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The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is reportedly being investigated for sexually assaulting an Irish woman three years before the toddler vanished.
Christian Brückner could also be responsible for the unsolved rape of a 20-year-old woman in Portugal 2004, authorities said.
Hazel Behan, who was raped at a beach resort in southern Portugal more than a decade ago, identified Brückner as her alleged assailant last year. The woman came forward after she recognized Brückner during a recorded appeal regarding McCann’s missing person’s case, according to the Irish Examiner. Brückner allegedly used a pair of scissors to slice off her clothes during the sexual assault.
However, it’s unclear if Brückner, who is currently serving time in a German prison on drug charges, will face formal charges in the matter. Prosecutors there struck down renewed speculation that charges could soon be filed against Brückner, citing reports as “not correct,” the Irish Times reported.
Portuguese police have been probing the incident and reviewing the investigation’s archived case file for at least nearly a year, according to the Guardian.
Brückner, who officials deemed a “sexual predator,” lived in Portugal around the time of McCann’s disappearance. In 2019, was also found guilty in the sexual assault of a 72-year-old American woman in 2005, according to the Guardian. He's also a convicted child sex offender.
Last year, Behan said she was struck by the parallels involving the rape of the elderly U.S. victim and her own attack a year before.
“My mind was blown when I read how he had attacked a woman in 2005, both the tactics and the methods he used, how well he had planned it out,” Behan told the Guardian. “I puked, to be honest with you, as reading about it took me right back to my experience.”
Brückner had a reputation for allegedly looting hotel rooms and holiday resorts, as well. Only a year before McCann went missing, Brückner was taken into police custody on suspicion of theft in Portugal.
In 2020, Brückner was formally identified by British officials as the key suspect in McCann’s disappearance.
Last year, German investigators reportedly also discovered a secret basement underneath Brückner’s home. A child’s toy bucket, along with several other items, were recovered by detectives. The search was related to McCann’s disappearance.
McCann went missing while her family was vacationing in Praia da Luz in May 2007. She was 3 years old. This month marks the 14th anniversary of her disappearance.
“The Covid pandemic has made this year even more difficult for many reasons but thankfully the investigation to find Madeleine and her abductor has continued,” McCann’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann said in a Facebook post on Monday. “We hang on to the hope, however small, that we will see Madeleine again. As we have said repeatedly, we need to know what has happened to our lovely daughter, no matter what. We are very grateful to the police for their continued efforts.”
McCann would have also turned 18 this month, her parents said.
“Every May is tough — a reminder of years passed, of years together lost, or stolen,” McCann's parents' statement added. “This year it is particularly poignant as we should be celebrating Madeleine’s 18th birthday. Enough said.”
Brückner has maintained he wasn’t involved in McCann’s disappearance.
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