape of a 72-year-old American tourist in Portugal just 18 months before Madeleine was abducted. He was known to break into Algarve hotel rooms and apartments to supplement his income from drug dealing, and left the south of Portugal suddenly in 2007 – the year Maddie vanished – after more than a decade living there.
He is alleged to have admitted abducting Madeleine to a friend in a bar – and German investigators are said to firmly believe he killed the three-year-old – but do not have the evidence to charge him with Scotland Yard said to believe that officers in Europe may be relying on an unreliable witness.
Police in Portugal are thought to have acted in the last few days after it emerged that he could avoid charges due to Portugal’s statute of limitations which kicks in for serious crimes after 15 years.
The move by Portuguese authorities last night could now allow Brueckner to be transferred to the Algarve for formal questioning. But Bild reported that Brueckner’s lawyer, Friedrich Fuelscher, believes the Portuguese decision appeared to be a ‘procedural trick’.
One well-placed source said: ‘The legal grounds for making Brueckner an arguido include the fact that he allegedly confessed to a friend he had snatched Madeleine and mobile phone records placed him in Praia da Luz the night she vanished.
‘But it is obviously linked to the fact that the Portuguese authorities want to keep their options open with the 15-year deadline looming.’
Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) who worked on the investigation into the child’s disappearance, told BBC Breakfast: ‘Well, this breakthrough could mean everything or it could mean nothing.
‘My own gut feeling on it – from the moment the Germans began to release information two years ago – was that this was the best fit.
‘You have proximity, you have opportunity, and you have a profile with regards to an offender that absolutely fits in a way that no others have.’
He added: ‘This is all positive. And from my own position, and I wouldn’t be surprised if charges did follow.’