Top suspect in Maddie case could go free after ‘legal bungle’
The prime suspect in the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann should be released because Germany bungled his extradition, his legal team argued at the European Court of Justice.
Christian Brueckner, 43, is currently in jail serving 21 months for drug offences and last month was eligible for parole after serving two thirds of his sentence.
He was convicted of raping a 72 year old American woman in 2005 in her own home just a few minutes walk from where McCann was taken two years later in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
His lawyer Friedrich Fulscher argued that protocols in the use of the European Arrest Warrant were breached when Germany secured his extradition from Italy to Germany in 2018.
The Sun reports that Mr Fulscher argued on a technicality that "speciality protection law" was broken because he was extradited for the drugs conviction but then subsequently put on trial for raping the elderly woman.
Brueckner was later sentenced to seven years for the rape but his legal team say he should not have been put on trial because Portugal was also not consulted over the use of the European Warrant.
The case was adjourned until August 6 when the European Court of Justice will deliver an interim opinion before a later judgment.
Mr Fulscher refused to answer questions from the media when the case ended.
Brueckner was named as the prime suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old McCann from Praia da Luz in 2007.
Mobile phone data showed he was in the Portuguese village at the time she vanished.
Chief public prosecutor, Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the investigation says the outcome of the ECJ hearing could result in Brueckner's rape conviction being quashed.
"The defence seeks to have the rape conviction overturned by the Federal Court of Justice - Germany's supreme court," Mr Wolters said.
"The defence can achieve this if the ECJ considers Portugal's consent to have been necessary."
Brueckner is in jail in Kiel, northern Germany.
He is reportedly being "bullied" behind bars over the case.
Mr Fulscher told German magazine Der Spiegel: "Fellow inmates try to bully him where they can.
"He is pilloried worldwide and easily identifiable."
COPS SAY 'FUNDAMENTAL EVIDENCE' MADDIE IS DEAD
Portuguese police have claimed that they now have "fundamental evidence" that missing British girl Madeleine McCann is dead, according to reports.
The new claims come as police "launched [multiple] searches" for the Madeleine's body in rural wells in the Algarve, a popular holiday destination in Portugal.
The search is said to be centred on Vila do Bispo, a short drive from Praia da Luz where Madeleine disappeared just days before her fourth birthday, in May 2007.
Portuguese state broadcaster RTP earlier reported detectives discovered "fundamental evidence" linking convicted German paedophile Christian Brueckner to her disappearance.
According to The Sun, emergency services have also been called in to help with the new search, reportedly being told they were "looking for a body''.
The Portuguese broadcaster has also linked the 43-year-old Brueckner to another missing persons' case in the Algarve resort of Silves.
Last month, it was reported that police were searching a ramshackle farmhouse and various wells at a property that Brueckner had reportedly rented.
The farmhouse is just 25 minutes' walk from the hotel where the Madeleine went missing 13 years ago while she was on holiday with her family.
The single-storey farmhouse property is littered with abandoned wells and sits on a hillside with a footpath to the beach where the three-year-old played.
According to Portuguese newspaper Sol, the Judicial Police (PJ) has looked at the possibility Madeleine's body could be in the wells.
But at that point Portuguese police hadn't received a request from German authorities to search places frequented by Brueckner, it was reported.
After the recent appeal which led to Brueckner being identified as a suspect, police were said to be on standby to search areas German prosecutors pinpointed as possible burial sites once they had extra information.
SUSPECT 'SLIPPED THROUGH NET' TWICE
Meanwhile, Brueckner reportedly twice evaded Portuguese investigators, court documents and witness testimony have suggested.
Court documents from the suspect's conviction for fuel theft in the Algarve in 2006, a year before Madeleine disappeared, reveal that he hid his paedophile past, reports Sky News.
Asked by a judge to list his previous crimes, he admitted to a conviction for sex abuse in Germany when he was a juvenile, but didn't reveal his victim was a young girl.
"When he was 17 years old he was convicted in Germany for burglaries and sex crimes," the court stenographer recorded.
Serafim Vieira, the Portuguese lawyer who defended him in a Portimao court, said: "He didn't tell the judge it was a paedophile crime and the judge was not obliged to ask for the German police files or investigate it.
"The crime was more than ten years earlier and had no bearing on the theft crime he had just admitted."
This meant that Brueckner wasn't registered in Portuguese police files as a paedophile and was not among the dozens of known paedophiles who were questioned as potential suspects when the three-year-old vanished.
"Everyone is blaming the Portuguese police, but you should ask the German authorities if they sent a list of all the German paedophiles living in Portugal," Mr Vieira told Sky News.
A social worker's assessment of him at the time said he had "an unstable past with no family roots and he is a loner. He has an errant past."
Five months after he was released in 2007, Madeleine disappeared from her family's rented apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
Ten years later he reportedly evaded police again after he allegedly exposed himself to two young girls at a children's playground in Portugal.
He allegedly asked one of the girls, who was then aged eight, what her name was.
Nelia Bras, a mother who was in the area at the time, told Sky News: "To think that a man with such a dangerous history was here in this quiet familiar town. He could have grabbed one of the girls.
"There were hundreds of people around and we were sitting near the playground having dinner when the girls ran over said there was a man exposing himself.
"We went running to see what was happening, but other parents had already grabbed the man and pushed him up against a wall.
"He claimed he was just having a pee."
Police were called and arrested the man in June 2017 because he was drunk but he reportedly refused to identify himself.
Mrs Bras told the news station she was later told by police that he wasn't charged but instead deported to Germany where he served an outstanding jail sentence for child sex crimes.
Given the fact that Brueckner was deported, he was not identified as a possible suspect in the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine.
It was only this year that authorities pointed to him as a possible suspect.
Brueckner is currently in a German jail serving the last few months of a drugs sentence and a seven-year sentence for rape.
Originally published as Top suspect in Maddie case could go free after 'legal bungle'