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Image / Agenda / Breaking Stories

Fifteen years later, there are new developments in the Madeleine McCann investigation


By Sarah Gill
23rd Apr 2022

Madeleine McCann

Fifteen years later, there are new developments in the Madeleine McCann investigation

Disappearing in the Algarve in 2007, Madeleine McCann is perhaps the most high profile missing persons case in modern history.

When a three-year-old Madeleine McCann went missing during a family holiday to the Algarve region of Portugal just days before her fourth birthday, the world was left reeling.

In the intervening years, the face of Madeleine — full of childhood innocence — became instantly recognisable to many from television reports and newspaper covers. The source of much speculation, there are now new revelations in this long-standing case.

Portuguese prosecutors have announced that they have formally declared German prisoner Christian Brueckner as ‘arguido’, which translates to an official suspect. While the convicted rapist has not been charged as of yet, this is a crucial step towards solving the highly reported missing child mystery.

Though he has denied having anything to do with the toddler’s disappearance, the 44-year-old may be extradited to Portugal for formal questioning. Known to police since 2020, German officers said in June of the same year that Madeleine was assumed dead and that Christian Brueckner is likely responsible. Regardless, the British police force continued to treat it as a missing persons case and held out hope.

Christian Brueckner is currently serving a seven year sentence in northern Germany’s Oldenburg prison for raping a woman in the same region of the Algarve where Madeleine went missing. Living in the area from 1995 to 2007, court documents have shown that the man burgled hotels and flats, falsified documents and was caught stealing diesel from a nearby harbour.

The first time Portuguese prosecutors have named an official suspect since Madeleine’s parents — Kate and Gerry — were named in 2007.

A brief recap of events

On a family holiday to the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz with a group of friends, Kate and Gerry McCann went for dinner with friends at the on-site restaurant on the night of 3 May, 2007. Having devised a rota to check on the children — who were merely 100 yards away — on Kate McCann’s turn, she found that her daughter was gone. Madeleine’s younger twin siblings were still in the room.

Police, staff and guests trawled through the area, searching for Madeleine until daybreak. Kate and Gerry McCann “cannot describe the anguish and despair” they’re feeling. Quickly understood to have been an abduction, less than a month later police issue a description of a man seen on the night of the disappearance, potentially carrying a child.

Fast forward to September of the same year, the McCanns are named as official suspects. By July of the following year, authorities had shelved the investigation and the parents of the missing child were declared no longer persons of interest. In 2011, following the release of the McCanns’ book, David Cameron prompted a two-year review.

In 2013, Scotland Yard detectives amassed 41 potential suspects following the introduction of “new evidence and new witnesses.” Portuguese police then reopened their investigation due to “new lines of inquiry.” Seven years later, in 2020, Christian Brueckner is identified as a suspect.

The McCanns, who have faced colossal amounts of public scrutiny, said: “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.” They say that all they have ever wanted was truth and justice.

Holding out hope

In a statement released following these new revelations, Kate and Gerry McCann “welcome the news that the Portuguese authorities have declared a German man an ‘arguido’ in relation to the disappearance of [their] beloved daughter Madeleine.”

“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,” the statement says. “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.”