German Madeleine McCann suspect 'tried to recruit man to kidnap child' in Portugal a week before she vanished

8 February 2024, 07:23

Christian Brueckner is the main suspect in Madeleine McCann's disappearance
Christian Brueckner is the main suspect in Madeleine McCann's disappearance. Picture: Alamy/Handout

By Will Taylor

Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner tried to recruit a man to find a child to sell to a rich family one week before she went missing, an expat has claimed.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Ken Ralphs was living in a nomadic community in southwest Portugal when a friend told him about the alleged plot.

The friend, who has not been named, was living in a teepee in the woods some 20 miles outside of Praia da Luz, the seaside resort Madeleine disappeared from in May 2007.

"We were sitting around the fire one night after a meal, we had a few beers and during the early hours of the morning my friend began to cry," Mr Ralphs, a former political campaigner, said.

"I asked him what the matter was and, eventually, he confessed to me he was getting involved with Christian to steal a child from Praia da Luz from a rich family."

Read more: Madeleine McCann suspect 'had notes of child rape fantasies' as prosecutor says they give an 'insight into his mind'

Mr Ralphs was in Portugal after after mistakenly being exposed when he informed about a gang murder in the UK.

He told Sky News: "17 years ago my friend and his family were living in a teepee here and me and my wife used to bring them food.

Madeleine disappeared in 2007
Madeleine disappeared in 2007. Picture: Alamy

"Christian knew the guy was vulnerable and wanted to travel abroad, but he couldn't leave because he couldn't afford the air tickets."

The 59-year-old said he warned his friend not to get involved and said he could help with money after he returned from a trip to the UK.

Read more: Madeleine McCann faker Julia Wendell admits she’s not Maddie, tells of regrets and says 'I wanted to know the truth'

"I said you can't get involved in kidnapping a person for ransom, that's ridiculous, then he explained, no, it's not like that. Christian had a customer, a buyer lined up, a German couple who couldn't have children," he said.

Mr Ralphs said he had returned to the UK when he heard of Madeleine's disappearance, and he drove from his father's home in Workington to tell police what he knew.

Brueckner denies involvement in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Brueckner denies involvement in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Picture: Handout

When he arrived back in the Algarve, he found the friend had gone, the teepee was burned and Brueckner was nowhere to be found. He did not see either again.

He spoke to Portuguese police but they did not make contact until he went back to them in 2020, after seeing Brueckner's identification as the suspect.

A detailed statement has been sent to German prosecutors, which has been passed on to investigators.

Brueckner, 46, who is in jail in Germany for raping an elderly American woman in Praia da Luz in 2005, denies involvement in Madeleine's disappearance and he has not been charged in relation to her.

She was three years old when she vanished. British police consider her case to still be a missing person investigation.

Brueckner is about to go on trial charged with three rapes and two sexual assaults against children between December 2000 and June 2017 in Portugal.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Donald Trump was shot at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania yesterday

‘We will FEAR NOT’: Trump releases new statement after attempted assassination by 20-year-old Republican supporter

Graziano Di Prima has broken his silence

Strictly pro Graziano Di Prima allegedly 'spat, kicked and berated' Zara McDermott before sacking

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Gunshots and a defiant fist: How the first attempted assassination against a Presidential candidate in 52 years unfolded

What will following the shooting of Donald Trump?

Donald Trump shot during campaign rally: Jon Sopel explains what it means for the US Presidential race

The nation is gripped by Euros fever

England expects! Nation gripped by Euros fever as fans prepare for historic final against Spain

Donald Trump has been shot through the ear at a rally in Pennsylvania - as one bystander was killed and two others were critically injured.

Pictured: Shocking scenes as gunman shoots Donald Trump during rally leaving one bystander dead

Liz Truss has reacted to her party's terrible election results

Liz Truss blames Tory election drubbing on Rishi Sunak ‘trashing her record’ before pointing finger at Tony Blair

Joe Biden reacts to the assassination attempt of Donald Trump

‘Everyone must condemn it’: Joe Biden labels Donald Trump assassination attempt ‘sick’ as world leaders react

Donald Trump was shot at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania yesterday

Gunman behind Donald Trump’s assassination attempt is 20-year-old Republican supporter, FBI reveals

Donald Trump's ear was grazed in a shooting at a campaign rally yesterday

‘Much bleeding took place’: Donald Trump releases statement after being shot at campaign rally

President Trump was shot at a rally in Pennsylvania

Donald Trump carried off stage by Secret Service after shooting at campaign rally

American XL bully

Police raid suspected XL Bully farm and arrest man as 13 dogs seized inside house with children

Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has told the England team that they have "made the country proud" before their crunch Euros final against Spain on Sunday.

'Bring it home': Keir Starmer sends message to England team ahead of showpiece Euros final against Spain

spanhoe airfield near corby main runway

Pilot killed in plane crash at former RAF airfield near Corby as police urge witnesses to come forward

A child is dead and five people have been injured after a house fire in East Ham, London.

Child dead after deadly blaze that injured five which gutted east London home and needed 40 firefighters to tackle

Daniel Halliday went missing while playing in the water with his brother on June 30.

Body found in the sea confirmed to be 14-year-old Daniel Halliday who was swept away in River Mersey on June 30