Madeleine McCann: Portuguese prosecutors identify suspect in probe of missing girl

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Portuguese prosecutors said Thursday a man had been formally identified as a suspect in the disappearance of 3-year-old  Madeleine McCann, who vanished from her bed during a family vacation to the country nearly 15 years ago. 

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Prosecutors in Faro, Algarve’s main city, did not publicly name the man but said they were acting on a request by German authorities and in coordination with British investigators. 

Christian Brueckner (Getty Images); Madeleine McCann (Handout)

Christian Brueckner (Getty Images); Madeleine McCann (Handout)
(Getty Images)

 It was the first time prosecutors had identified a suspect in the case since initially accusing Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, who were later cleared.

The British family was on vacation in the Algarve region of southern Portugal when Madeleine was stolen from her bed in a ground-floor apartment on May 3, 2007, just feet from her sleeping twin siblings, Sean and Amelie.

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Her parents had been dining with friends about 200 feet away in a seaside resort in Praia da Luz but had checked on the children periodically.

 Kate and Gerry McCann pose for the media with a missing poster depicting an age progression computer generated image of their daughter Madeleine at nine years of age, to mark her birthday and the 5th anniversary of her disappearance.

 Kate and Gerry McCann pose for the media with a missing poster depicting an age progression computer generated image of their daughter Madeleine at nine years of age, to mark her birthday and the 5th anniversary of her disappearance.
(Sang Tan/ AP)

The major development in the case came after German police said in June 2020 that convicted child abuser and drug dealer Christian Brueckner had likely killed Madeleine. Brueckner, 45, has denied any involvement in the child’s demise. 

Brueckner is currently in a German prison serving a sentence for drug offenses and has a pending seven-year sentence for the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman also in Praia da Luz. 

A March 2007 photo of 3-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann.

A March 2007 photo of 3-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann.
(handout via AP)

The convicted pedophile had lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, where he burglarized hotels and apartments, according to court documents. 

German police were first tipped off to Brueckner’s possible connection to Madeleine’s case in 2013. One year prior, Portugal’s Judiciary Police turned over documents to British authorities with hundreds of names related to the investigation –including Brueckner’s.

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It wasn’t immediately clear why Portuguese prosecutors formally identified the suspect Thursday, but it could be related to the country’s 15-year statute of limitations for crimes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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