British woman claims Madeleine McCann suspect 'targeted her'

British woman claims Madeleine McCann chief suspect ‘targeted her’ just one month after the three-year-old vanished – as former school caretaker claims Christian Brueckner ‘gave sweets and cuddly toys to children’

  • British mother-of-one says Madeleine McCann suspect used to stare at her
  • She claims he did odd jobs at her family’s home in Foral, Silves, in June 2007 
  • Says he worked in a restaurant a month after Madeleine McCann went missing 
  • He allegedly tracked her down and tried to get back in contact over Facebook 
  • A German former school caretaker claimed Brueckner gave children presents 

A British mother-of-one has claimed Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner ‘targeted her’ a month after the British three-year old went missing – as a former school caretaker claimed the paedophile ‘gave sweets to children’.

Angie Dawes was 32 when she said Brueckner suddenly appeared in the Portugese village of Foral, Silves, where her family lived.

It comes as a former school caretaker claimed Brueckner gave sweets and toys to the children who visited his kiosk in Braunschweig, north Germany, for two years between 2014 and 2016.

‘He was mainly giving the presents to boys, but also some girls. He was giving them presents nearly every day and it went on for a couple of years,’ he told The Sunday Mirror. 

A month after Madeleine went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in the town of Praia da Luz, Bruekner allegedly starting working in a restaurant 40 miles away.

‘I met him at my parents’ house,’ Ms Dawes, who lived nearby, told the Sun. ‘His eyes chilled me to the bone.’

The paedophile did odd jobs at her family’s gated £200,000 home in exchange for showers and meals, she said.

Angie Dawes was 32 when she said Christian Brueckner (pictured left) suddenly appeared in the Portugese village of Foral, Silves, where her family lived, just a month after Madeleine McCann went missing 40 miles away

At one point she remembered Brueckner was so obviously staring at her that her father made a comment about him liking her.

‘He even tracked me down on Facebook. I can’t even think about it now without breaking down.’ she added.

Apparently as quickly as he had arrived Brueckner disappeared again. 

Meanwhile, a school caretaker who worked 300 yards from Brueckner’s kiosk in north Germany has claimed the paedophile could have been grooming children.

Peter Erdmann, 64, said children aged between seven and ten used to regularly get to Grundschule Hohestieg School with presents from Brueckner. 

‘The kids would come to school holding ponies and teddy bears. They said Christian gave them to them and he always had a big bag of them in the storeroom,’ he added.

Brueckner suddenly appeared in a remote Portugese village just one month after Madeleine (pictured), three, disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz

A month after Madeleine went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in the town of Praia da Luz, Bruekner allegedly starting working in a restaurant 40 miles away

There is no suggestion Brueckner abused any of the school’s pupils or the kids in the kiosk.

At the time, between 2014 and 2016, Brueckner was living with a 17-year-old girlfriend, said another local called Norbert. That would have made him 20 years her senior. 

He told the newspaper he had seen children as young as nine behind the counter at the kiosk.

It comes after a Portugese witness claimed Brueckner had sex with under age girls by paying them with drugs.

The woman said that the German paedophile would sell drugs at rave parties held by teenagers – and if the young women could not pay he would have sex with them as payment.

She told a Portuguese TV station that the women were ‘minors’ and under the legal age of consent.

An unnamed woman told a Portuguese TV station that the women Brueckner is claimed to have sold drugs to were ‘minors’ and under the legal age of consent

Although she did not know the man’s name at the time she said she recognised his photo from the subsequent publicity after Met Police officers issued an appeal for information.

Brueckner, now 43, who is serving a seven year jail term for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz, is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann 13 years ago.

The witness, who appeared on the TV station TVi24 with her face obscured, said she knew Brueckner was the man selling drugs as she also recognised the VW camper van that police seized last year and are using as part of their appeal for new information.

‘He gave the girls weed and other things they wanted and in exchange they gave him sex because they didn’t have money to pay for the drugs,’ she told the TV station.

She said she recognised the VW camper van that police seized last year and are using as part of their appeal for new information

‘That was the way they did things.’

She said she remembers Brueckner from the parties held on a farm in Barao de Sao Joa, near to the town of Lagos where he occasionally worked at a bar.

Brueckner would have been 30 years old when he attended the parties around the time McCann went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in the coastal resort of Praia da Luz.

The witness said the German spoke ‘good English’ but had a reserved manner and was often accompanied by another man.

‘He gave the girls weed and other things they wanted, and in exchange they gave him sex because they didn’t have money to pay for the drugs.

‘That was the way they did things.’

Revealing he always spoke English and hung around with a lookalike pal who she also thought was British, she added in the interview with Portuguese TV station TVI: ‘I thought the other man was a brother or a friend.

‘Both were tall and both were blond-haired.

‘One had blue eyes and the other had green eyes. I thought both of them were English until I found out now one of them was German.

‘I always assumed they were English because I always heard them speaking in English.

‘I immediately knew the new Madeleine McCann suspect was him when I saw the camper van on TV. It was the one he used. The last time I saw him was in 2007 shortly before Madeleine vanished.’

Police have said Brueckner was known to sell drugs to supplement his income from working in bars around Lagos. 

Christian Brueckner ‘lost it’ when staff at his German corner shop started discussing the Madeleine McCann case, ex-colleague says

by Abul Taher for the Mail On Sunday 

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”.’

 Convicted paedophile Christian Brueckner ‘lost it’ when staff at a kiosk he ran in northern Germany began discussing the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (pictured)

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.


Madeleine McCann detectives have received nearly 400 tip-offs since Christian Brueckner was named prime suspect, Scotland Yard reveals

Police have received nearly 400 tip-offs after convicted sexual predator Christian Brueckner was named as the prime suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.

Information continues to pour into Scotland Yard’s team of detectives working on the investigation into the disappearance, named Operation Grange.

A force spokesperson said on Saturday: ‘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.’

German prosecutors believe Madeleine is dead and are investigating paedophile Brueckner, 43, on suspicion of her murder. 

Prosecutors claim to know how the youngster died but have not revealed further details and British officers are still treating it as a missing persons case.

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 told MailOnline on Saturday 

The news of the massive number of tip-offs comes as it emerged that Brueckner was flagged as a key  suspect seven years ago by police but the report was apparently ignored by German authorities.  

A force spokesperson said on Saturday: ‘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’

Mr Mitchell MailOnline on Saturday: ‘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.’

Phone records show German national Brueckner was in Praia da Luz, Portugal, when three-year-old Maddie was snatched from a holiday apartment in May 2007.

Police were led to Brueckner by a friend of his after he confessed during a drinking session three years ago that he ‘knew all about’ what had happened to Maddie. 

He is currently serving seven years in Kiel jail in northern Germany for raping a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal.

The career criminal is refusing to co-operate with police, causing ‘prolonged agony’ for her parents.

The news of the massive number of tip-offs comes as it emerged that Brueckner was flagged as a key suspect seven years ago by police but the report was ignored by German authorities. Pictured: Spokesman for the German proseuctor’s office Hans Christian Wolters, addresses the media on Thursday

Police sensationally revealed on Wednesday night that they had a significant new suspect in the 13-year hunt for Maddie’s abductor.

Within 24 hours and following an appeal on German TV they had received 270 pieces of information, now steadily increasing.

DCI Mark Cranwell, who is heading Op Grange, said: ‘We continue to urge anyone with information to come forward and speak with us.’

It comes after German magazine Spiegel reported that police in Braunschweig sent a report to Germany’s Federal Criminal Office (BKA) about Brueckner being a prime suspect in 2013, two years before Inga Gehricke, ‘Germany’s Maddie McCann’, disappeared. It was apparently ignored.

Braunschweig police were monitoring the 43-year-old around the clock at the time.

The report was triggered after an appeal from British police on a German unsolved crime show, on which the news about Brueckner was also broadcast this week. 

Spiegel went on: ‘One person did submit a tip about Brueckner but the resulting report from police in Braunschweig to the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation was apparently not acted upon, much to the consternation of the local investigators.’

Brueckner, pictured in a German bar in 2011, is also alleged to have confided in a friend that he ‘knew all about’ what had happened to Madeleine

Brueckner was born to a woman named Fischer but given over to youth authorities at an early age. Between 1992 – when he was 16 – and 1994 he lived in a facility for young people with learning difficulties.

A neighbour told German newspaper BILD: ‘There were only bad young people there.’

During this time he committed his first burglary and received a suspended jail sentence. He finished his high school education and embarked on an apprenticeship as a car mechanic. 

But in September 1993 he sexually abused a girl aged six in a playground.

In May 1994, three days before he was due to answer in court for the offence, he attempted to assault a nine-year-old girl.

He was given a two-year suspended jail term. A woman who lived near his residential home told Bild: ‘I moved away because I feared he would attack my child.’

He broke the terms of his suspended sentence in 1995 to flee to Portugal with his then girlfriend. 

The two kept themselves afloat with casual jobs and moved into a house in Praia da Luz. The relationship soon broke down and Brueckner then had a string of casual affairs.

He worked as a waiter and handyman but began to break into tourist hotels and guest houses to rob them of valuables.

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

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’

When he and a friend tried to steal diesel fuel from a marina, he was caught and had to serve 258 days in jail.

In 2005 he raped and robbed an American widow, 72, in her house on the Algarve.

At his trial for the offence in Germany last year it emerged he had taken videos of other sex attacks. A pair of swimming goggles with the lenses painted grey were worn by one victims so she would not be able to identify him.

On 16 June 2013 Brueckner committed another ‘sexual abuse of children’. In September of that year, according to Spiegel, he wrote in an online chatroom to an acquaintance that he wanted to ‘capture something small and use it for days.’ 

When his acquaintance pointed out that this was dangerous, Brueckner replied: ‘Oh, if the evidence is subsequently destroyed…’ 

The German suspect had lived in a warehouse outside Praia da Luz for several years but moved into a campervan just before Madeleine vanished

In 2007 he moved back to Germany, living in Dresden, Augsburg and in a caravan in Hanover. Until 2008 he trades drugs on the North Sea island of Sylt.

From December 2012 to 2014 he ran a kiosk in Braunschweig, where German media say he also hosted drug parties.

But the business failed and he began living rough and drinking heavily.

Bild said: ‘He constantly collected criminal charges. For theft, bodily injury, drunkenness in traffic, forged papers. The number of procedures is difficult to calculate. A life out of control!’

In early September 2019, police began investigating a missing person case. A girl, little Inga Gehricke, a delicate 5-year-old with blond hair, disappeared in May 2015 in the countryside of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt.

It was a difficult case, but the police discovered a possible connection to the case of another missing girl – also a blonde, the most famous 3-year-old in Europe. 

Madeleine McCann disappeared in May 2007 in Portugal. Like Inga, she has never been found.

In the case of Inga, it is thought that Brueckner played a role. His face could also match a police facial composite image in the Madeleine case.

At the time of her disappearance, he was living in the area around Praia da Luz, the resort where the McCanns were spending their holidays.

It was the place where he had raped the American woman two years earlier.

In 1994, he was convicted for the first time for sexually abusing a child. He was convicted a second time in 2016. He also collected child pornography.

Inga Gehricke, pictured, dubbed as ‘Germany’s Maddy McCann’, who vanished from a forest in Saxony-Anhalt near the German town of Stendal on May 2, 2015

Spiegel wrote: ‘The person who is believed to have destroyed the lives of the McCanns The person who is believed to have destroyed their lives is named Christian Brueckner, a man with a troubled life behind him.

‘He grew up in a home, graduated from a lower secondary school and quit his vocational training. He moved from job to job and place to place, and the only constants in his a muddle of a life have been crimes, trials and convictions.

‘Nothing seemed stable in his life – he changed girlfriends, jobs and the crimes he committed on a whim. In 2011, he was handed down a suspended sentence of one year and nine months, a result of having started a drug operation in 2007 to supply marijuana to the German island resort of Sylt.

‘As he strayed through life without any fixed abode, social stability or moral inhibitions, the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance picked up again in 2011. This time in England. 

German detectives investigating Christian B, 43, have also contacted the family of René Hasee, above, to say they were looking into his 1996 abduction again

‘In May 2011, then Prime Minister David Cameron ordered that everything be reviewed again – every page in the file. Madeleine’s parents had requested as much in a letter to him.’

The district court of Braunschweig wanted to send Brueckner to prison in early 2016 in a case involving the sexual abuse of a child, but he once again flew to Portugal only to be extradited back to Germany in 2017.

In December 2019, the Braunschweig regional court sentenced him in the case of the rape in 2005 in her home in Portugal.

The judgement in that case has not been finalized yet. A single hair proved the key piece of evidence and he is now being held in a prison in Kiel, Germany. He could soon be facing additional charges.

In December 2017, Germany’s BKA received two tips from Scotland Yard in the Madeleine case. One of them directed suspicion to Brueckner.

An informant, likely a former colleague from Portugal, claimed to have recognized him from the police sketches.

Investigators with the BKA’s Department SO25 set up a special commission that began its work with the utmost secrecy. The proceedings in the Madeleine case were conducted by the public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig because Brueckner had his last official residence there.

They are investigating him on suspicions of murder, with a spokesman for the public prosecutor’s offices saying the assumption is that the girl is dead.

So far, investigators have built the case against him on the basis of circumstantial evidence.

He knew his way around Praia da Luz and apparently specialised in break-ins. He has also abused children in the past. The authorities also believe they know which mobile phone he used on May 3, 2007, ‘with a probability bordering on certainty.’

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.

The girl disappeared between 9:10 p.m. and 10 p.m. Calls were made during that period of time on the mobile phone in Praia da Luz. He cancelled his car registration the day after Madeleine’s disappearance.

Spiegel added: ‘What’s lacking is concrete evidence. The BKA has distributed photos of a VW Transporter van that he might have been driving on the day of the crime. 

It has also released the number of the mobile phone the suspect used that night to call a stranger from Praia da Luz. They have requested help from possible witnesses to fill in the gap between what is known about Him and what is believed to be true about him.

‘Profilers at the BKA describe him in their report as a psychopath who is capable of anything. A man who nevertheless – or precisely because of this – had a charismatic aura and impressed the people around him. Most felt exploited, taken for a ride and cheated afterward.

They paint a picture of a manipulative narcissist who could appear charming, but was only trying to get money he would never pay back or sexual gratification.

‘He was very engaging, dominant and sociable, he seemed like a hopeless dreamer who always had big plans,’says one companion. ‘I knew he was up to no good. Drugs and such. But I had no idea that he had sexually abused children.’

‘The man says it was no secret that the police were always after him. One former girlfriend had regularly called the police because Brueckner had allegedly beaten her.

The suspect is said to have lived at this property, situated between resort of Praia da Luz and Lagos, named Escola Vehla – meaning ‘old school’ – during his time in Portugal

Police have also released a picture of a Jaguar which was used by Brueckner in Praia da Luz, Portugal, by a suspect who may be involved in the disappearance of Madeleine

‘It was conspicuous that he had boasted about a sudden financial windfall after he returned from Portugal in 2007. Friends remember him telling them that he had found cash in a pile of clothes, large sums of money, after breaking into a home in the Algarve.

‘In addition to a mobile home, he also used the money to buy a derelict factory property in the state of Saxony-Anhalt.

‘Apart from money, he was likely interested mostly in sex. Officials found numerous references to his preferences on hard drives – and violence often played a role. The investigators also discovered child porn. Witnesses testifying in the regional court in Braunschweig during his trial there claimed they had seen sex videos with animals and also ones in which he raped women.

‘In a chat with an acquaintance in September 2013 he wrote that he wanted to ‘capture something small and use it for a few days.’ The other replied that this would be dangerous. 

And B. countered: ‘Oh, if the evidence is destroyed afterwards.’ Notes about the chat are in the investigation files of the Stendal police in Saxony-Anhalt, which prosecutors, BKA investigators, lawyers and future police officers studying at the police academy evaluated.

‘The random way in which he apparently chose victims for his sex drive and the brutality he apparently subjected them to also occupied investigators in the case of the 5-year-old Inga from Saxony-Anhalt. 

‘She had visited a facility of the Diakonisches Werk, a Protestant charity organization, in Stendal with her parents and disappeared in May 2015. At the time the suspect was living around 90 kilometers away in an old house in Neuwegersleben.

‘In addition to child porn, investigators also found children’s clothes for girls in a trailer on the property, although he had no family.

The authorities believe that Christian Brueckner knew an employee of the Diakonie facility near which Inga disappeared. The uncertainty could end for her parents in much the same way as for the parents of Madeleine. There is no comfort, no hope. But there is the prospect of truth, of certainty. That, though, is far more than they have had until now.’

Witness ‘saw Madeleine McCann and a man travelling in a German-owned Volkswagen van just like Christian Brueckner’s vehicle weeks after she vanished’  

by Jonathan Bucks and Jake Ryan for the Mail On Sunday

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.

Detectives believe Christian Brueckner, the latest main suspect in the McCann case, was living out of a German campervan in 2007

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.

‘We request the Spanish police check the location for any CCTV or witnesses. We request German vehicle details. Can the vehicle be circulated for a stop and check to be carried out if seen.’

It emerged last week that Brueckner was living just two miles from the holiday apartment where Madeleine vanished in May 2007. Former neighbours said he often slept in his van, which had a distinctive white upper body and yellow skirting.

German police said there were indications that he could have used either the van or a Jaguar model XJR 6 with a German number plate to commit the crime and appealed for help tracking where they were parked.

Detectives say that the day after Madeleine’s disappearance, Brueckner re-registered the Jaguar in the name of Alexander Bischof, who lives in Augsburg, Germany, despite the vehicle never having left Portugal. 

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.

A witness said they saw Madeleine McCann with the unidentifiable man at Tunnels restaurant (pictured) in Alcossebre, some 600 miles from Praia da Luz on May 28 2007

‘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.

Christian Brueckner’s secret lair that could lead police to Madeleine McCann: New suspect regularly visited run-down house in the Portuguese countryside for months after toddler disappeared

by Jon Clarke and Laurence Dollimore for the Mail On Sunday

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

German prosecutors believe Christian Brueckner, right, is responsible for abducting Madeleine McCann, left, in a case they are treating as a murder investigation 

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.’

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