Portuguese prosecutors have identified a formal suspect in the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann. Prosecutors in Faro, the main city of the Algarve region, said Thursday that a suspect had been formally identified a day earlier, per the BBC. Though prosecutors didn't name the individual, they said he had been identified by German authorities at their request. Since 2020, German authorities have been investigating 45-year-old German national Christian Brueckner, a child sex offender and convicted rapist, who was living in Algarve when the 3-year-old vanished from her family's vacation rental in the seaside town of Praia da Luz, per the Guardian.
May 3 will mark 15 years since the abduction of Madeleine. Under Portuguese law, there is a 15-year statute of limitations for crimes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more, meaning a person of interest would have to be named by this date to face charges. However, Portugal's office of public prosecutions denied time pressure was a factor, per the BBC, saying there are "strong indications" of a crime, despite the fact that no body has been found. Jim Gamble, an ex-police officer who led a 2010 review of the case in the UK, tells the BBC that a phone put Brueckner in the area of the disappearance. He also says the suspect burglarized area homes and had children's clothing in his Volkswagen camper van.
Authorities are now focused on the camper van, which Brueckner reportedly used to move between Portugal and Germany, per Sky News. Brueckner's lawyer tells the Guardian that the suspect, now serving seven years in a German prison following a 2019 conviction for the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old US woman in Algarve, has not been charged. But "I wouldn't be surprised if charges follow," says Gamble. This is the first time Portuguese prosecutors have identified formal suspects since naming Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, in 2007. The parents, who were dining at a nearby restaurant at the time of the disappearance, were later cleared of wrongdoing. (A search of a German property turned up a hidden cellar.)