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Inside the dark and twisted life of Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner: The adopted ‘loner’ turned convicted sex offender now facing five counts of rape and indecent assault in a German court


Christian Brueckner, the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, arrived in a German court today facing five unrelated charges of rape and indecent assault. 

The convicted sex offender is already serving a seven-year sentence for raping an elderly American woman on the Algarve in 2005 and was jailed in 2019 after evidence against him was presented by two of his former pals horrified at his actions. 

His latest charges stem from cases relating to five women and girls aged between 10 and 80 years old, and he is expected to spend the rest of his life languishing in a jail cell if he’s found guilty.

Prosecutors who tied him to the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine in the Portuguese resort of Praia del Luz in 2007 hope the prospect of life in prison could compel the 47-year-old to open up about his suspected involvement in the case.

But sources close to him say the ruthless rapist will remain silent and offer no testimony. 

Now, with Brueckner back in the dock, MailOnline delves into the twisted sex offender’s dark past, explores how he became the monster he is today, and reveals how he allegedly let slip his involvement in Madeleine McCann’s mysterious disappearance. 

Christian Brueckner in court today

Christian Brueckner in court today

Christian Brueckner as an 11-year-old. He has been described by a former classmate as a twisted loner who tormented fellow pupils and teachers

Christian Brueckner as an 11-year-old. He has been described by a former classmate as a twisted loner who tormented fellow pupils and teachers

Brueckner was adopted by a kindly German couple named Brigitte and Fritz Brueckner, who took them into their home alongside two other adopted children (Brigitte Brueckner pictured)

Brueckner was adopted by a kindly German couple named Brigitte and Fritz Brueckner, who took them into their home alongside two other adopted children (Brigitte Brueckner pictured)

Madeleine McCann, the three-year-old British girl who vanished from her hotel room in Praia de Lug in May 2007

Madeleine McCann, the three-year-old British girl who vanished from her hotel room in Praia de Lug in May 2007. Christian Brueckner (left) is the prime suspect in her case

Brueckner is seen in handcuffs in court today

Brueckner is seen in handcuffs in court today

Brueckner was born in 1976 and his mother, whose identity is unknown, was unable to care for him and handed her infant child over to youth authorities.

But he was quickly adopted by a kindly German couple named Brigitte and Fritz Brueckner, who took them into their home alongside two other adopted children that became his brothers. 

Brigitte once said that there were no signs Brueckner would grow up to become the monster vilified worldwide today. 

But by the time he arrived in primary school, it became obvious he had little interest in socialising with other kids and marked himself out as a pupil strongly disliked by teachers.

A former classmate of Brueckner, who wishes to remain anonymous, described the sex offender as a ‘twisted loner’, and said he knew the boy ‘would turn out bad’.

He would often get into fights with other kids and make a point of annoying them, his classmate said, adding that he was despised by staff.

The former pupil said: ‘I’ve only ever had one fight in my life and that was with Christian Brueckner.

‘He spent a year talking about me behind my back. He would not stop making nasty comments. One day I exploded and told him to go back to the orphanage where he had come from.

‘We all knew he was adopted, so I shouldn’t have said that but I lost my temper with him. He jumped on me and we traded punches until a teacher pulled us apart.

‘Everyone hated him in class and they all kept their distance, but it wasn’t just the children – it was the teachers as well.’

By the time he reached adolescence, Brueckner was causing havoc at home too, and his adoptive parents were struggling to care for him.

When Fritz Brueckner was badly injured in a car accident in 1992, Brigitte could no longer shoulder the burden alone and sent her son to live in a reform home for delinquent teenagers in his hometown of Wurzburg, Bavaria.

It was there Brueckner began his life of crime, and started to explore his twisted sexual proclivities, committing his first burglary before molesting a six-year-old girl.

He is also said to have ‘dropped his trousers’ at a nine-year-old boy before fleeing the scene, according to German tabloid Bild. 

Christian Brueckner was pictured pulling up in prison van outside the courtroom in Brunswick, Lower Saxony

Christian Brueckner was pictured pulling up in prison van outside the courtroom in Brunswick, Lower Saxony

Detectives believe Christian Brueckner, the latest main suspect in the McCann case, was living out of a German campervan in 2007

Detectives believe Christian Brueckner, the latest main suspect in the McCann case, was living out of a German campervan in 2007

Christian Brueckner pictured outside a battered VW campervan just weeks before kidnap of Madeleine McCann

Christian Brueckner pictured outside a battered VW campervan just weeks before kidnap of Madeleine McCann

Brueckner walks into court flanked by burly security guards

Brueckner walks into court flanked by burly security guards

Brueckner, 47, was sensationally named in June 2020 by German police as the man responsible for Madeleine's abduction and murder while on holiday with her parents Kate and Gerry McCann

Brueckner, 47, was sensationally named in June 2020 by German police as the man responsible for Madeleine’s abduction and murder while on holiday with her parents Kate and Gerry McCann

Brueckner packed up and left Germany for sunnier climes at age 18 to flee the youth sentence for the aforementioned crimes. 

Throwing his possessions into a beaten-up VW campervan, he headed for Portugal – specifically Praia del Luz in the Western Algarve.

Picking up odd jobs as a car mechanic and food service worker, Brueckner is believed to have resided in Portugal from 1995 until 2007, save for a period of a a few years in 1999 when he returned to Germany to serve his youth sentence.

Back in Portugal in the early 2000s, Brueckner spent most of his money attending festivals and slinging drugs – all while committing a string of heinous sexual offences as well as burglaries of upmarket holiday villas. 

One of these offences included the 2005 rape and torture of an elderly American woman on a waterfront villa less than a mile from the Ocean Club hotel where Madeleine went missing two years later, shortly before Brueckner left Portugal. 

He was jailed for seven years for this offence after friends with whom he partied in Portugal were horrified by his crimes and chose to share evidence with the court.

These former friends are also expected to testify in the new trial in which Brueckner faces five more counts of rape and indecent assault. 

One former friend and roommate sensationally claimed in 2020 that he knew Brueckner was responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance.

Michael Tatschl, who lived with Brueckner in a ramshackle farmhouse near the Praia da Luz, described him as a pervert who was ‘more than capable of snatching a child’.

The pair spent eight months in the same prison after they were caught stealing 320 litres of diesel from lorries in Portugal.

Both were released in December 2006 – five months before three-year-old Madeleine, from Rothley, Leicestershire, disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.

Mr Tatschl became convinced of his friend’s involvement after watching an eight-part Netflix documentary on the case. 

‘He was definitely a pervert and more than capable of snatching a child, for sexual kicks or money.

‘When I saw the Netflix documentary I knew immediately that he was guilty,’ he said. 

‘It was when the female tourist talked about the man turning up at her door where her child was playing, that I knew it was Christian for sure.

‘She described him as a creepy guy with acne and blond hair, which fits his description.’

Michael Tatschl (pictured), who lived with Brueckner in a ramshackle farmhouse near the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz, described him as a pervert

Michael Tatschl (pictured), who lived with Brueckner in a ramshackle farmhouse near the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz, described him as a pervert

Taschl believes Brueckner may have sold Madeleine (pictured), who was snatched from Praia da Luiz in Portugal in 2007, to another individual or a sex ring

Taschl believes Brueckner may have sold Madeleine (pictured), who was snatched from Praia da Luiz in Portugal in 2007, to another individual or a sex ring

Brueckner stands alongside his legal team as the court gives opening statements

Brueckner stands alongside his legal team as the court gives opening statements

Another former friend, Helge Busching, told investigators that Brueckner had accidentally revealed his involvement in the Madeleine McCann case to him a year after the three-year-old disappeared, allegedly revealing that ‘she didn’t scream’.

Busching was a close associate of Brueckner in the early 2000s and carried out several illegal acts including burglaries and drug dealing, until they fell out over a drug deal gone wrong. 

They later crossed paths again in 2008 at a festival in Spain, one year on from the three-year-old’s disappearance, and recounted to German media how Brueckner allegedly let slip his involvement. 

‘(Brueckner asked me, ”don’t you go to Portugal anymore and do business there?”

‘I said, ”no, since the girl disappeared there, there have been too many police checks for me and I don’t need that at all.”

‘[The topic of Madeleine’s disappearance] came up and I said: ”Anyway, I don’t understand how the little one could have disappeared without a trace.”

‘Christian had drunk two or three beers, and he said: ”She didn’t scream.”

‘I thought: He knows that. He has something to do with it… At 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning he left a packed festival with his mobile home. I looked for him the next morning, but his neighbours said he had left.’

Helge also told how he witnessed a video recording Brueckner had taken of his sexual abuse of the American woman in Portugal, for which he was sentenced to a seven-year term, as well as a teenage victim.

He recounted: ‘You could see how someone whipped the woman. She was tied up, lying on the bed, wearing painted ski goggles… must have been 70 or 80 years old. She shouted: You fucking b******!… then I saw it was Brueckner.’

Christian Brueckner allegedly let slip his involvement in Madeleine's disappearance to a former friend

Christian Brueckner allegedly let slip his involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance to a former friend

Christian Brueckner is the prime suspect in the McCann case

Brueckner is the prime suspect in the Madeleine McCann case

Convicted rapist and paedophile Christian Brueckner is loaded into an ambulance after being assaulted in prison in 2020

Convicted rapist and paedophile Christian Brueckner is loaded into an ambulance after being assaulted in prison in 2020

Gerry and Kate McCann, the parents of Madeleine McCann

Gerry and Kate McCann, the parents of Madeleine McCann

Now, Brueckner is back on trial, facing three counts of rape.

Two of the rape victims, an elderly woman and a girl of 14, are unidentified, but the third is Irishwoman Hazel Behan.

The now-married mother-of-three claims she was raped by Brueckner when she was working on the Algarve as a tour guide aged 20. 

Brueckner is also facing two charges of indecent assault – one against a 10-year-old girl on a beach close to where Madeleine vanished, and another against a child in the Algarve in a playground in 2017.

Prosecutors have filed a 100-page indictment against Brueckner and the judge Christina Engelmann will try the case alongside three other judges.

But the first day of the trial got off to an explosive start when his lawyer, Dr Sebastian Fuelscher, began proceedings by immediately attempting to discredit one of the lay judges – Ms Britta Thielen-Donckel – revealing she had repeatedly called for the assassination of the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on social media.

Lay judges collaborate with regular judges in trials, participating in deliberations and assisting in rendering verdicts and deciding sentences.

He read out some of the social media posts, which included ‘Kill the b******!’ and ‘Kill the devil’, declaring the ‘radical’ comments made her unsuitable to carry out her role as a lay judge. 

The judge adjourned the court to consider the request, before returning 40 minutes later and duly removed Ms Thielen-Donckel from the panel, scoring an early win for Brueckner’s defence team. 

Court was immediately adjourned until next Friday as authorities search for a replacement lay judge, with Brueckner returned to his cell. 

Speaking to press as he left court, Fuelscher cryptically smirked: ‘I have many aces up my sleeve.’ 

Brueckner is expected to face his verdict in June, at which point investigators working the Madeleine McCann case will hope to leverage a confession out of him.  



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