German police claim to have found new evidence of missing Madeleine McCann inside the van of prime suspect Christian Brueckner.
As Madeleine’s parents held a vigil to mark the 15th anniversary of the day she went missing during a family holiday in Portugal, lead investigator Hans-Christian Wolters revealed evidence had been uncovered potentially linking the convicted rapist to the three-year-old’s disappearance.
He told Portuguese TV show Sabado: “We have found new facts and new evidence. It’s not forensic evidence but evidence.”
When asked about rumours fibers from the youngster’s pajamas had been found inside the German’s campervan, the prosecutor said: “I’m not going to comment on the details of the investigation.”
But pressed by host Sandra Felgueiras, who asked: “But you can’t deny it”, Mr Wolters responded: “I don’t want to deny it”, later adding: “Because the suspect has not yet been informed.”
Kate and Gerry McCann marked the 15th anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance at a vigil in their home village of Rothley, Leicestershire, on Tuesday evening.
The parents were joined by dozens of members of the community as Ms McCann marked the occasion by reading a poignant poem, while prayers and readings were also dedicated to Madeleine.
The couple have said they are still hopeful efforts by police in three countries to solve their daughter’s disappearance will eventually yield some answers.
Prosecutor Mr Wolters has previously said he believes Madeleine is dead and insists Brueckner is responsible.
Brueckner is a German citizen and the law of that country states evidence cannot be released until a suspect and his legal team have been given full details.
He had reportedly been using the yellow and white VW T3 Westfalia campervan in and around Praia da Luz – the Algarve resort where the McCanns were holidaying – at the time Madeleine vanished days before her fourth birthday.
Brueckner was revealed as the chief suspect in the German probe into the toddler’s disappearance two years ago in 2020 – and officially named a suspect by Portuguese police last month.
But while German prosecutors say telecomms data shows Brueckner received a phone call on 3 May 2007 near the Praia da Luz holiday apartment from which the three-year-old went missing, he now reportedly claims to have been miles from the scene in the company of a young German woman.
The 45-year-old, who has always denied any interference in Madeleine’s disappearance, insists he drove the woman – who was on holiday with her parents – to the airport in Faro for her return flight home the following day, and they were stopped and photographed at a police roadblock, according to Sky News.
The woman was then arrested at airport security for carrying an illegal pepper spray and later appeared in court, Brueckner reportedly claims.
While he had previously been unable to remember the woman’s full name, Brueckner has since been able to identify her and believes Portuguese authorities should have a record of the encounters, the broadcaster reported.
It is claimed that, while investigating the rape of a 72-year-old woman for which Brueckner is now serving a seven-year prison sentence in Germany, police found a photograph of the woman lying in Brueckner’s camper van.
But Mr Wolters, who is leading the probe with detectives from Portugal and the UK, appeared to contradict the claims of a potential alibi.
“We actually haven’t found a single piece of the puzzle in the two years that would have somehow helped to exonerate Christian B,” the prosecutor told Sky News. “So it’s really nothing that would somehow maybe be an alibi or something. Nothing of that has come to light, really at any point.”
There have also been reports that British investigators have found an alibi for Brueckner during the days around Madeleine’s disappearance, and a Channel 5 documentary aired on Tuesday was expected to feature four different people backing it up.
Portuguese police named Bruckner an arguido – a formal suspect – on 21 April. It is the first time they have identified an official suspect since 2007, when they named Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann as suspects, both of whom were later cleared.
It has been suggested that the move could potentially be “procedural”, in connection with the fact that Portugal’s statute of limitations does not allow certain crimes to be prosecuted more than 15 years after they were committed.
But Portugal’s office of public prosecutions said the announcement was driven not by timing, but by “strong indications” of criminality.
Additional reporting by PA