Portuguese prosecutors have formally identified a man as a suspect in the case of missing British toddler Madeleine McCann nearly 15 years ago.

The man is the first official suspect in the case since Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine’s parents, were named suspects in 2007.

The young child was only three years old when she disappeared from her bedroom on May 3, 2007, during a family holiday in the Algarve region while her parents were dining with friends nearby in the resort of Praia da Luz.

German police said in June 2020 that they had evidence that a convicted child abuser and drug trader who went by the name Christian Brueckner had something to do with the little girl’s disappearance. He was arrested in Germany for the rape of a woman in the same area of the Algarve region where Madeleine went missing. But he has never been charged with a crime related to the disappearance.

Brueckner has denied being involved in the disappearance of Madeleine. According to court documents, Brueckner lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007 and burgled hotels and holiday apartments. He was also caught with falsified passports and stealing diesel from a Portuguese harbor.

Portugal’s Judiciary Police handed over documents with hundreds of names related to Madeleine’s case, including Christian Brueckner, to British authorities in 2012. The German police received their first piece of evidence linking Brueckner to Madeleine’s case in 2013, as the suspect had previously been convicted for sexually abusing children.

The reasonings of why the Portuguese prosecutors identified the suspect just recently have not been revealed. Still, it could be related to Portugal’s 15-year statute of limitations for crimes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more.

Brueckner’s lawyer, Friedrich Fülscher, said he believed the latest “measure taken by the Portuguese authorities should not be overestimated.”

“In Portugal, the statute of limitations for murder is 15 years, if the period isn’t interrupted. The latter has now been done – presumably out of caution. I do not assume there to be any new findings,” Fülscher added.

Prosecutors said the investigation had been carried out with cooperation from British and German authorities.

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