United Kingdom

Madeleine McCann: Met sources blast Portuguese police

Police in Portugal came under fire tonight for their lacklustre response to the biggest potential breakthrough in the abduction of Madeleine McCann since she first disappeared 13 years ago.

Investigators were accused of being 'embarrassed' by their failure to solve the crime originally and failed to issue any new appeals for information after convicted German paedophile Christian Breuckner was identified as the prime suspect.

Breuckner, who is currently in jail in northern Germany, lived on and off in the Algarve for 18 years, was in Praia da Luz on the night Madeleine vanished and was convicted last year of raping a 72-year-old woman in the holiday resort in 2005.

But while police in the UK and Germany have launched public appeals for help in tracing the movements of Breuckner, their counterparts on the Algarve have remained silent.

This is Christian Brueckner, the new key suspect in the Madeleine McCann case, whose identity is protected in Germany despite being in jail for raping a US tourist in Praia da Luz in the months before Maddie vanished

Brueckner, pictured in a German bar in 2011, is alleged to have confided in a friend that he 'knew all about' what had happened to Maddie

A German prisoner has been identified as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in what could be a major breakthrough in the case. He is in jail in Germany for the rape of an American tourist 18 months before Maddie vanished - 

The German suspect had lived in a warehouse outside Praia da Luz for several years but moved into a campervan just before Maddie vanished

A Scotland Yard source said: 'The Portuguese authorities' stance on this latest development is at odds with the Metropolitan Police and German police but it has been that way from minute one.

'The fact is that Portuguese authorities were embarrassed on a global stage at the time because the crime scene was completely destroyed, there was no forensic recovery of anything of any value etc.

'There may be slight embarrassment again that its German Police who have identified a chief suspect that could be the biggest lead yet in the investigation.

'But it is still has to be a Portuguese investigation as this disappearance – and now possible abduction and murder – happened under their jurisdiction.' 

 'The investigation is being directed from Germany,' said a police source. 'There are three forces involved in this, but the majority is coming from Germany.' 

As police in Britain and Germany appeal for witnesses who could help convict prime suspect Brueckner, it has also emerged:

Did Portuguese police let Madeleine McCann's abductor escape justice? Investigation focused on girl's parents... while German paedophile suspect was 'discarded' by detectives 

Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese ex-investigator who was in charge of the initial Madeleine probe, said his team identified the man now considered to be the chief suspect back in 2007 - but 'discarded' him from their investigation

Portuguese detectives who probed the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have been left facing tough questions after it emerged they identified the German paedophile who is now the chief suspect in 2007 - but 'discarded' him. 

Goncalo Amaral, the man who led the investigation, confirmed in April last year that 'a German paedophile currently in jail in Germany' - now named as Christian Brueckner - was identified 13 years ago as a potential suspect.

But Amaral, who was sacked after naming Kate and Jerry as suspects in the disappearance and maintains they were responsible, said Brueckner was 'discarded' after detectives 'found nothing to suggest he took Madeleine'.

That is despite revelations today that Brueckner had a lengthy criminal record including burglary and child sex crimes, lived in a property just three miles from where Maddie went missing, and can be placed in the area on the night in question using mobile phone records. 

According to German media, Brueckner was first convicted of child sex offences in Germany in 1994, aged 17.

He was sentenced to two years in jail but was released early, travelling to the Algarve in 1995 as a backpacker, where he became involved in drug smuggling.

He then spent 12 years on the Algarve dealing drugs, burgling holiday homes and even raped a 72-year-old American tourist in her apartment but was never arrested.

The sex attack on the US-born pensioner could be significant because the convicted paedophile had broken into her Praia da Luz holiday home to loot it - and police have long believed Maddie may have been snatched during a burglary.

He was then brought to the attention of Amaral as he investigated Madeleine's disappearance in 2007, but was dismissed as a 'scapegoat'. 

Speaking to Australian podcast Maddie in April last year, Amaral predicted that British police 'are probably going to use a German paedophile who is in jail in Germany' as their chief suspect.

He said that the Portuguese Polícia Judiciária, 'investigated him at the time but found nothing to suggest he took Madeleine.'

Amaral suggested that British police had been working up cases against two German paedophiles - one of whom died a few years ago, leaving one suspect to pursue.

In the interview, he accused British detectives of 'wanting it to be' the now-dead paedophile. 

Today, there was no police activity in the resort of Praia Da Luz where Madeleine vanished in 2007.

No posters or TV appeals have been made by police who are seeking new information about the 43-year-old suspect who lived in two different houses in the area and dabbled in countless different jobs.

Portuguese detectives based in Faro are awaiting information from German investigators before launching any new inquiry into the three-year-old's disappearance.

This is Christian Brueckner's home in Braunschweig near Hanover, where he had lived before he fled to Italy and was arrested over the rape of an American in Praia da Luz

'He gave me his Jaguar - but he never mentioned Maddie', says friend who let Christian Brueckner live in his attic after he fled Praia da Luz

A friend of Christian Brueckner let him live in his attic just after he fled Praia da Luz, and even looked after the Jaguar at the centre of the Madeleine McCann probe, it was revealed today.

'This is still unimaginable,' said Augsburg resident Alexander Bischof, who says he met him 12 or 13 years ago. 'He said he needed help and was looking for an apartment in Augsburg'.

He was driving a Jaguar, which he bought from the ´mutual acquaintance. 'Because I'm also a Jaguar lover, we had a topic of conversation right away,' says Bischof.

At one point he offered Brueckner the opportunity to stay with him and his wife if he wanted to.

He said Brueckner was 'often underway - sometimes he traveled to Portugal, sometimes to Sylt, to Munich. In between, he spent nights sleeping in my attic.'

Otherwise, he stayed in his VW bus. Most of the time he went to Portugal, where he is said to have had a girlfriend. Once he took them into Augsuburg to meet his girlfriend where they spoke to each other in English.

'At some point I reached the conclusion that he was involved with drugs,' he added, and was in prison in Portugal for two or three months, during which time he handed over the Jaguar car to him.

'When he came out, he was back here quickly, I didn't know more at the time,' he says. Later, he gave the car over to an acquaintance in Munich. 'He always made surprisingly quick decisions,' he added.

After some time Bishop distanced himself from Brueckner. 'He uses my living quarters and he's involved with drugs - I couldn't handle that,' he said.

'I thought I couldn't do that,' Bishop said. 'After a few years the law stood at my door. The police wanted to search the living quarters where he had stayed.'

At that time he learned that he had 'some things in his past.' He did not know what. Only that it would be a 'capital crime'. During a re-interrogation, the officials mentioned the name 'Maddie'.

When Bishop first heard about the murder allegations he was shocked. 

He said; 'We never talked about young children, our conversations were about cars, football and Portugal, men's stuff.'

Locals in Luz said they too were surprised that the police were not making any fresh appeals for help.

'Given the new information and how specific it is, I would have though the police could have been more active,' said a British bar owner who has lived in the resort over 20 years.

'The McCann case had a traumatic effect on the community here and tourism was affected and the police did not exactly come out of it with their reputation bolstered.'

Shop assistant Mariana said she thought the Portuguese would do all they could to solve the mystery.

'Anyone who has grown up in Praia knows all about the girl going missing. I have seen all the new appeals, but there is nothing from our police.

'I would have expected them to be more active as the girl was last seen here and it all leads back to Praia da Luz.'

A Dutchwoman named Julia, who has lived in the resort for over 30 years, added: 'They must have been aware of this man and what he was like, but did nothing.

'Now is their chance to redeem themselves and help find her body. Most people here believe the McCann girl to be dead. It is too long for her to be found alive.

'Have you seen any police out asking questions ? I haven't. I just don't understand why more is not being done.'

However, a woman who works in a pharmacy near the seafront said she was not surprised by the lack of appeals.

'They will just be going over old ground. There is nothing new for them to do.'

The latest developments in the Madeleine case have been widely reported in the Portuguese media with photos of the little girl prominent on newspaper front pages while

TV news bulletins have also led with the latest developments.

In the UK, detectives from Operation Grange – the Met Police inquiry to find out what happened to Maddie – released photos of a VW camper van and Jaguar car they see as critical to the investigation.

Both cars were used by Breuckner when he was based in Portugal.

Police have the vehicles but want anyone who saw them around the time the youngster went missing to contact them.

In Germany, police appealed for witnesses to come forward during a broadcast on the ZDF channel.

Police in the UK said they have received 270 calls and emails following the release of new information and the appeal for help.

Brueckner is understood to have been dismissed as a suspect back in 2008 by the Portuguese police.

It is not known if he was even interviewed or made a statement about his whereabouts when the youngster disappeared from her family's villa in the Praia da Luz.

At that time he did not have a criminal record, despite drug dealing and carrying stealing from hotel rooms.

The suspect is said to have lived at this property named Escola Vehla - meaning 'old school' - during his time in Portugal

Madeleine McCann would have turned 17 last month. In 2012, five years after her disappearance, her family issued an age progression efit photo to show what Madeleine may have looked like aged nine (right)

In 2005 he raped a 72-year-old American woman after breaking into her apartment and filming the assault.

It was only after he showed the footage to a friend in Germany that he was arrested a hair found at the scene linked him to the attack.

Breuckner is currently serving a jail sentence in northern Germany for the attack.

Meanwhile the Portuguese lawyer of Kate and Gerry McCann said they have 'new hope' and 'want to know the truth'

Rogerio Alves, who has traditionally assisted the McCanns as their criminal lawyer, said this week's revelation police have a new suspect means the 13-year-old mystery could be closer to being solved.

Mr Alves told respected Portuguese daily Jornal de Noticias: 'A new lead publicised by the police, which is therefore not an anonymous lead or a frivolous one, is obviously going to give the family hope.

'The family want this investigation to continue because the case is still active and hasn't been resolved. Madeleine's parents want to know the truth.

'They hope this lead can lead to the discovery of the truth, so we will be able to know what happened, what crime was committed and who committed it and what happened to Madeleine and whether's she alive.'

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