Witness 'saw Madeleine McCann and a man in a German-owned Volkswagen van - just like Christian Brueckner's - in Spain weeks after she vanished'

  • A witness claimed to have spotted Madeleine McCann getting into a German-owned VW van 
  • The sighting in the Spanish seaside town of Alcossebre was on May 28 2007, weeks after the child vanished 
  • Christian Brueckner, the new main suspect, was living in a similar van in Praia de Luz when Maddie vanished 
  •  Brueckner regularly visited a rundown house in the Portuguese countryside months Madeleine vanished 
  • 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 
A witness claimed to have spotted Madeleine McCann getting into a German-owned VW van with a man just weeks after her disappearance, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
A police file unearthed by this paper details how the witness saw Madeleine emerging from a restaurant in the Spanish seaside town of Alcossebre before climbing into the van with an unidentified man.
The sighting, one of dozens in the early weeks of the investigation, has taken on new significance since German paedophile Christian Brueckner was identified last week as a key suspect in the case.
British detectives believe the 43-year-old was living out of a battered VW T3 Westerfalia campervan in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.
According to the witness, Madeleine was seen at 11am on May 28, 2007 – three weeks after she vanished – coming out of popular local restaurant Tunnels in Alcossebre, some 600 miles from Praia da Luz. 
At the time, Leicestershire Police Detective Constable John Hughes issued an international Interpol alert with a ‘risk to life missing person’ warning demanding that Spanish and German police investigate.
He urged Spanish police to check the location for CCTV and witnesses and asked for the German vehicle keeper details. It is unclear what checks were made.
The police report, issued as part of Operation Task, says: ‘A caller has reported a possible sighting of Madeleine McCann, 11am, 28th May 2007.
‘Location given as a restaurant called Tunnels, in an old castle at an area called Cap Y Corp, Alcossebre, Spain. She was seen to leave with a man in a Volkswagen van.
A witness claimed to see Madeline McCann (pictured)Christian Brueckner
A witness claimed to see Madeline McCann (pictured) with an 'unidentified man' in a German-owned VW similar to the one owned by Christian Brueckner, right, van just weeks after her disappearanceDetectives believe Christian Brueckner, the latest main suspect in the McCann case, was living out of a German campervan in 2007
It also emerged that Brueckner sold the VW van for £5,000 in 2015 to a German compatriot running an unofficial scrapyard in the Silves area of the Algarve. Portuguese police officers seized the vehicle in 2019.
The owner of the yard said: ‘The police said they needed the van as part of the investigation. It was all very sudden – there had been nothing on the TV or in the papers about the case at that time.
‘I’m not sure I’d ever get it back, but if it turns out Christian had something to do with Madeleine’s disappearance, then I don’t want it back. It wouldn’t be right.’
Scotland Yard said Brueckner’s Volkswagen van had a Portuguese registration plate. It is not known whether he changed the registration plate at any time. 
As part of the appeal for information, the Met Police said in a statement that the suspect had ‘access to this van from at least April 2007 until sometime after May 2007’.
It added: ‘We believe he was living in this van for days, possibly weeks, and may have been using it on 3 May 2007
‘We are appealing for anyone who may have seen it in or around Praia da Luz on 3 May, the night Madeleine went missing, the days before, or weeks following the disappearance.’
Last night, The Mail on Sunday asked Scotland Yard whether the van’s registration was the same as the one identified in the 2007 sighting, but the force said it was not revealing those details.

Suspect's secret lair that could lead police to Maddie: Christian Brueckner regularly visited run-down house in Portuguese countryside in the months after she disappeared

Paedophile Christian Brueckner regularly visited a rundown house hidden away in the Portuguese countryside in the months after the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The property – pictured exclusively and never before linked to Brueckner – could now become a focal point in the investigation into whether the German kidnapped and murdered Madeleine.
An investigation by this newspaper has established that Brueckner often stayed at the villa in the village of Foral in 2007 and 2008. He reportedly parked his distinctive Volkswagen Westfalia campervan, which was subsequently seized by German police, in the car park of a nearby restaurant.
Christian Brueckner, the German paedophile who is the chief suspect in the Madeleine McCann disappearance, stayed in this house in Foral, Portucal between 2007 and 2008
The villa is about 40 miles from the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz, the holiday resort where three-year-old Madeleine disappeared in May 2007.
The villa, which is understood to have never been searched by police, was rented between 2002 and 2009 by a German woman called Nicole who is said to have used it for a rehabilitation programme for troubled teenagers.
A German couple who have lived in the village for more than 20 years said they immediately recognised Brueckner when he was named last week as the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine and his image appeared in the media.
‘I said, “That’s Christian” before I even read what his name was,’ said the husband, who asked not to be named.
‘The first time I met him he was hosting a party at the restaurant.
‘He had two dogs, one medium-sized, one small. The name of the small one I even remember, it was called Frau Muller and was always rummaging around the bins.
‘The female tenant was German and had a young daughter. She also had a young teenage girl living with her who was not her daughter. The woman would fly kids over from Germany and was supposedly running a rehabilitation programme for troubled youths.’
Brueckner’s visits to the property could form a key part of police attempts to piece together his movements after Madeleine vanished. He is thought to have left Portugal shortly after and returned to Germany, reportedly telling friends that he had stolen a lot of cash during a burglary on the Algarve.
He first moved to the German of city of Dresden for a few weeks and then to Augsburg in Bavaria, staying in the attic of a home owned by landlord Alexander Bischoff, 64, for two or three weeks at a time. But according to Mr Bischoff, Brueckner was often away, including on trips back to Portugal.
In 2015 he sold the VW T3 Westfalia to the German owner of a scrapyard in the town of Silves, 14 miles from Foral. Meanwhile, Brueckner’s German police file lists one of his ‘abodes’ as ‘Portugal. Messines’. The village of Sao Bartolomeu de Messines is just six miles from Foral.
Lia Silva, the owner of the property in Foral, said an intimidating German man would visit the villa and visit Nicole. At one point it is claimed he helped track down one of the German teenagers who had run away.
‘Suddenly a German guy turned up, and the rumours were that he was a private detective of some nature,’ said Ms Silva. ‘Some people were afraid of him when he used to go to the restaurant.
‘Eventually, the guy found the runaway girl … and it turns out she was pregnant. It was a major problem. It was then that Nicole was no longer allowed to receive kids from Germany, so she lost all her income.’
When Ms Silva was shown a photograph of Brueckner, she said: ‘Yeah that looks like him, it could be him.’
She added that Nicole abandoned the villa in 2009, allegedly owing 10,000 euros in rent.
‘I found syringes and used needles and a spoon and bricks of hashish in a shoebox,’ Ms Silva added. ‘I was devastated to find that in my house.’

German police placed Christian Brueckner on round-the-clock surveillance  

 German police considered Christian Brueckner so dangerous that they put him under round- the-clock surveillance.
The convicted paedophile was released from jail in 2018 as a result of a bureaucratic bungle against the wishes of German police and prosecutors. In panic, officers were sent to follow him, but he gave them the slip.
Brueckner had been arrested in Portugal in 2017 and extradited to Germany to serve 15 months in prison for child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.
He was eligible for release in August 2018, but the German authorities were desperate for him to remain behind bars for drug trafficking. Under extradition law, Portugal had to give its consent and it is claimed the Portuguese authorities did not do so in time – meaning Brueckner was released.
Detectives first tried to covertly track his movements but he soon realised that he was under surveillance. The officers then began openly following him.
‘We stood in front of his house at night, walked beside him when he was out, and talked to him,’ said an investigator.
Brueckner went to the Netherlands, where the Dutch police who took over surveillance lost him. From there he fled to Italy, where he was arrested a month later and extradited back to Germany where he was convicted of the 2005 rape of a pensioner.

Name of new Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner was passed to police SEVEN years ago by an acquaintance who remembered him from Praia da Luiz

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
‘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. 
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.
Christian Brueckner, pictured with a friend in 2011,  was adopted as a baby after being given up by his birth mother and began abusing children as a teenager
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. 
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
The German suspect had lived in a warehouse outside Praia da Luz for several years but moved into a campervan just before Madeleine vanished
The German suspect had lived in a warehouse outside Praia da Luz for several years but moved into a campervan just before Madeleine vanished
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’.
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.
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. 
'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.’

Horror of woman who raised Maddie McCann suspect: How Christian Brueckner's adoptive parents were forced to send him to a home for delinquent teenagers when they could no longer cope with his wayward behaviour

  • Brigitte Brueckner spoke to MailOnline from the doorway of her modest home in Bergtheim, near Wuerzburg 
  • She said she knew nothing of estranged son's life in Portugal, adding: 'I don't want to know anything about it'
  • Neighbours revealed Christian Brueckner was thrown out of adopted home because of disruptive behaviour 
  • It comes as Brueckner is being linked to two other child disappearances in 1996 and 2015, respectively
  • Scotland Yard has revealed it has received 400 tip-offs after convicted sex fiend Brueckner was named 
Madeleine McCann murder suspect Christian Brueckner was thrown out of his adopted home because of his disruptive and criminal behaviour, MailOnline can reveal as his parents are exclusively pictured for the first time.
Brigitte and Fritz Brueckner had taken baby Christian into their family as an act of charity for the tiny foundling who had been given up by his mother.  
But the kind-hearted parents sent him to live in a reform home for delinquent teenagers after Herr Brueckner was seriously injured in a car crash and could no longer discipline the boy. 
Widowed Frau Brueckner today told MailOnline she knew nothing about her estranged son's alleged crimes. 
Standing inside the doorway of her modest home in Bergtheim, near Wuerzburg, she told MailOnline: 'I don't know anything about it. I don't want to know anything about it.'
She distanced herself from the 43-year-old prisoner as neighbours revealed the family's difficulty in controlling Christian.
They told of how Frau Brueckner could not cope with Christian's disruptive and increasingly criminal behaviour and simultaneously look after her disabled husband who suffered brain damage and was confined to a wheel chair following the smash in 1992.
As the re-energised investigation into Madeleine's disappearance 13 years ago gathered pace: 
  • Scotland Yard revealed it has received 400 tip-offs after convicted sex fiend Brueckner was named as the key suspect;
  • German prosecutors linked Brueckner to the 1994 disappearance of six-year-old boy René from the Algarve and the 2015 vanishing of five-year-old girl Ingra Gehricke; 
  • Brueckner became eligible for parole this weekend but is unlikely to be released from custody for his 15-month sentences for drug offences;
  • It was claimed Brueckner was not cooperating with German officers in the McCann investigation; 
  • Lawyer Jan-Christian Hochmann confirmed he was representing Brueckner but said he had no comment on the case;  
  • It was revealed Brueckner was flagged as a key Madeleine McCann kidnap and murder suspect seven years ago. 
Brigitte and Fritz BruecknerChristian Brueckner, the key suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann

The former home of Christian Brueckner: Today neighbours of the couple in the village of Bergthei, where he grew up told of their shock that Brueckner has been linked to the murder of four-year-old Madeleine in 2007

The primary school in the village of Bertheim, southern Bavaria, where Christian Brueckner grew up (pictured today)

Brigitte BruecknerFritz Brueckner
Brigitte (left) and Fritz Brueckner (right) had taken baby Christian into their family as an act of charity for the tiny foundling who had been given up by his mother
Today neighbours of the couple in the village of Bergthei, where he grew up also told of their shock that Brueckner has been linked to the murder of three-year-old Madeleine in 2007. 
One neighbour told MailOnline: 'The Brueckners were a lovely couple, very kind. But what happened with their boy Christian is a catastrophe.
'They took him in as a baby and brought him up as their own. He was often in trouble and he got worse and worse as he grew into a teenager. Christian must have been 13 or 14 when Herr Bruecker, Fritz, had the car accident.
'As the man of the house it was Fritz who disciplined the boy. Christian needed a firm hand. But after the accident he could not do that any more.
'Brigitte, the mother did her best, but she could not cope with the boy and look after her husband. Christian had been in trouble and that is when he was sent to a reform school for delinquent teenagers in Wuerzburg.'
She added: 'Sadly Fritz, the husband is dead now. But his wife Brigitte did everything she could for him. She was awarded a medal.'
Another neighbour added: 'Brigitte is a lovely woman. I knew Christian but I have not seen him for years.
'If what I read is true it will destroy his mother. Brigitte and Fritz did everything they could for him when he was a boy.'  
Bergtheim is a small municipality in southern Bavaria, Germany, where Brueckner grew up before being sent to a reform school
Bergtheim in GermanyBergtheim in Germany
A close family friend revealed the discovery of Brueckner's alleged involvement in the murder of Madeleine will destroy his mother.  
Monica Veirheilig told MailOnline: 'This will destroy Brigitte. For your child to kill another child is the worst thing imaginable for a mother.
'She is a kind woman and she has already had to deal with tragedy. She had to cope with looking after her husband after he suffered brain damage in the car crash and later his death.
'But finding out her son may be a killer is a second tragedy for her.' 
She added: 'I don't want to judge Frau Brueckner. I hope Madeleine parents will finally find out the truth about what happened to her. The not-knowing must be the worst.'
Another neighbour has told how Christian Brueckner and his brothers had bad reputation in their home town while growing up. 
A mum-of-three who knew Christian growing up said he was well known in the area for getting in trouble.
The mum of three told MailOnline: 'I knew Christian growing up - I was two years younger than him so I wasn't that close to him but I knew him well because of his reputation.
'He was well known in our area for getting in to trouble. Everyone knew that he was handful and was not easy for his parents...I was a child at the time so I can't remember the details but I remember other adults talking about the fact that Christian was not easy for his parents.
'His parents are lovely people. They are very kind, they obviously must be because they adopted three boys.
'I was fully aware of the Madeleine McCann case, everyone does. I was horrified when I heard that the suspect is from a family that lives over the road from me.
'You never thing something like this is going to come to your doorstep. It makes me feel so bad that he might be involved. I just hope for the poor parents of Madeleine that the case is resolved soon.'
Brueckner, now 43, is the key suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine from Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007. 
He moved from Germany to the Portuguese coastal town in 1995 after serving part of a two-year sentence for molesting a six-year-old girl in Wurzburg. 
Following his naming by German police, he has further been linked to the disappearances of six-year-old boy René Hasse in the Algarve, 1996, and five-year-old girl Igna Gehnricke in Germany, 2015.
Now languishing in a German prison in Kiel on a drug-related sentence, at the time of Madeleine's vanishing he was living in the area about a 10-minute drive away. 
In 2005, two years prior to the infant's disappearance, he raped a 72-year-old American woman on a waterfront villa less than a mile from the Ocean Club hotel where Madeleine went missing.
Prosecutors in Germany are now desperately trying to build a case against Brueckner, who is eligible for parole this weekend but unlikely to be granted a release from custody. 
Information continues to pour into Scotland Yard's Maddie squad Operation Grange. A force spokesperson said today: 'We have now received just short of 400 pieces of information. We are pleased with the amount of calls and emails coming in and we are assessing them and prioritising them.' 
Maddie'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.
He told MailOnline: 'Kate and Gerry continue to be encouraged by the level of response and nearly 400 fresh pieces of information so far is exactly what the Met wanted from their appeal.' 
Lawyer Jan-Christian Hochmann confirmed he was representing Brueckner but declined to comment on the case.
'It is correct that I and my colleage David Volke are representing him, but we are not making any comment at the moment,' Hochmann told Reuters by phone.
Brueckner himself is reportedly refusing to cooperate with the police investigation. A source close to the German police told the Sun: 'So far he is saying absolutely nothing to officers, he is keeping schtum.'

Christian Brueckner is linked to FOURTH unsolved case: Police probe if Madeleine McCann suspect was involved in death of girl, 16, whose body was found on beach in Belgium in 1996

  • Belgian prosecutors are investigating whether Brueckner was involved in 1996 vanishing of  Carola Titze, 16
  • Carola vanished on the morning of July 5 while holidaying with her parents at a Flemish resort in De Haan 
  • German teenager was missing for six days before her body was found violently mutilated on the sand dunes 
  • Brueckner has also been linked to vanishing of René Hasse, six, in 1996 and Inga Gehricke, five in 2015 
Carola Titze (left) vanished on the morning of July 5, 1996 while holidaying with her parents at a Flemish resort in De Haan, West Flanders

Carola Titze (left) vanished on the morning of July 5, 1996 while holidaying with her parents at a Flemish resort in De Haan, West Flanders
Madeleine McCann's suspected murderer Christian Brueckner could be linked to a fourth unsolved child disappearance, prosecutors claimed today.
Belgian authorities are investigating whether the 43-year-old German sex offender was involved in the mysterious killing of 16-year-old Carola Titze in 1996.
Carola vanished on the morning of July 5 while holidaying with her parents at a Flemish resort in De Haan, West Flanders.
The German teenager was missing for six days before her body was found violently mutilated on the sand dunes. 
In the days before her disappearance, she was allegedly seen at a disco with a German man, who policed tried to track down but failed.
Prosecutors in Bruges confirmed to local media they are now probing the possible connection between Titze's death and Brueckner, following his naming as prime suspect in the McCann case.
Since Brueckner became detectives' main lead in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine from Portugal's Praia de Lug in 2007, he has been linked to two other vanishings.
The family of German six-year-old René Hasse, who went missing in the Algarve in 1996, revealed police are re-investigating the case for the first time in 20 years.
And prosecutors have also re-opened the suspected abduction case of five-year-old Inga Gehricke - dubbed Germany's Madeleine - from Diakoniewerk Wilhelmshof in Saxony-Anhalt in 2015.
Madeleine McCann, the three-year-old British girl who vanished from her hotel room in Praia de Lug in May 2007Christian Brueckner is the prime suspect in the McCann case
German detectives investigating Christian B, 43, have contacted the family of René Hasee to say they were looking into his 1996 abduction againInga Gehricke vanished from Diakoniewerk Wilhelmshof in Saxony-Anhalt during a family outing on May 2, 2015 in an case that detectives have been unable to solve ever since
Carola vanished on the morning of July 5 while holidaying with her parents at a Flemish resort in De Haan, West Flanders. The German teenager was missing for six days before her body was found violently mutilated on the sand dunes
Carola vanished on the morning of July 5 while holidaying with her parents at a Flemish resort in De Haan, West Flanders. The German teenager was missing for six days before her body was found violently mutilated on the sand dunes
In the days before Titze's disappearance, she was allegedly seen at a disco with a German man, who policed tried to track down with this identikit photo but failed

In the days before Titze's disappearance, she was allegedly seen at a disco with a German man, who policed tried to track down with this identikit photo but failed
The case into Carola's disappearance in 1996 went cold in 2016. At the time, police released an identikit drawing of the German man she was seen with at the disco, but he was never identified. 
Mayor Wilfried Vandaele of De Haan said: 'A shockwave went through our community when the body of Carola Titze was found in woodland in the dunes in 1996,' according to Belgian news site VRT.
'Of course, we too want the perpetrator to be found at long last. Let's hope the German investigation can provide greater clarity.' 
Only a few weeks before Carola's disappearance, six-year-old René vanished from Amoreiras beach in the Algarve. 
The infant from Elsdorf, Germany, was on holiday with his family in Aljezur - just 25 miles from Praia da Luz, where Bruenecker was living.
René was last seen running towards the sea on a crowded beach before his mother lost sight of him - only his clothes were later found by the water. 
The boy's grandparents have previously insisted their grandson would never have wandered into the sea by himself and said 'his footprints stopped in the middle of the sand', and yesterday his father Andreas said there 'could be a connection' with Bruenecker.          
Andreas told his local newspaper that an investigator from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) phoned him yesterday, for the first time in 20 years and said they were re-investigating the case.      
It comes after prosecutors re-opened the investigation into whether Brueckner abducted five-year-old Inga Gehricke after she was grabbed from Diakoniewerk Wilhelmshof in Saxony-Anhalt during a family outing five years ago.  
Her disappearance on May 2, 2015 - almost eight years to the day after Madeleine vanished in Portugal on May 3, 2007 - was only 48 miles away from where Brueckner lived on the five-acre site of a box factory in the isolated of village of Neuwegersleben, south-east of Hanover.
One day before Inga went missing, Brueckner's vehicle was in a minor crash at a service station close to where she wandered away.
Police are set to return to this abandoned box factory in Neuwegersleben, Germany, where Christian Brueckner lived in a caravan and hid child porn among animal bones. Police raided it in 2016 looking for missing Inga Gehricke
More than 100 police officers descended on the site in February 201 (pictured), digging holes looking for missing Inga
More than 100 police officers descended on the site in February 201 (pictured), digging holes looking for missing Inga

Christian Brueckner's troubled Bavarian youth 

Brueckner was 17 when he molested a six-year-old girl in a public playground in his home town of Wuerzburg, Bavaria.
He only stopped groping the terrified schoolgirl when she began to scream and cry and he then ran away, a youth court was told.
Later, the then-teenage Brueckner 'dropped his trousers' at a nine-year-old before fleeing the scene, according to German newspaper Bild.
Brueckner, who had quit secondary school to train as a car mechanic, was arrested later for the vile acts in 1994.
At his trial at Wuerzburg District Court, he was asked by the juvenile judge what he thought about his actions and he replied: 'I didn't think anything,' according to the newspaper.
More than 100 officers descended on the old box factory in February 2016, digging holes looking for Inga's body. 
The little girl wasn't found but Brueckner's USB stash of child sex abuse images was found on a USB stick hidden under 'animal bones' with police now set to return, according to German tabloid Bild.
Brueckner was prosecuted over the child porn but he was never charged with Inga's disappearance when the probe was dropped after four weeks. 
He refused to comment about the disappearance recently when questioned in prison by German police. A Met Police detective from the Operation Grange team is also thought to have been present at the time.
But today prosecutors confirmed they have reopened a preliminary investigation into whether he was involved in the unsolved Inga case. 
Stendal Public Prosecutor's Office spokesman Birte Iliev said: 'It is now being examined whether there is any new evidence in connection with the murder suspect in Braunschweig.'
Petra Küllmei said: 'Just a day before Inga disappeared near Stendal, Christian B. was seen nearby on the A2. The file was closed again only four weeks after starting work. I think that's not very ambitious.'
The re-energised investigations came as MailOnline reveal Bruenecker carried out a brutal rape at a beach front villa less than a mile from where the three-year-old disappeared in 2007.
Brueckner broke into the secluded home two years before Maddie went missing from her family's apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz.
A 72-year-old American woman was tortured and raped by Brueckner who filmed the savage attack. He was jailed last year for seven years by a German court after DNA evidence linked him to the assault.
The villa, called Casa Jacaranda, is just a ten-minute walk from the Ocean Village apartments where Maddie was sleeping in a ground floor apartment when she was snatched 13 years ago. 
It has also been revealed that paedophile Brueckner, 43, vowed on a web chat to 'grab himself a little something and abuse it for days'.
He fantasised in an online chatroom in September 2013 about kidnapping and sexual abusing a child, according to German magazine Der Spiegel. 
He allegedly added it would be safer 'if the evidence is exterminated afterwards'. The German word he used, vernichten, is the same word the Nazis used for the final solution.   
Last night Portuguese police last night hit back at claims that Madeleine McCann suspect Brueckner slipped through their net.
Policia Judiciaria insisted the German's name was one of those passed to British police in case files in 2012 – and said Scotland Yard had never asked them to take a closer look at him.
Deputy director Carlos Farinha said: 'If the suspicions about this man were so obvious, he would have been the subject of requests made by the British, which were always authorised by Portugal, but those requests about him were never made.' 
In an interview with Portuguese news agency Lusa, he added: 'If the PJ is being accused of giving Brueckner a lack of priority, the same could be said of the Metropolitan Police. In theory everything could have been different but in 2007 and in 2012 we didn't known what we knew in 2017.'
He said this week's fresh appeal was an initiative of the German police who were convinced it could lead to additional information coming in.
But appearing to hint that the evidence the three police forces have may not be enough to bring charges and a successful prosecution, he said: 'Suspicions about the German national have grown but unfortunately they are not enough to make him an arguido and formally accuse him.' 
It also came as documents revealed by Spiegel allegedly show Brueckner fantasised in disgusting online chats about the kidnapping and sexual abuse of a child in September 2013. 

How the unsolved case of missing Inga Gehricke, five, involved a search team of 500 people after she wandered off to collect wood

Inga Gehricke, five, had been having a barbecue with her family on May 2, 2015

Inga Gehricke, five, had been having a barbecue with her family on May 2, 2015
The disappearance of five-year-old Inga Gehricke during a trip to a forest area in Saxony-Anhalt prompted a huge search involving 500 people.
She had been having a barbecue with her family at an apartment complex in Diakoniewerk Wilhelmshof on May 2, 2015 when she disappeared.
The girl is believed to have wandered off to collect wood to light a campfire at about 6.30pm but never returned.
Police dogs also failed to pick up the scent of Inga who had been wearing a butterfly T-shirt, blue jeans and her hair in two plaits.
One of the main suspects was former security guard Silvio Schulz, but he denied involvement police were never able to prove any link.
In July 2016, Schulz was handed a life sentence for murdering two children, one of them a four-year-old Bosnian boy snatched from a migrant registration centre the year before.
Police also allegedly investigated Christian Brueckner and found a device at his home with child pornography, but could not prove any link to Inga's case.
In June 2017, officers formally dropped the probe into Inga's disappearance. 
Inga had been on the trip with her parents Victoria and Jens-Uwe Gehricke, as well as her three siblings Maxim, 15, Julius, 13, and eight-year-old Freya.
Speaking in April 2017, Mrs Gehricke told Stern magazine that her 'feeling tells me that she is still alive', while her husband said: 'I still have the hope that she will be found. But the hope that she will come back alive goes to zero for me.'
Inga's disappearance on May 2, 2015 was almost eight years to the day after Madeleine vanished in Portugal on May 3, 2007Inga's disappearance on May 2, 2015 was almost eight years to the day after Madeleine vanished in Portugal on May 3, 2007
Inga's disappearance on May 2, 2015 was almost eight years to the day after Madeleine vanished in Portugal on May 3, 2007
He is said to have told one acquaintance he wanted to 'capture something small and use it for days', and that it would be safer if 'the evidence is destroyed afterwards'.
Brueckner was given up by his mother at birth and began abusing children as a teenager when he molested a six-year-old in a public playground, it was revealed today. 
Christian Brueckner was 17 in 1994 when he attacked the little girl in his home town of Wurzburg, Bavaria - and he only stopped groping her when she started screaming and crying.
But he is also said to have 'dropped his trousers' at a nine-year-old boy before fleeing the scene, according to German tabloid Bild.  
He was born Christian Fischer in Bavaria in 1976, but was given up by his birth mother and placed in a children's home in Wuerzburg and was adopted by the Brueckner family as a baby, taking their name.
He descended into a life of crime as a young teenager, and was convicted of his first burglary in his home town of Wurzburg in 1992, when he was 15. 
Within two years, the warped teenager had progressed to sexually abusing a child, with the playground attack earning him a two-year youth sentence, of which he served only a part.
As a young man, Brueckner had dreamed of emigrating with his girlfriend of the time, and when he turned 18 - with a fresh driver's license, and a series of court hearings still pending - he took off to Portugal with his German girlfriend, and the Algarve town of Lagos, said Germany's Bild newspaper, which quoted him as having said: 'We didn't know anything about Portugal. We went to Lagos because we liked the name so much. We had a tent with us and camped in the wild.' 
He eventually settled in Praia da Luz, the picturesque resort where the McCanns chose to take their three children on holiday.
For 12 years he lived there, telling family he was working as a caterer and odd-job man, when in fact he was dealing cannabis, trafficking drugs and burgling holiday homes and hotel rooms.
He was briefly locked up for diesel theft, and is also said to have traded passports and stolen goods.
He lived in Praia da Luz in a somewhat dilapidated and remote house accessed by a dirt road. 'In terms of furnishings, it was a typical bachelor's apartment,' said one acquaintance.
After a decade on the Algarve, perverted 6-foot Brueckner burgled a 72-year-old American widow - and subjected her to a hideous sexual assault.
He broke into her villa near Praia da Luz brandishing a 30cm 'sabre', according to evidence at a court that eventually convicted him.
He beat her, tied her up, gagged and blindfolded her, before carrying out a degrading rape which he videotaped, the court in Braunschweig, Germany, heard. On the video, he finished by ripping off his own mask, a witness told the court.
His victim told investigators: 'I felt that he enjoyed torturing me.' At the time, Brueckner lived in a rented whitewashed villa on a remote hillside along a footpath that runs from above the beach where Madeleine and her family played during their week's holiday.
Neighbours described him as an 'angry' car dealer, who sped along country roads, and saying that when he vanished he left a collection of wigs, fancy dress and exotic clothing.
Brueckner left Portugal after Madeline disappeared on May 3, 2007. The previous month, he had moved out of the villa and into a VW Westfalia campervan which police have now linked to Madeleine's disappearance.
He also kept his prized 1993 Jaguar XJR6 with its German number plate. Yet the day after she vanished, he re-registered the classic British car to another person, although he was still driving it, Scotland Yard has said
A map of the area of Praia de Luz in Portugal showing the suspect's house and the McCanns' holiday apartment which was nearby
A map of the area of Praia de Luz in Portugal showing the suspect's house and the McCanns' holiday apartment which was nearby
Augsburg resident Alexander Bischof has told how he befriended Maddie McCann suspect Brueckner after being introduced by a mutual friend in around 2007 or 2008.
'This is still unimaginable,' says 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 Jagguar 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.'
Back in Germany, rather than keeping his head down, Brueckner continued stealing and drug dealing. By October 2011, the district court in Niebüll, Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, had sentenced him to 'imprisonment of narcotics in large quantities' for one year and nine months. The sentence was initially suspended.
By 2014, Brueckner was living in Braunschweig, near Hanover, where he boasted to friends he had opened a local shop. He claimed he worked from seven in the morning until midnight but the business, along with his relationship, failed and he began to hit the bottle and live on benefits. 
German TV station RTL.DE interviewed a friend of Bruekner's who met him in Braunschweig, and is believed to have lived above his shop.
Norbert M, whose name was changed by the TV station, said: 'You couldn't tell what made him tick.'
Norbert claimed his former friend was in debt to many people and was running a kiosk in the town.
The witness claimed Bruekner had an underage Kosovan girlfriend, though he had never seen the suspect with young children. He is alleged to have beaten her.
He said: 'I heard that he left the kiosk and then went to Portugal or Spain with a girl. He then left dogs in his kiosk for weeks.
'I can imagine that he is behind the disappearance of Maddie.' 
His twisted obsession with child pornography caught up with him and, in 2016, he was sentenced by a district court there to one year and three months' imprisonment for 'sexually abusing a child in the act of procuring himself and possessing child pornography.' 
After his bar-room claims to a friend about Madeleine, on the tenth anniversary in May 2017, Brueckner appears to have returned to the Algarve, but within a month he was arrested there under a European Arrest Warrant and extradited back to Germany.
Brueckner is currently behind bars in Germany serving 21 months for dealing drugs. While he was in prison last December he was also found guilty of raping a 72-year-old American tourist in Praia da Luz just 18 months before Madeleine disappeared. 
The seven-year jail term for this conviction will not start until his appeal has been heard. 
His legal battle with the German authorities over the rape case means he could walk free within days having served two-thirds of his drugs sentence in Kiel prison, Schleswig-Holstein, according to the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau
The paedophile was arrested while living on the streets of Milan in late 2018 on a European Arrest Warrant over the Algarve rape of the 72-year-old American. He was brought back to Germany and charged in August 2019. 
A month earlier he was convicted of drug dealing in the German resort of Sylt and handed the 21-month term he is currently serving. 
In December 2019 a court in Braunschweig, where he had lived before fleeing to Italy, convicted him of the rape because DNA from his hair was found in the woman's holiday home - making it a 244billion to one chance it was not him, the judge was told.But he is appealing the rape verdict on the grounds his extradition from Italy was illegal with Germany's Federal High Court due to rule on the case, and if they find against him he will then start his seven-year sentence. German legal experts said last night that his appeal means he is on the verge of getting parole and could get his freedom as early as Sunday

Paedophile 'lost it' during chat about Madeleine case 

Convicted paedophile Christian Brueckner ‘lost it’ when staff at a kiosk he ran in northern Germany began discussing the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Brueckner ran the small store selling drinks and snacks in the northern German town of Braunschweig between 2012 and 2014.
Lenta Johlitz, 34, worked for him at the corner shop and, recalling the exchange, she told German newspaper Bild: ‘Once he totally lost it when we sat together with friends and had a conversation about the Maddie case. He wanted us to stop talking about it. He shouted, “The child is dead now and that’s it”.’
Her story emerged as a former caretaker described how Brueckner would shower youngsters with toys and teddy bears as they walked to a school barely 100 yards from the kiosk.
Peter Erdmann, 64, who worked at the Grundschule Hohsteig, a primary school for around 300 children, said: ‘The kids would come to school holding ponies and teddy bears. I used to ask them where they got them from, and they used to tell me, “Christian at the kiosk gave it to us”.
‘He used to give the kids the presents when they walked past the kiosk in the morning.’
Mr Erdmann, who worked at the school between 1999 and 2016, added: ‘At the time, I did not think anything of it. I used to go and see Christian in the kiosk, and he always came across as friendly.
‘I even asked him if he gave gifts to the kids, and he told me he had a little box full in the kiosk.
‘It turns my stomach now to think of his intentions and I wish I had raised what was going on with my bosses at the time.’
Mr Erdmann said he now wants to talk to the police, adding: ‘I regret not being more suspicious at the time.’
A former girlfriend of Brueckner has claimed that he would regularly abuse and strangle her.
The claim was recalled by Norbert M – a man who met Brueckner in 2012 and moved into his flat adjoining the kiosk. ‘She was around 17, and blonde. She was a very small woman, puny.
‘She told me Brueckner hit her and strangled her. She told me that herself. I saw strangle marks on her neck.’
Norbert, who asked not to be named in full, said Brueckner would allow children as young as nine to work for him on the shop till. He also claimed that Brueckner allowed his two dogs to die by leaving them inside the kiosk for six weeks while he went on holiday to Portugal.

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