Fifteen years after the disappearance of the British girl Madeleine McCann, judicial advances show hope of unraveling the mystery after Portugal has formally constituted the German Christian Brueckner as a suspect “in extremis” (the figure of the “arguido” in Portuguese law) to avoid the statute of limitations.
Maddie disappeared on May 3, 2007 from the apartment that her family had rented in Praia da Luz, in the Portuguese Algarve, where she slept with her brothers – two two-year-old twins – while her parents had dinner with a group of friends in the same apartment. holiday resort.
The case quickly became the most high profile disappearance of a minor to date and, after several lines of investigation, theories and suspects over fifteen years, the mystery may be closer to being solved than ever.
The Portuguese Justice has just constituted a German citizen, Christian Brueckner, as “arguido”, a Portuguese figure that is used to designate formal suspects on whom strong evidence falls, prior to the accusation.
This decision was made just a few weeks after the 15th anniversary of the disappearance, the maximum term for a crime of homicide to prescribe in Portugal, which gives the authorities more time to continue investigating and collecting evidence. “Since there is a suspect, I think the Portuguese authorities wanted to be cautious and constitute him as ‘arguido,'” explained João Mira Godinho, one of the Portuguese journalists who followed the case more closely.
Godinho recalls that in this way the prescription is suspended (for seven and a half years) and if the investigation into Brueckner bears fruit, he may finally be charged.
The 45-year-old suspect lived between 1995 and 2007 in the Algarve and was near the apartment complex the night Maddie disappeared, according to data from his mobile phone. With a long criminal record for sexual abuse, physical assault, robbery and misdemeanors, he was on the radar of the authorities since he was extradited from Portugal to Germany in 2017 accused of another case of sexual abuse of minors in Greece.
Brueckner’s appearance casts hope on the chances of solving the case after years of clues, theories and suspects that came to nothing.
The case has been investigated in parallel by the Portuguese and British authorities, which ended up torpedoing the process. “There should have been more cooperation and less competition, because it seemed that the Portuguese Police were on one side and the British on the other,” says Godinho.
Among the theories shuffled over these years, there was speculation about the accidental death of the girl at the hands of her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, an idea that the Portuguese inspector who led the case, Gonçalo Amaral, defended tooth and nail. The inspector even published a book with his hypothesis and the conflict with Maddie’s parents ended up in court.