Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner seen for first time in four years as he faces rape charges in German court

16 February 2024, 09:40 | Updated: 16 February 2024, 10:11

Christian Brückner appeared in court in the northern city of Braunschweig, facing three allegations of rape and two of sexual abuse
Christian Brückner appeared in court in the northern city of Braunschweig, facing three allegations of rape and two of sexual abuse. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The man prosecutors believe is behind the disappearance of Madeleine McCann appeared in a German court today to stand trial on a series of unrelated sex abuse charges.

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Christian Brueckner made his first public appearance in four years at a court in Brunswick, Lower Saxony this morning.

But after a short hearing this morning Judge Christina Engelmann adjourned the case until next Friday so that a replacement lay judge could be found.

Brueckner’s lawyer discredited one of the court’s lay judges, highlighting her social media posts with the wording 'kill the devil' which referred to Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

He said the 'radical' comments made her unsuitable to carry out her role as a lay judge.  After forty minutes of deliberations, the court was adjourned and Ms Britta Thielen-Donckel was removed from the court and the case was adjourned until next Friday as authorities will have to search for a replacement.

Brueckner was reutend to his cell.

It was the first time he has been seen in public since 2020 when he was seen being put into an ambulance to receive treatment after being attacked in prison.

He is accused of three rapes and two counts of sexual abuse dating between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal.

Brueckner had a blank expression on his face as he appeared in the German court
Brueckner had a blank expression on his face as he appeared in the German court. Picture: Alamy

He is already service a seven-year jail term for rape. He has never been charged with Madeleine’s disappearance and has denied any involvement.

He was identified as a suspect by German prosecutors in 2020 and they are dealing with Madeleine’s disappearance as a murder inquiry.

He has also been made a formal suspect by Portuguese authorities.

Brueckner was hauled into court just after 8am local time this morning
Brueckner was hauled into court just after 8am local time this morning. Picture: Alamy

He is charged with the rpe of a woman aged 70 to 80 in her holiday apartment in Portugal between 2000 and 2006, the rape of a German-speaking girl of at least 14 at a house where he lived in Praia de Luz, again between 2000 and 2006 and the rape of an Irish woman whose holiday flat he is alleged to have broken into from her balcony in Praia da Rocha in 2004.

He is accused of whipping his victims and filming the assaults.

He is also accused of sexual abuse of a German girl, 10, on a beach in Salema in 2007 three and a half weeks before Madeleine disappeared.

He could be given between five and 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Lawyer Friedrich Fülscher said he was confident he could defend Brueckner against the charges which he says are based on"very, very shaky foundations."

He has claimed the charges are part of a witch-hunt against the 47-year-old, who is already serving a seven-year jail sentence for rape.

Brueckner is set to go to trial in Germany on Friday over the allegations - which include an accusation of raping an Irish holiday rep at knifepoint in 2004.

Fülscher said he had brought on a powerful defence team for Brueckner, who is also the prime suspect in the abduction of three-year-old Madeleine McCann.

His lawyer said: “I am convinced that there can only be an acquittal at the end of the trial.”

He warned witnesses: “They will have to be prepared for unpleasant questions.”

Previously, Fülscher claimed that the suspect’s charges are based on “very, very shaky foundations”.

Brueckner is set to appear before a court in Braunschweig over three accusations of rape and two sexual offences involving children in Portugal.

He faces between five and 15 years in prison if he is found guilty.

Brueckner is due before a court on Friday.
Brueckner is due before a court on Friday. Picture: Alamy

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

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

It comes after it was claimed last week that Brueckner tried to recruit a man to find a child to sell to a rich family one week before Madeleine McCann went missing.

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."

Brueckner is the prime suspect in the case of Madeleine McCann.
Brueckner is the prime suspect in the case of Madeleine McCann. Picture: Alamy

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.

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, 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.

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