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Christian Brückner, who has emerged as a person of interest in the three-year-old’s 2007 disappearance in recent years, was declared an "arguido" — or “named suspect” — by Portuguese officials, the Guardian reported.
County of Faro prosecutors, who didn’t directly name Brückner, indicated he’d been identified as a suspect at the behest of German officials, per the Guardian. Brückner, 44, hasn’t yet been charged in the McCann’s disappearance, according to his lawyer.
On May 3, 2007, McCann mysteriously vanished from Praia da Luz, a tourist enclave in the Algarve region, while on vacation with her family.
The 15th anniversary of McCann’s disappearance next month may have factored into the timing of prosecutors’ announcement naming Brückner a suspect. According to the BBC, Portugal abides by a 15-year statute of limitations for crimes committed that carry a prison term of more than a decade.
The announcement marks the first time Portuguese officials have identified a formal suspect in McCann’s disappearance since her parents Kate McMann and Gerry McCann were named and then cleared as suspects in 2007.
“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,” the McCanns said in a statement on Friday. “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.”
Officials haven’t indicated whether they expect to file charges against Brückner ahead of the approaching deadline to file charges.
“It is important to note the 'arguido' has not yet been charged with any specific crime related to Madeleine’s disappearance,” Kate McCann and Gerry McCann added.
In 2020, German investigators first zeroed in on Brückner as a possible person of interest in McCann’s disappearance. At the time, prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said he suspected McCann had been killed “relatively quickly” by Brückner after her abduction.
“After all the information we got, the girl is dead,” Wolters told Sky News. “We have no information that she is alive. All indications we have got that I can't tell you point in the direction that Madeleine is dead.”
Officials said cell phone data placed Brückner near the McCann family’s hotel room around the time the British toddler went missing.
“We have strong evidence that Christian B. killed Maddie McCann," Wolters also told CBS’ “48 Hours” in March 2021. (German privacy laws necessitate the use of a last initial rather than his full name.)
Brückner, who investigators described as a “sexual predator,” has denied any involvement in McCann’s disappearance. He lived in the Praia da Luz resort area between 1995 and 2007. The German national is currently serving time in his home country after being convicted in 2019 of raping a 72-year-old American in Praia da Luz in 2005. He'd previously been convicted twice on child sexual abuse charges in Germany and has served time for drug convictions as well.
Brückner released a handwritten statement from prison last year blasting the investigation into his involvement in McCann’s disappearance as a “scandal,” according to the Telegraph.
“Charging someone with a crime is one thing,” Brückner wrote. “It is something completely different, namely an unbelievable scandal, when a public prosecutor starts a public prejudicial campaign before proceedings are even opened.”
Last year, Brückner was accused in a 2004 rape of an Irish woman approximately three years before McCan’s disappearance. Officials also identified him as a possible suspect in another unsolved sexual assault of a 20-year-old woman in Portugal 2004.
Brückner has been eyed as a potential person of interest in the disappearances of two other young girls in 1996: six-year-old René Hasee, 6, who vanished from Portugal and 16-year-old German teenager Carola Titze, who went missing while visiting Belgium.
Madeleine McCann would be 18 years old today if she’s still alive.
“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,” her parents said on Friday.
Prosecutors for the County of Faro didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment regarding the case’s latest developments.
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