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Will the discovery of a credible suspect lead to answers in the Madeleine McCann case?

The Puzzle: Solving the Madeleine McCann Case
The Puzzle: Solving the Madeleine McCann Case 41:42

[This story previously aired on February 27, 2021.]

It's a mystery that has been compared to a jigsaw puzzle with too many pieces missing — until now.  In 2007, while on vacation with her parents at a beach resort in Southern Portugal, 3-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared from her bed, sparking one of the biggest missing child investigations in history.

Despite a global media storm and a multinational search and investigation, years passed with no answers until June 2020, when German authorities announced they had a suspect — a sex offender with several previous convictions. His name is Christian Brueckner.

Madeleine McCann
On May 3, 2007, Madeleine McCann disappeared from her bed in her family's vacation rental at a resort in Portugal. In a desperate bid to find their daughter, Madeleine's parents distributed photos they had taken of her from that vacation, including the photo seen here. McCann Family/Handout

"He absolutely matches the profile of a person who could potentially abduct and or kill a little girl like Madeleine McCann," says Mark Hofmann, a Germany-based crime and intelligence analyst.

"His cellphone was tracked at the crime scene or at least next to the crime scene the night Maddie disappeared," Hofmann tells "48 Hours" correspondent Peter Van Sant, who has been covering the case since 2007.

Is the arrest of Brueckner the key to solving the case and finally solving the mystery of what happened to Madeleine McCann?

"It's when you put those things together that you get that clear focus where the jigsaw becomes much, much more complete," says Jim Gamble, the former head of the United Kingdom's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

"For the first time in 13 years, I have to say … I actually feel here is a credible suspect," says Gamble.


KATE MCCANN [to reporters, May 2007]: We would like to say a few words to the person who is with Madeleine. … Madeleine is a beautiful, bright, funny, and caring little girl. She is so special. … We need our Madeleine and Madeleine needs us. … Please give our little girl back 

It's been more than a decade of waiting for Kate and Gerry McCann.   

Gerry and Kate McCann
Gerry and Kate McCann plead for the safe return of their 3-year-old daughter Madeleine.

GERRY MCCANN [to reporters, May 2007]: We will leave no stone unturned in the search for our daughter, Madeleine.  

Years of searching since their daughter disappeared on May 3, 2007.  

KATE MCCANN [2007 BBC interview]: We have to be hopeful.  It's what keeps us going and keeps us focused.  

Now, they finally may be closer to finding out what happened to Madeleine.  

In June 2020 in Braunschweig Germany, prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters held a press conference and made a stunning announcement: that German police had a suspect: 43-year-old Christian Brueckner. He also had devastating news. He declared that Madeleine McCann was likely dead.

Peter Van Sant: Mr. Wolters, it's been said that German prosecutors are always very tight lipped … You must have some strong evidence that allowed you to make that statement to the public.  

Hans Christian Wolters: We have strong evidence that Christian B. killed Maddie McCann.   

Peter Van Sant: But you don't have a body, correct? There's no body? 

Hans Christian Wolters: No, we have no forensic evidence.   

Peter Van Sant: Then how can you be so certain?  

Hans Christian Wolters: We have other evidence.   

Just as German law does not allow Wolters to use Brueckner's full name, he also cannot say what that evidence is.   

Jim Gamble: I heard the news that the Germans had a credible suspect … and my first thing was, here we go again.  

Jim Gamble was head of the U.K.'s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and involved in the early investigation.  

Jim Gamble: Madeleine's case was complex.  

Over the years, he has seen countless leads end up as dead ends. But this time, he believes the Germans may be on the right track.  

Jim Gamble: Everyone, including myself, who's touched this case is more hopeful with the German case than, than we've been in 13 years. 

Back in May of 2007, British doctors Gerry and Kate McCann were on vacation with their family in Praia da Luz, a resort town in the Algarve region of Portugal.   

Jane Hill: The coastline is beautiful. The sunshine is beautiful.

Jane Hill is a BBC News anchor who covered Madeleine's story.   

Jane Hill: It was just a regular, relaxed week in the sun.  

McCann family
Gerry and Kate McCann with their children. Madeleine is lower right. Spindrift

The five members of the McCann family, including Madeleine and her younger twin brother and sister, stayed at the Ocean Club. They were joined by several other families.   

Jim Gamble: The Ocean Club Resort was seen as a place … where families went. They'd gone there for generations. It would seem to be family friendly and safe.  

KATE MCCANN [2007 BBC interview]: We were having a great holiday. It was — we had lots of fun. 

Especially fun for Madeleine.  

GERRY MCCANN [2007 BBC interview]: She might look like Kate but in terms of personality she's much more of a McCann. She's very extroverted and lively.  

KATE MCCANN [2007 BBC interview]: She is very sociable.  

But their idyllic holiday would soon come to an end. On May 3 at around 8:30 p.m., the McCanns left their sleeping children alone in their unlocked apartment and went to meet friends at the resort's tapas bar about 50 yards away.  

Jim Gamble: That was their routine behavior. They had been doing it all week.  

Jane Hill: And the friends would take turns. So, every 15 minutes or so one of the adults from the group would go back … and just check on their sleeping children and check that everything was OK.  

At 10 p.m. when it was Kate's turn, she found the twins sound asleep. But Madeleine's bed was empty.  

Madeleine McCann's empty bed
The empty bed that Kate McCann discovered when she went to check on Madeleine and her two younger siblings at around 10 p.m. on May 3, 2007.

Jane Tanner: And Kate said to me, "Jane, Madeleine's gone. Madeleine's gone." 

Jane Tanner was one of the friends who was dining with the McCanns. 

Jane Tanner: It's the least thing you'd ever think in a million years that you know a child is going to be abducted in a safe family resort.  When Tanner heard that Madeleine had disappeared, she says she remembered that earlier in the evening as she walked near the Ocean Club, she passed a man who had caught her attention.

McCann investigation sketch
A sketch of the man and child family friend Jane Tanner had reported seeing at the Ocean Club resort. AP Images

Jane Tanner: As I was walking up the road this man was walking across the top of the road, carrying a small child, and the thing I noticed the most was he holding her and I could see the — her bare feet and the bottom of the pajamas.  

Tanner told the Portuguese police what she had witnessed that night. But investigators didn't appear to take immediate action. 

Jane Hill: There was quite a laissez-faire attitude … she's wandered off somewhere. She's probably got lost. We'll find her. She'll come back. … And that was one of the criticisms that the police activity didn't really get going until the next day.    

By that time, Madeleine's disappearance was making headlines across the world.   

Jane Hill: My editor took me off the air the day after she disappeared and said get on a plane to Portugal.  

Hill was one of the first British journalists at the scene. 

Peter Van Sant: Why did this capture people's attention so? 

Jane Hill: It is every parent's nightmare, isn't it? 

In some ways, Madeleine was more than a daughter to the McCanns. She was their miracle. Unable to conceive, the couple endured a series of grueling in vitro fertilization procedures until Kate finally became pregnant with Madeleine 

Peter Van Sant: What was it like for Gerry and Kate when Madeleine was born?  

John Corner: Well, they were walking on air quite frankly.  

Family friend Jon Corner spoke to "48 Hours" back in 2007.  

Jon Corner: The bond between Kate and Madeleine was — is something that, amazing, really. 

GERRY MCCANN [to reporters in May 2007]: Please, if you have Madeleine, let her come home to her mummy, daddy, brother, and sister.

Within days, Madeleine's face fueled one of the largest international searches for a missing child in history.  

Jane Hill: Madeleine's face became so familiar. She became ubiquitous. 

Madeleine MCann
Missing posters on the windshield of a car parked outside the Luz Ocean Club, the vacation resort in Praia da Luz, Portugal where 3-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared while on vacation with her family in 2007. AP

Jane Hill:  It was heartbreaking because photographs were released that the family had taken on that holiday.  

GERRY MCCANN [to reporters in May 2007]: It's obviously extremely difficult …

Jane Hill: Every day me and my team were there, we just watched the press pack grow and grow and grow.  

As the cameras followed the McCanns everywhere, it seemed Kate was never without Madeleine's pink stuffed animal.   

KATE MCCANN [2007 BBC interview]: Well it was something that Madeleine has with her every night. And if she was upset or not well, then she has cuddle cat. So, it provided me with a little bit of comfort, something of Madeleine's close to me.   

Days passed and the McCanns grew frustrated as the Portuguese police conducted their investigation and shared very little.  

Jane Hill: Portuguese police are not allowed to reveal any details of an ongoing investigation, not just to people like me, to the family involved.  … And what happens when you have no information? You get rumor, gossip, and speculation … there was no proof of anything, that's the trouble …  


Jane Hill: There were … rumors circulated, all the time. I can't tell you what a rumor mill it was. … And you would think … where is this coming from? 

A week after Madeleine's disappearance, suspicion fell on a man who lived just down the street from where Madeleine had vanished.  

Peter Van Sant: Tell me, who is Robert Murat? 

Jim Gamble: Robert Murat is a British expat who lives in Praia da Luz. … So, he had local knowledge. And he spoke Portuguese, and … engaged with a number of reporters and others in proximity to the investigation and offered himself up to provide help by way of translation or advice. 

Police quickly named Murat a suspect. Witnesses say Murat showed up at the Ocean Club after Madeleine disappeared, and claimed he was acting suspiciously. Murat's mother said that wasn't possible. 

JENNY MURAT [2007 interview]:  They couldn't have seen him. He was home all night.

Then, the public began to turn on the McCanns for leaving their daughter alone 

Peter Van Sant: Did it go from, "We feel so sorry for you" to "How could you have done that?" 

Jane Hill: There were … people saying that. … I recorded an interview with a man from the Algarve Tourist Board. … He said, "I mean, you keep an eye on your suitcase. Why would you not keep an eye on your child?" 

It's a question Jane Hill had to raise when she became the first reporter to interview Kate and Gerry McCann. 

JANE HILL [2007 BBC interview]: A lot of people, in the last three weeks, have … said, 'I can't imagine doing such a thing. I wouldn't be able to leave three children, in that situation." How do you deal with those sorts of comments? 

GERRY McCANN [2007 BBC interview]: I think, you know … no one will ever feel more guilty than us. … If you thought for a minute that someone could abduct your child, of course, you would never have left them. 

Portuguese investigators also began eyeing the McCanns. Three months after Madeleine vanished, specially trained sniffer dogs were flown in to scour the family's vacation rental.   

Traces of blood were detected inside the apartment and in the trunk of the McCann's rental car.  

Partial samples of the blood were recovered and sent to a British lab for DNA testing, but the results indicated that the blood found in the apartment did not belong to Madeleine and the results from the DNA in the rental car were inconclusive.  

Jim Gamble: Well I've seen the letter from the forensic science lab. … The forensic tests … didn't say, this DNA is Madeleine McCann's. … Because actually, the full analysis of that … says that up that up to half the forensic scientists in the lab would have had similar DNA characteristics. It was not a complete DNA sample. 

What's more … 

Jim Gamble: The car wasn't actually retained by the McCann's until weeks after Madeleine had gone missing. … And if you are to believe that Madeleine was in the boot of the car, they must have either killed her and/or hidden her sometime earlier, recovered her body whilst the media were surveilling them, hidden it in the car … then moved it to a place where they could dispose of it, where no one could see that happen, and then bring the car back. It just doesn't add up. The forensics don't add up. 

And yet, four months after Madeleine vanished, Portuguese police declared the McCanns "arguidos"— suspects in their own daughter's disappearance.  

Peter Van Sant: The enormous media coverage in this, do you believe in some ways that pressured Portuguese authorities to say, we have our real suspects? It is Kate and it is Gerry. 

Jim Gamble: Well, I can't speak to that. … You'd have to talk to the senior investigating officer from the Portuguese police. But in my opinion, do I think that that type of pressure would focus the attention of a senior investigating officer? Of course. 

"48 Hours" reached out to the Portuguese police for comment, but they did not reply.  

Jim Gamble: The McCanns should have been suspects day one, minute one, hour one. And I don't believe for one second the McCanns committed this crime. But what I'm saying is … Your attention should be, first of all, to look at the parents and actually to rule them in or rule them out - not to wait until your months down the line where you have exhausted all of your other ideas, and to then say, "Well, actually, it must be the parents." Because that's not fair on anyone. 

Surprisingly, almost immediately after being declared suspects, the McCanns were allowed to fly to the U.K., returning home for the first time without their daughter. 

GERRY MCCANN [statement at airport, 2007]: We have played no part in the disappearance of our lovely daughter, Madeleine.

Kate McCann told her family that Portuguese investigators had pressured her to sign a confession, in which she was to admit that Madeleine had died accidentally, and that Madeleine's disappearance had been staged. Kate refused. "48 Hours" spoke to Kate's mother in 2007. 

SUSAN HEALEY [2007 interview]: Kate said, "Why — why would I sign that confession?" you know. … If an accident had happened, Madeleine had fallen, Kate and Gerry wouldn't have hidden that.  

Peter Van Sant: When the McCanns were named as suspects in Portugal, were they seen as suspects in the U.K. as well?  

Jane Hill: I'm sure there were people in the U.K. who did think that they had some involvement. And that was reflected particularly in the British tabloid press. 

Some British newspapers began running unsubstantiated, sensational storylines. 

Jim Gamble: And what happened … is, the war of the tabloids began to take place. 

The onslaught of wild accusations continued for months, effectively portraying the McCanns as killers. 

Jim Gamble: And then you get the armchair detectives. … With social media you've got the geeks, freaks and morons. … But when you've got this world of bile being created online, then people continually feed it.  

It wasn't until the following summer, in July 2008, that Portuguese investigators cleared the McCanns. By then, Gerry and Kate had spent nearly a year under a cloud of suspicion. 

Gerry and Kate McCann speak out in July 2008 after Portuguese investigators cleared the couple in their daughter's disappearance.,

KATE MCCANN [2008 interview]: It's hard to describe how utterly despairing it was to be named arguido and subsequently portrayed in the media as suspects in our own daughter's abduction. 

The police also cleared Robert Murat. But what had happened to little Madeleine? The McCanns remained singularly focused on finding out. 

KATE MCCANN | May 2011 BBC interview: I think there's a really good chance she's still alive. … [takes a deep breath] I guess I feel she's out there.  


More than two years had passed since Madeleine McCann's mysterious disappearance, and Portuguese investigators were no closer to knowing what happened to her. As head of the U.K.'s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Jim Gamble knew he had to take action.  

Jim Gamble: We produced a viral video called "A Minute from Madeleine McCann" …

"A MINUTE FROM MADELEINE MCCANN": Madeleine disappeared on the 3rd of May, 2007, while on holiday with her family in Portugal. … If you know who's involved, and you're keeping this secret …

Jim Gamble:  A video … that said … "It's never too late to do the right thing. … And if you know something, go to your local police." 

Peter Van Sant: I understand that the video was in seven different languages, is that right? 

Jim Gamble: Yes, it was …in Chinese, in Arabic, in Spanish …   It was downloaded in every part of the world.  

And as the views ticked up, so too did the number of potential leads.  

Peter Van Sant: Give me a sense of the number of sightings … that were pouring in from all over the world during these years. 

Jim Gamble: There's been a number of sightings of Madeleine McCann in … Australiain parts of Africa, across Spain, Portugal and beyond.

Jane Hill: All turned out to be nothing. The trail went cold.  

But things were about to heat up. In 2010, Gamble was asked by the British government to officially review the case.   

Peter Van Sant: When Portuguese police began this investigation, you believe they made some fundamental errors.

Jim Gamble: I — I do think they … made some critical errors.  

Madeleine McCann missing poster
A  poster of Madeleine McCann outside the Ocean Club in Portugal.

Gamble says Portuguese investigators failed to take a close look at everyone staying near the Ocean Club at the time. 

Jim Gamble: It was clear that the, you know, searches … were ad hoc. The fact is that all of the details of all of the people who'd stayed in that apartment block … or been in proximity at the time, hadn't been captured.

Gamble also found that cellphone data around the Ocean Club the day Madeleine went missing hadn't been properly analyzed.   

Jim Gamble: The telephone companies captured all of that information in 2007. Yet … there was absolutely no evidence that any of that cell site data had been … investigated. 

In June 2010, Gamble finished his case review and submitted recommendations to the British government.  But for almost a year nothing happened. Until… 

Jim Gamble: Gerry McCann wrote an open letter on the front page of a popular tabloid … to the prime minister. … And in a day, Operation Grange was commissioned. 

Operation Grange became one of the largest and most expensive investigations in British history. The full weight of Scotland Yard was now brought in to assist the Portuguese investigation.  

Jane Hill: There was a sense in the U.K. that this was almost a fresh start. … Let's regroup. … Let's see what wasn't looked at. Let's go through witness statements. Let's see whether we can make fresh appeals for information and really revitalize this.

That meant taking another look at every possible scenario of what might have happened that night.  

Jim Gamble: Could this be that the child simply walked away? … Could it be an abduction? Could it be a burglary that's gone wrong?   

Jim Gamble: Could someone have broken into the room and might they have been disturbed by Madeleine … and could they have responded, you know, out of fear — out of anger and nervousness … and taken her away?  

There was one dark scenario that weighed most heavily; the possibility that Madeleine had been kidnapped by a sex offender.  

KATE MCCANN [2011 BBC Interview]: Obviously that was our biggest fear. …  But just the thought of someone so lovely and beautiful, our child, being subjected to something like that was, was enough to destroy us.

Operation Grange solved one early mystery: the identity of the man seen in a police sketch, whom that family friend had reported seeing. Scotland Yard determined it was just a man on vacation with his child.  

Madeleine McCann age progression sketch
An age-progressed image created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children depicting what Madeleine may look like at age 6. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Aged-progression technology was also used at the time to further the investigation. 

Jim Gamble: I have on many occasions looked at images of children who have been found. And the likeness sometimes is remarkable. 

By 2016, the number of alleged Madeleine sightings had grown to over 8,600, spanning more than 100 countries. Scotland Yard investigated every credible lead, but none led anywhere. 

Jane Hill: How could it be that years later, there was still no trace of this little girl. How was that possible? Nothing. 

Jim Gamble: What we're waiting for over these years as all these bits start to fall into place - the cell site data, information about suspects, other sex offenders in the area. We're waiting for that last piece … to fall into place.   

Then, in June 2020, from a small German city, some startling news:

CHARLIE D'AGATA [CBSN, June 4, 2020]: German police revealing that a convicted sex offender, currently serving a jail sentence, is now the prime suspect. 

After years of dead ends, finally a promising suspect- a 43-year-old German man. A look into his past would reveal a monster 


In 2017, Gerry and Kate McCann marked a grim anniversary.  It had been 10 years since their daughter disappeared.  

GERRY MCCANN [2017 interview]: On anniversaries and her birthday they are by far the hardest days, by far.  

KATE MCCANN [2017 interview]: Whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, there is still hope we can find Madeleine.

GERRY MCCANN [2017 interview]: Certainly, from my point of view, somebody knows what happened. 

Little did the McCanns know, more than 500 miles away in Braunschweig, Germany, police had received a game-changing new tip.

Hans Christian Wolters | German prosecutor: In 2017, a person contacted the German police and gave us the name of Christian B.

Suspect Christian Brueckner
When German authorities looked into Christian Brueckner,, they uncovered a long and disturbing criminal past, including convictions for burglary, drug trafficking, sexual assault and a history of targeting little girls.  Speigel-TV

According to news reports, Brueckner – who German authorities refer to as Christian B. — allegedly made a drunken confession to a friend that he knew what had happened to Madeleine. 

Germany's highest police agency conducted an investigation. And what they uncovered was that Brueckner had a long and disturbing background of crime spanning three decades.  

Peter Van Sant: Who is Christian B.?  

Mark Hofmann: Christian B. is a … criminal who committed a lot of financially motivated crimes like burglary or drug trafficking.

Mark Hofmann is a crime and intelligence analyst based in Germany who has studied Christian Brueckner.  

Mark Hofmann: But he also has a darker side. 

Authorities say he had a history of targeting little girls.  

Mark Hofmann: He is very likely a psychopath with no empathy … and no deep feelings who is interested in feeling some sense of power over defenseless victims, especially young children. … So, he absolutely matches the profile of a person who could potentially abduct and or kill a little girl like Madeleine McCann. 

Official documents obtained by "48 Hours" show that Brueckner's life of crime began when he was arrested for theft at the age of 15. Two years later, in 1994, he sexually abused a child in Germany. Brueckner fled to Portugal to escape serving his sentence.  

Mark Hofmann: He moved from job to job. He moved from crime to crime.

Until 1999 when he was extradited to Germany to serve his sentence.  But he would soon return to Portugal, where Brueckner lived out of a VW camper van before eventually moving to a house.

Christian Brueckner poximity map
At the time of Madeleine McCann's disappearance, Christian Brueckner was living  in Portugal  -  about a mile away from the resort where the McCann's were staying.   Google Earth/CBS News

Mark Hofmann: He lived in a house right about one mile from the crime scene where Madeleine was … abducted.  

While living in Praia da Luz, investigators say Brueckner had returned to a life of crime, often stealing from hotels and holiday apartments. 

Mark Hofmann: He was known for burglary in hotel resorts and Maddie disappeared from around a hotel resort. So, it's possible … that this crime maybe started as a hotel burglary and it ended as the potential kidnapping and/or killing of Maddie McCann. 

Jim Gamble says that theory is certainly possible.  

Jim Gamble: The hypothesis that it was a burglar who responded in an opportunistic way is one that I've always thought is credible.  

In fact, just one year before Madeleine disappeared, Brueckner was arrested in Portugal for theft. But it is unknown what the Portuguese police knew about his past sexual offense in Germany. "48 Hours" reached out to them to find out, but they did not respond. 

But it is clear that Brueckner should have been looked at more closely by the Portuguese authorities from the beginning. German investigators now believe they have discovered a key piece of evidence. On May 3, 2007, a call was made to Brueckner's cellphone approximately one hour before Madeleine disappeared.  

Peter Van Sant: The cellphone information that you received … do you believe that placed him around the resort area at the time that Maddie McCann disappeared?

Hans Christian Wolters: The phone number placed Christian to the Ocean Club, but we have to find out which person uses this phone at this time. Normally it was used by Christian B. But we don't know which person used it on the 3rd of May in 2007. 

Gamble says this lead could have been pursued at the time if Portuguese police had only analyzed the cellphone data.

Jim Gamble: I believe the information that now ties the present suspect's phone to the area would have been available at that time if someone had looked for it.

And German investigators also learned that immediately after Madeleine went missing, Brueckner did something suspicious: he put his car in someone else's name.  

Mark Hofmann: He deregistered his car one day after the disappearance.  

Shortly after that, he quietly slipped out of Portugal and returned to Germany once again. Brueckner eventually settled in Braunschweig, and briefly ran a small general store by a school and kept a low profile.  

Mark Hofmann: Pretty often these child molesters – this is like their dirty little secret. They don't talk about it to anyone … But they talk about their crimes and fantasies quite openly to other child molesters or other offenders.

As it turns out Wolters and his team learned Brueckner was still operating in the darkest shadows of society. In 2013 he posted in a pedophile chat room on Skype. 

Mark Hofmann: This was a Skype chat where he openly discussed his fantasies of torturing little children  and using them and raping them for a couple of days.  

Although Brueckner's posts made no mention of Madeleine McCann, the search of an abandoned factory once owned by Brueckner would uncover photos and videos that would raise more questions.  


As Wolters and his team continued their investigation into Christian Brueckner's past they learned that long before that alleged drunken confession in a bar, his name had been linked to Madeleine McCann's. In 2013, German police had received their first tip that Christian Brueckner could be involved in her disappearance. 

Hans Christian Wolters: There was a first hint to our suspect in 2013. But the police contacted Christian B. … and there was nothing found to investigate it any longer.

While it didn't pan out, just one year later he was back on police radar. According to documents obtained by "48 Hours," in 2014, 391 photo files and 68 video files of child pornography were confiscated from Brueckner's home while he was living in Braunschweig.  During this time, he was also charged with sexually abusing a 5-year-old. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison for committing both offenses.   

But before serving his sentence, he fled once again to Portugal.  

Mark Hofmann: If I look at his life and criminal record, it seems a little bit like he was always fleeing and trying to escape law enforcement. So, whenever he committed a crime, whenever he was investigated in connection with some crimes, he left the country.  

Brueckner would later be extradited to Germany once again to serve his sentence.

And then, if there is a house of horrors in this tragic mystery it may be a deserted factory deep in the woods of Saxony Anhalt, Germany, that Christian Brueckner once owned.

In 2016 investigators conducted multiple searches of this property. "48 Hours" has learned these searches were part of a broader investigation into child pornography.  And what they found was troubling.  

Mark Hofmann: Law enforcement confirmed that they found at least three girl's swimsuits in his camper van. So, of course, you need to ask the question, who do these swimsuits belong to?  

Investigators have not revealed if they know the answer.  But that's not all they found.

Brueckner factory in Germany
In 2016, investigators conducted multiple searches of a deserted factory deep in the woods of Saxony Anhalt, Germany, that Christian Brueckner once owned.  "48 Hours" has learned these searches were part of a broader investigation into child pornography. Speigel-TV

Mark Hofmann: On this property they found … USB drives containing … pictures and videos, including videos and pictures of child abuse.  And also, videos which he produced himself.  … And these USB drives were in a plastic bag buried under his dead dog in the ground.  

It seems that Brueckner had a long fascination with recording his crimes.  In 2018, a witness came forward saying they had seen a videotape from 2005 of Brueckner raping a 72-year-old American woman at her home in Portugal. Up until then, the attacker's identity had not been known.  

Mark Hofmann: This was not just rape. This was the most brutal form of rape I ever heard of.  

That assault had taken place close to the Ocean Club and 2 years before Madeleine McCann disappeared. Brueckner was charged and convicted for these crimes in 2019. His DNA matched DNA found at the scene.    

Mark Hofmann: He is definitely a bad guy. He's definitely a psychopath. And he is definitely a full-time criminal. … But the question is … is he really guilty in the Maddie McCann case?  

Wolters will not reveal details about his current investigation into Christian Brueckner, but he is adamant about one thing.

Hans Christian Wolters: We're sure that Christian B. murdered Madeleine McCann because of the evidence we have.  

Peter Van Sant: And may I speculate that that evidence may include photographs or video of Maddie McCann?  

Hans Christian Wolters: You may speculate. But I'm not allowed to tell you if you are right or if you are wrong.    

But despite the evidence he says he has, Wolters admits he needs more of it in order to charge Brueckner.  

Hans Christian Wolters: And in Germany, we … charge someone only if we are sure that he will be sentenced by the court. If there are doubts … we don't charge him.  

Wolters says one key piece of evidence they need is to find the person who made that call to Brueckner's cellphone approximately one hour before Madeleine disappeared on May 3, 2007. 

Mark Hofmann: This might be the only person who could confirm that indeed, Christian B. was holding his cellphone … in his hand that night. … And this would be proof that not just his cellphone was at the crime scene, but that he was at the crime scene.  

Although investigators made an appeal to the public, they have been unable to identify the mystery caller 

Hans Christian Wolters: The phone which was used for the call to Christian B. was a prepaid phone. … So, we are not able to find this person in an easy way. 

The McCanns have not commented on Christian Brueckner, but on  their website they posted: "We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive but whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace." 

Meanwhile, Brueckner has remained silent behind prison walls where he is serving a 7-year sentence for raping that 72-year-old American woman. Brueckner's lawyer spoke to 9 News Australia.

FRIEDRICH FULSCHER: He is innocent until proven guilty.

Wolters admits that without a body or forensic evidence this case will be hard to solve, but he is not backing down.

Peter Van Sant: And do you believe there are people out there, whether it be in Portugal or Germany, who have information about this case that is important?  

Hans Christian Wolters: We think that there are people who can help us and we hope that these people will contact us or the police.  

Jane Hill: I have spent many years hoping that there will be a resolution.  

Madeleine McCann
Madeleine McCann Metropolitan Police

BBC News anchor Jane Hill, who covered Madeleine's story from the start, hopes this new investigation will finally provide answers—as painful as they may be—for the McCanns.  

Jane Hill: I hope … that there can be closure in some way for a family that has spent 13-and-a-half years not knowing what happened to their little girl, not knowing what they can say to her younger brother and sister about where she's gone.  

KATE MCCANN: Madeleine is a beautiful, bright, funny and caring little girl. She is so special. … We beg you to let Madeleine come home …


If anyone has information about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, please visit

Produced by Chris Young Ritzen, Josh Gelman, and Anthony Venditti. Anna Noryskiewicz and Paolo Marenghi are the field producers. Michael Loftus is the broadcast associate. Michael Baluzy, Gary Winter and Greg Kaplan are the editors. Lourdes Aguiar is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.

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