The new Madeleine McCann suspect was identified as her possible abductor seven years ago – after Scotland Yard e-fits of a man seen around the time she vanished were shown on a German television appeal.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that paedophile Christian Brueckner’s name was passed to police by an acquaintance who saw the programme and remembered him from the Portuguese resort where Madeleine was snatched from.
But even though Kate and Gerry McCann were flanked by a British detective during the October 2013 appeal, which was watched by millions, it is unclear whether the crucial tip-off ever reached the Metropolitan Police.
The programme featured two computer generated images of a suspect – a clean shaven, possible German speaker, aged 20 to 40 – whom Scotland Yard detectives described as of ‘vital importance’ to the investigation.
Paedophile Christian Brueckner, the new Madeleine McCann suspect, was identified as her possible abductor seven years ago after Scotland Yard e-fits of a man seen around the time she vanished were shown on a German television appeal. Kate and Gerry McCann were flanked by a British detective during the October 2013 appeal (above)
‘Of vital importance’: The e-fits produced for the German Euro News TV appeal for Madeleine McCann on October 17, 2013
They hoped the images would lead to a breakthrough and Gerry told the programme: ‘It’s great the police are working so hard but we need the support of the public.’
At the time, Brueckner, now 43, already had a history of sex crimes.
Sources in Germany have told this newspaper that the acquaintance detailed his suspicions in an online police form which was sent to the country’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), that collated the 500 witness reports and tip-offs resulting from the programme.
But it is claimed detectives failed to act on the information even after being told by officers in Brueckner’s home town of Braunschweig that he was a sex offender.
Paedophile Christian Brueckner (left), who is suspected of abducting Madeleine McCann (right), had only been released from a Portuguese prison just months before her disappearance from a family villa in 2007
Seven years on, Brueckner is now the prime suspect and is also being linked to three other child abductions.
BKA investigators made further inquiries about Brueckner in 2013 and contacted Braunschweig police for a second time, only to be reminded that they had already passed on what they knew of the suspect’s criminal history.
Scotland Yard last night declined to answer questions about the claims, saying only that Brueckner became a suspect in 2017 when an appeal ‘provided the details of this man’.
But a source in Germany familiar with the case said: ‘The guy that came forward after the 2013 TV appeal provided really valuable information.
Brueckner, pictured in a German bar in 2011, is also alleged to have confided in a friend that he 'knew all about' what had happened to Madeleine
He said the e-fits reminded him of a strange guy he knew who he hung out with or worked with in Portugal some years earlier and named Brueckner, currently behind bars in northern Germany on drugs offences.
‘The BKA is responsible for liaising with foreign police forces and, it must be said, I cannot understand why they wouldn’t pass the information on, especially since the programme featured the McCanns and the Met officer so prominently.’
Jim Dickie, a former Met detective chief inspector who led kidnap investigations, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I have dealt with the German authorities on several occasions in the past and they are very strict about the sharing of information.
'It may be that they held on to it and didn’t follow it up properly or that they simply weren’t expected to pass it on to the Met.
‘Intelligence like this can lead to evidence and be vitally important. Did the Met just forget to chase up with the German police and ask what they had? That’s possible too.’
The two images featured on the show differ but each shows a man with an intense stare and a hint of a smile. The programme also showed a reconstruction of the events leading up to Madeleine’s abduction on Thursday, May 3, 2007.
The e-fits were the first to be issued in relation to the Home Office-funded inquiry into the case.
By the time Madeleine was snatched, Brueckner had long been on the radars of police in his own country and Portugal, having been convicted of sex offences and theft.
Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry of Rothley, Leicestershire, 'continue to hope she is alive until they can be shown incontrovertible evidence which proves that she is dead,' family spokesman Clarence Mitchell said on Saturday
But the Portuguese police investigation into her disappearance, described as ‘chaotic’ by a senior officer, disintegrated into farce.
The family’s apartment was not sealed off for almost 24 hours, leading to contamination by up to 50 people and cleaners washing bed sheets, while ash from officers’ cigarettes was found in samples.
Within five days, police are said to have shown a nanny who looked after Madeleine in Praia a picture of Brueckner, naming him as a possible suspect, but that notion was soon ‘discarded’ and Brueckner returned to Germany in the summer of 2007 and continued his life of crime, in drug trafficking.
By 2012, he had settled in Braunschweig where he ran a kiosk bar in an apartment block but his life spiralled ‘out of control’.
The German suspect had lived in a warehouse outside Praia da Luz for several years but moved into a campervan just before Madeleine vanished
One report stated that he ‘constantly collected criminal charges. For theft, bodily injury, drunkenness in traffic, forged papers.
The number of procedures is difficult to calculate.’ He is also said to have abused his young Albanian girlfriend who was often seen with bruises and marks on her neck.
At this time Scotland Yard was completing its review into the disappearance of Madeleine, sparked by pressure from the then Prime Minister David Cameron.
The 2011 Met Police review, which lasted two years, followed a 2009 Home Office-commissioned report which criticised the Portuguese investigation over a number of failures, including the naming of Gerry and Kate McCann as suspects and a lack of analysis of mobile phone data.
German Federal Police have released a photo of a Volkswagen camper van, used by a suspect who may be connected to the disappearance of Madeleine 13 years ago
Police have also released a picture of a Jaguar which was used by Brueckner in Praia da Luz, Portugal, by a suspect who may be involved in the disappearance of Madeleine
As part of Scotland Yard’s review, they are understood to have received from Portuguese police a list of 600 names who were persons of interest.
Brueckner’s was among them but the Met Police’s review, led by Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, settled on a list of 38 other potential suspects.
In 2013, Scotland Yard officially launched Operation Grange and officers took part in a TV appeal alongside the McCanns for information which was broadcast across Europe, including Germany.
That led to Brueckner’s acquaintance coming forward with his name. Last night German police were unavailable for comment.
A Met Police spokesman said: ‘Following a request from the then Home Secretary, in 2011 the MPS started its review of the previous investigations into Madeleine’s disappearance.
Christian Brueckner, left, the new key suspect in the Madeleine McCann, right, case, whose identity is protected in Germany despite being in jail for raping a US tourist in Praia da Luz in the months before Madeleine vanished
'In 2013, the Met made a decision that the review would progress to a full investigation.
‘(Former) Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, for the ten- year anniversary in 2017, put out a statement and as a direct result of that appeal we received information which provided details of this man.
'Our subsequent enquiries led to us to decide that he was a suspect for our investigation.
‘We will not go into the details of what those enquiries are or what the evidence is against him, and that’s to ensure that we are doing the best we can to protect the integrity of our investigation.
'We can confirm that the name of this man that we were provided with, we were aware of within the investigation, but he was not a suspect.’
Last night, Braunschweig state prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters told German newspaper BILD: ‘At the moment the criminal suspicion is based on clues. We haven’t interrogated the suspect yet regarding this case.’