Madeleine McCann disappearance: Was a monster hiding in plain sight at a vacation resort?

AP An inside look at the investigation into Christian Brueckner, the new suspect in the

AP


An inside look at the investigation into Christian Brueckner, the new suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Missing posters on the windshield of a car parked outside the Luz Ocean Club, the vacation resort in Praia da Luz, Portugal where 3-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared while on vacation with her family in 2007.

 

A Family on Vacation

Madeleine McCann

McCann Family/Handout


On May 3, 2007, Madeleine McCann disappeared from her bed in her family’s vacation rental. In a desperate bid to find their daughter, Madeleine’s parents distributed photos they had taken of her from that vacation, including the photo seen here.

An Empty Bed

Madeleine McCann's bed

Solarpix.com


This is the empty bed that Kate McCann discovered when she went to check on Madeleine and her two younger siblings at around 10 p.m. on May 3, 2007. The McCanns had been out to dinner with friends at a nearby tapas bar located on the grounds of the resort where they were staying when Kate made the terrible discovery.

An International Investigation

Police at the Ocean Club

SIC-TV, Portugal


The day after Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, the case made headlines around the world, and an international investigation soon ensued. Despite millions of dollars and thousands of false Madeleine “sightings” over the years, authorities have been no closer to finding out what happened. All of that may have changed in June 2020.

A New Suspect

Suspect ​Christian Brueckner

Shutterstock


According to news reports, in 2017, a tipster contacted German police alleging that a man named Christian Brueckner had made a drunken confession to him that he knew what had happened to Madeleine.

When German authorities looked into Brueckner, seen here in an undated photo, they uncovered a long and disturbing criminal past, including convictions for burglary, drug trafficking, sexual assault and a history of targeting little girls. 

A Life of Crime

Christian Brueckner's van

Metropolitan Police


According to official German court documents obtained by “48 Hours” Brueckner was first arrested at the age of 15 for theft. Two years later, in 1994, he sexually abused a child in Germany and later fled to Portugal. In 1999 he was extradited to Germany to serve his sentence.

After his release from prison, Brueckner returned to Portugal where he drove this VW camper van and  resumed a life of crime, stealing from hotels and holiday apartments.

Close to the Ocean Club

Christian Brueckner's home

Spiegel-TV


At the time of Madeleine’s disappearance, Christian Brueckner lived in this house in Portugal, located around 1 mile away from the Ocean Club where the McCann’s were staying.  

Using information from a cell tower, investigators discovered that on the night Madeleine disappeared a call was made to Brueckner’s cellphone approximately one hour before she went missing. That data puts Brueckner’s cell phone at or near the location of the McCann’s vacation apartment where Madeleine vanished. The question is, was the phone in Brueckner’s possession, or did someone else answer that call?

Figuring out the answer to that could mean finding the missing puzzle piece in this investigation.

Leaving Portugal

Christian Brueckner's car

Metropolitan Police UK


The day after Madeleine’s disappearance, Brueckner suddenly placed his Jaguar in someone else’s name. Soon after, he left Portugal and moved back to Germany, eventually settling in the small German city of Braunschweig.

A Grim Discovery

Christian Brueckner

Spiegel-TV


During a 2014 search of Brueckner’s apartment in Braunschweig, police discovered 391 photo files and 68 video files containing child pornography. He was charged for the child pornography and for abusing a 5-year-old, and was sentenced to 15 months in prison for both crimes.

An Abandoned Factory

Christian Brueckner's former factory

Spiegel-TV


In 2016, as part of a broader investigation into child pornography, German authorities conducted multiple searches of this abandoned factory once owned by Brueckner. 

A House of Horrors

Christian Brueckner's former factory

Spiegel-TV


This image shows the state of the factory property in 2020. When investigators searched the property in 2016, they made a shocking discovery. On the grounds, buried under the corpse of Brueckner’s dead dog, were USB drives containing videos and photos of child abuse, some of which Brueckner produced himself.

An inside look

Christian Brueckner's former factory

Spiegel-TV


Another look inside the abandoned factory. 

Children’s Swimsuits Discovered

Christian Brueckner evidence

Spiegel-TV


These three girls’ swimsuits were found inside an RV owned by Brueckner on the factory grounds. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, German investigators refuse to say if they have identified who the bathing suits belong to.

Brueckner’s RV

Christian Brueckner's RV

Spiegel-TV


Investigators discovered the girls’ swimsuits in this RV. 

Police Search Another Property

mccann-15.jpg

Associated Press/Sky News/RTL/DPA


In July 2020, police dug up a former garden plot once used by Brueckner in Hanover, Germany. Investigators have not said whether or not any evidence was found on the property.

Christian Brueckner is currently in a German prison serving time for an unrelated rape conviction. He has not been charged in the Madeleine McCann case. 

Hoping Out Hope

mccann-16.jpg

BBC


Kate and Gerry McCann, seen during a Septtember 2017 interview, have never commented publicly about Brueckner, but they posted a message on their website after he was declared a suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance in June of 2020:

“We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace.”