News digests and reviews of the missing child in the news. Madeleine McCann vanished on Thursday, 3 May 2007 from a rented holiday flat in Praia da Luz, Portugal. Madeleine, on holiday with her twin siblings and parents Kate and Gerry McCann,became the biggest news story of the past decade. We’ve followed it closely ever since the story broke.
By now you might have supposed the prosecution and defence would be deep into preparations for a trial. But months after being named as the chief suspect in the vanishing of Madeleine McCann, Christian Brueckner remains stubbornly innocent. Just as he was when we were introduced to ‘Christian B’, the depraved criminal remains housed in a Kiel jail cell. We know where he is, who he is and that he’s a convicted paedophile and rapist. What we don’t know is if he had anything to do with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in May 2007. German prosecutors “believe” he might have murdered her.
The Star picks up the news that “Madeleine McCann cops hired a prison inmate to gather information on the prime suspect”. German tabloid Bild reports: “Madeleine McCann cops hired a prison inmate to gather information on the prime suspect.” You know the routine: stick an informant into the cell with the suspect and wait for the confession. The Star says we don’t know what Brueckner told the grass, if anything, nor if the grass cooked up a story to make himself look good and secure any deal he’d made with the judiciary.
In other news, British police investing the disappearance of Madeleine McCann with Operation Grange have been given an extra £350,000, says the Mirror. It takes the total invested in looking for the missing girl to more than £12 million. The new cash will keep the Operation going til the end of March 2021.
“German police ‘don’t need Madeleine McCann’s body to prove suspect murdered her’,” declares the Mirror. The more depraved killers, often take their victims’ whereabouts to the pit. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley never pointed police nor bereft relatives to Keith Bennett’s remains. It took 23 years for the child rapists, kidnappers and killers to confess to Keith’s murder. Brady confessed to newspaper reporters from his prison cell where he was serving life for three other murders. Police believed the pair had done it. But belief is not what the law deals in. A confession was all the police had. Neither Brady nor Hindley were prosecuted for Keith Bennett’s murder.
The justice system needs evidence to prosecute. The Mirror’s headline is rooted in the to-deadline thoughts of German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters. In one of this many TV appearance, this one on Portugal’s RTP show Sexta as 9, Wolters offered: “To indict someone we don’t need a body. A person can be convicted without a body being found but we have to be convinced a person is dead.” And you are convinced Madeleine McCann is dead? And don’t you also have to have some evidence that your suspect, Christian Brueckner, killed the person whose body is missing? Don’t you need evidence to hurdle all those barriers to justice?
You begin to wonder is what Wolters is on the telly? What does he know? What does he merely think he knows? Asked if he had any forensic evidence placing Brueckner inside the flat where Madeleine was sleeping, Wolters added: “I have an answer but we have decided not to divulge this information. I can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as that would bring a thousand other questions and I cannot go into details. But you have to believe me when I say we have more evidence. Here in Germany our Public Ministry only divulges things when they are solid.”
Which is why Christian Brueckner has not been charged with any offences linked to the vanishing for Madeleine McCann. We can believe Wolters has “more evidence” but we do not know what he has evidence of? And his appearing on the telly, points to it being a fishing expedition, a warning to criminals that Wolters and his team are on to you so it’d be best if you confessed now.
Maybe you called him Brueckner? Someone somebody you know called Bruckner while he was in the vicinity of the Ocean Club complex shortly after Madeleine McCann disappeared? That call lasted around half an hour. “We have the number that called him but we haven’t managed to attribute that number to anyone at the moment,” says Wolters. “We don’t know what the conversation was about and we don’t know the relationship between the people who spoke. We are searching for a witness to establish the content of the conversation which lasted nearly half an hour and so was quite a long conversation. We hope someone remembers that conversation. We don’t have any reason to believe that person could be involved in what happened that night to Madeleine.”
They’re searching for the witness – any witness will do. So Wolters is on the telly in Portugal and in the tabloids in the UK. His profile rises. But we learn nothing knew.
“Christian…must remain in jail until 2024 at least after losing a legal challenge last week,” says the Sun. “He was convicted in Germany of the 2005 rape of an American OAP in Praia da Luz.”
The clock ticks.
Christian Brueckner is innocent of any involvement in the vanishing of Madeleine McCann. If you doubt that statement is true, prove that it isn’t. That’s the challenge facing German prosecutors who believe the convicted peadophile stole the child and murdered her. “The disappearance of Madeleine McCann: Have they got the right man this time?” asks Martin Brunt, the Sky News reporter who has been hot on the heels of rumours. trolls and not a single meaningful development since Madeleine McCann went missing in May 2007 and became the media’s ‘Our Maddie’. Brunt has been speaking to lawyers. After a few paragraphs telling us who Christian Bruekner is, Brunt sums up the entire case against the infamous criminal:
The case against him is circumstantial – he is a convicted paedophile, he lived in the area, and on the night she disappeared, his mobile phone was in use nearby. The next day he changed the registration of one of his vehicles.
“Have they got the right man this time?,” ask Brunt seven paragraphs into his feature. Around 60 short paragrapahs later, Brunt concludes:
In fact, one source told me that Christian B may be no better a suspect for Madeleine’s abduction than two other principle targets.
They are the unnamed suspect, who may still be the subject of an undercover operation, and Euclides Monteiro, a sacked Ocean club waiter and thief who died two years after Madeleine vanished and was later eliminated from the inquiry.
The Mirror has a few words on the investigation. “Madeleine McCann investigators have ‘no smoking gun’ to charge Christian Brueckner,” trills the headline. Its worst than that. They have no gun. They have no smoke. They have a belief, an idea. German Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters is doing the rounds, telling Portuguese media:
“All I can say is this is like a puzzle and there are many pieces that lead us to believe Christian B is responsible.”
Hold the book deal, Hans. You’re going to need more.
“One of the pieces is the signal from the mobile phone he was using at the time Madeleine McCann disappeared and has been shown to have been in the area of the Ocean Club resort where she was staying.”
You’ve 20 more chapters to fill, Hans. What else you got?
“The result of our investigation does not point in any way to the possibility the suspect might have kept Madeleine alive. We have nothing to indicate she could be alive. Everything we have points to her being dead. We have no margin of manoeuvre.”
Is that lost in translation – “no magian of manoeuvre”? Is that Google Translate for ‘we have no open mind’? Of course any good blockbuster needs a good plot. Goncalo Amaral is the Portuguese coppers who wrote a book about the case. Will any book Wolters writes reach a firmer conclusion, give us the definitive story?
Mr Wolters also rebutted claims made by disgraced former police officer Goncalo Amaral, who met with Brueckner’s defence lawyer Friedrich Fulscher last week in Portugal, that the German was being “scapegoated.”
The controversial ex-cop, who was removed from the initial Madeleine McCann investigation for criticising British police, is involved in an ongoing legal battle with her parents Kate and Gerry over his insistence she died by accident in their apartment and they covered it up…
German Belief v Portuguese Insistence? Or to put it another way: German Insistence v Portuguese Belief. Wolters continues:
“I know this former inspector speaks a lot and comments on our work. We’re not going to get into a war of words. All I will say is that we have carried out a very serious investigation and there is no indication whatsoever Madeleine McCann’s parents are linked to her disappearance. On the other hand we have a lot of evidence pointing to Christian B killing her. Goncalo Amaral knows how he reaches his conclusions and that’s not up to us to judge.”
To which the Sun thunders:
Kate and Gerry McCann are not suspects. They are on the record in the Star, sort of:
But Kate and Gerry “won’t believe she’s dead” until a body has been found, it is claimed. A source close to the family said: “Until a body is found and it is proved to be Madeleine’s, Kate and Gerry are not giving up hope. These latest ‘she’s dead but there’s no body’ theories have been repeated over the past three-and-a-half months but in all this time there appears to be no significant new development.”
At least someone is dealing in facts. The unnamed source – why unnamed and not on the record? – wants facts not theories.
Over to the Mail:
A German drifter and partner-in-crime of Madeleine McCann prime suspect Christian Brueckner has branded him an ‘evil psychopath’ who is ‘capable of taking a child’.
Manfred Seyferth, 64, said 43-year-old Brueckner was known as ‘The Climber’ for his ability to break into homes, and was robbing apartments in Praia da Luz the year the young girl vanished.
Seyferth, who acted as a key witness against Brueckner when he was jailed for the rape of an American woman in 2018, believes the peadophile is guilty of taking thee-year-old Madeleine from her parents’ holiday apartment in 2007.
He tells the Sun:
“Christian is a bad, bad man. He is evil. I never liked him and he is a psychopath. He is obsessed with small children and I didn’t like it. He always had a young girlfriend with him and I think he is easily capable of taking a small child.”
“I think he may have something to do with Maddie.”
What of that rape case? Says the Sun:
Christian was convicted of attacking a 72-year-old woman in her own home at Praia da Luz in 2005.
Says the Mirror:
Brueckner, a German citizen, is currently in Justizvollzugsanstalt Kiel prison, where he is trying to overturn his sentence for raping a woman, 73, in Portugal.
Madeleine McCann is missing. It’s pretty much the only fact media and theorists can agree on.
Last week Sky News presented an exclusive news feature on Madeleine McCann and the man German police suspect of kidnapping and murdering her, the convicted paedophile and rapist Christian Brueckner, oddly dubbed ‘Christian B’ in an internet-denying spot of Teutonic legalise. The report revealed nothing. Martin Brunt reviewed the hunches and theories, but could not shake that we only know one thing for certain: child vanished. Today the Sun has more developments. The suspect’s lawyer has “admitted” something. Oh, yes, you think. Has he broken client-brief confidentiality and given us the word on the depraved criminal? No.
The lawyer of prime Madeleine McCann suspect Christian B has admitted he would not trust his client around his kids. Friedrich Fuelscher “insisted that if he had a daughter he would not let the convicted paedophile look after her”.
Before we demand he adopt a girl and test the theory, we wonder what other jobs Fuelscher could admit his client is unsuited to. I’d go for the obvious (kindergarten teacher, toilet attendant and paediatric nurse) and then consider the more exotic (UN Special Envoy to Thailand). The jury is out on whether Brueckner would make a decent BBC presenter of family TV shows in which he makes children’s wishes come true. There’s been a vacancy at the Beeb ever since Jimmy Savile gibbered his last and was subsequently ruled to have been the biggest paedophile who ever lived.
The Sun’s story is based on what the daughter-less lawyer told the Mirror. “I’d let him look after my dogs but I wouldn’t let him look after my children or my daughter – if I had them,” says Fuelscher. “He could be my dogsitter, yes, but because of his record I would not let him look after my own daughter.”
As to the value of giving a convicted paedophile a puppy, well, Charlie has something to say about that:
At the time of writing, Christian Brueckner remains innocent of any crimes relating to the vanishing of Madeleine McCann. The convicted paedophile is not unique. Everyone is assumed innocent because, as the Daily Star announces in a headline from the ‘no-news is still news’ school of journalism: “Madeleine McCann hopes boosted as charity says ‘no evidence she’s been harmed’.” It can be argued there is no evidence any crime befell the child. All we know is that she disappeared.
The Star is relaying an announcement on the website for the Madeleine Fund. The objects of the Madeleine Fund are:
To secure the safe return to her family of Madeleine McCann who was abducted in Praia da Luz, Portugal on Thursday 3rd May 2007;
To procure that Madeleine’s abduction is thoroughly investigated and that her abductors, as well as those who played or play any part in assisting them, are identified and brought to justice; and
To provide support, including financial assistance, to Madeleine’s family.
Kate McCann and Gerry McCann, Madeleine parents, are listed as two of the company’s six directors.
“There is absolutely nothing to suggest that Madeleine has been harmed. Madeleine is still missing and someone needs to be looking for her. She is young and vulnerable and needs our help. We love her dearly and miss her beyond words.”
The story is not one of hope being “boosted”, rather of hope being maintained in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
Over in the Sun, Christian Brueckner’s “friend” “has spoken of his horror at finding videos showing him raping an elderly woman”. The pal, named only as Manfred S, was “tracked down to Portugal by a German documentary”. For some reason we hear about the precise contents of one video, as if we need to know more than it was a “brutal rape” involving torture. Manfred “immediately alerted police about the videos which were found in Christian B’s house after he broke in while his pal was in prison.”
The paedophile rapist is a depraved criminal. This we know. But the Mail thinks we need to know more:
Madeleine McCann prime suspect was found with secret stash of 391 child porn photos and 68 vile videos, as court records reveal the full horror of crimes that landed Christian Brueckner in jail
As news of the sick bastard’s behaviour oozes into titillation, the Olive Press has an exclusive:
So too the Sun:
How does this link to the missing child? The Sun:
In Madeleine’s case, two sisters saw two blond men outside her family’s rental apartment in Praia da Luz hours before she disappeared.
One had blue eyes, like Christian B, while the other had green eyes.
According to police sources, Christian B and a mystery man of similar height were spotted drinking at a festival in the Algarve village of Messines ahead of the 2017 incident.
In March 2019, the Sun reported:
Jayne Jensen told the Netflix documentary The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann: “[My sister] was walking just slightly in front of me and then she stopped and looked back at me and motioned with her head. And it was here we saw the two men. I caught up with my sister and I said what was that about? She said – ‘Well, two single blonde men on their own’, which just made me chuckle. But they were wrongly placed, and that was that, until later that day when we had heard that Madeleine was taken it was only then piecing back – who were these guys?”
Such are the facts.
How long will it take German police and prosecutors to nail Christian Brueckner, the rapist and paedophile they suspect of kidnapping and murdering Madeleine McCann? Today, judges at the European Court of Justice, says Bruckner’s appeal against a 2019 rape conviction for an attack in 2005 is unlikely to succeed.
Christian Brueckner’s lawyers argue that the European arrest warrant issued over the 2005 rape charge was invalid. In 2018, he was extradited from Italy to Germany on drug trafficking charges. Back in his homeland, Brueckner was convicted of the rape of the 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz and sentenced to seven years in prison.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has considered the details and expressed its opinion that the German authorities did not have to get permission from Portugal to nick him. Although “an advisor” to the court says Germany did not follow the correct procedures when they extradited him.
It’s not over yet. If his appeal is successful, Christian Brueckner could walk free from prison next year, at the end of his jail term for the drug offence.
And he can do. Because – get his – Christian Brueckner has not been charged of any crime related to Madeleine McCann. And – get this also – police have yet to prove what crime befell Madeleine McCann, if any did. There are theories and circumstantial evidence. There are likelihoods and hunches. But there is only one fact: in May 2007, Madeleine McCann vanished.
But the good news for sleuths looking to nail Brueckner for a crime he says he did not commit, is that police will most likely know his precise location for the next seven years. What price we will still basking ‘What happened to Maddie’ in 2027?
In the hunt for Madeleine McCann, even the most factual of facts can be wrung through the mangle and come out altered. The Sun looks at Christian Brueckner and thunders: “Madeleine McCann latest news: Prime suspect Christian B to learn outcome of appeal over 2005 Portugal rape TODAY.”
In 2005, Brueckner broke into a woman’s apartment in Portugal and raped her at knife point. In 2006, Portuguese authorities dropped the rape investigation due to lack of evidence. He was charged with the rape as recently as 2019. In December that year, Brueckner was convicted and sentenced to seven years for the rape. His prison term has yet to start because he argues that the conviction was unlawful. He is in prison in Germany on a 21-month sentence for drugs.
And the Sun says “TODAY” the convicted paedophile suspected of kidnapping and murdering Madeleine McCann could walk free. Which is…wrong. Today judges at European Court of Justice will give their opinion ahead of a final verdict on that appeal. Their final judgement, which is binding on courts across the EU, will be delivered soon afterwards. But not today.
Madeleine McCann: a look at repotting on the missing child. In the stead of any news on the hunt for the missing child, the Daily Express gawps at the parents. News is that Gerry McCann had an ‘image fixed indelibly’ in his memory from less than an hour before his daughter disappeared”. This was “revealed during a book written by the parents on the missing toddler”. First up, dear Daily Express: get a sub-editor. Yesterday’s garbled news form Reach plc titles (the Express, Star and Mirror) was riddled with typos and literals.
The scoop is that Kate McCann wrote something in her book, Madeleine: Our Daughter’s Disappearance and the Continuing Search for Her. That book was published in 2011. The Express has taken 9 years to tell its readers what was “revealed in it”.
Here’s the extract – “the heartbreaking account of Gerry’s final memory of seeing his daughter”:
“Madeleine was lying there on her left-hand side, her legs under the covers, in exactly the same position as we’d left her. For Gerry, this became one of those images I described earlier, pictures that fix themselves indelibly, almost photographically, in the memory. He paused for a couple of seconds to look at Madeleine and thought to himself, she’s so beautiful. After pulling the bedroom door to, restoring it to its original angle, he went to the bathroom before leaving the apartment.”
As the Express reads old books to ‘reveal’ nothing new, the Mirror looks at Christian Bruckner, the convicted German peadophile and rapist accused of kidnapping and murdering Madeleine McCann, a claim he denies. The headline is a sort of anti-news:
Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner ruled out of raping and murdering girl, 11
Claudia Ruf was kidnapped from Grevenbroich, Germany, in 1996, while walking her neighbour’s dog – before her partly burned body was found dumped around 40 miles away
A police spokesman told German newspaper Bild: “After comparing the information obtained, it can be said that Christian B was not in Grevenbroich at the time in the case of Claudia Ruf. In addition, a DNA comparison is said to have been negative.”
Are we now at the point where every unsolved case of child abduction and murder is to cross-checked with Christian Brueckner’s life? Good to look but why now – why not check him before? It all looks a b it ike PR, as if the police having pointe the finger at the revolting Brueckner are desperate to keep his name in the frame. This might be in hope that someone who knows something comes forward. But right now the is only circumstantial evidence linking Brueckner to the worlds most famous missing child. And in light of any evidence saying he committed a crime against her, we should presume he did not.
Madeleine McCann: a look at reporting on the missing child.
Let’s begin with the Daily Star and its news that Christian Brueckner and the allegation that he kidnapped and murdered Madeleine McCann. He denies the claims. The headline tells us pretty much everything about the case so far: “Madeleine McCann cops ‘may not have concrete evidence she is dead’.” The story begins: “German police may not have “concrete evidence” that Madeleine McCann is dead, it has been claimed.” Claimed by? On June 26, the Sun was adamant:
Now more news on that “concrete evidence”. Meet Mick Neville, a former copper billed as the man who helped create the Met Police’s Central Forensic Image Team in 2012. This new face on the media roster “spent a number of years working with the military police in Germany”. He tells the paper: “A big issue here is the phrase ‘concrete evidence’. The German prosecutor has stated several times that he has concrete evidence that Madeleine is dead. But the meaning has been lost in translation. In English the phrase means ‘irrefutable’ but in German it means ‘reasonable suspicion’ or ‘more than a rumour’. German police need to ensure that there is concrete evidence before they make an arrest – but it not enough to convict [sic].”
Police expert says you need evidence to make an arrest. Who knew? So what did Wolters say? Here he is on Sky News saying in English there “no opportunity she is still alive”:
Wolters later said: “Because there is no forensic evidence there may be a little bit of hope. We don’t want to kill the hope and because there is no forensic evidence it may be possible.”
As the German prosecutors attempt to build a concrete case from sand and water – and the Star searches high and low for a German-English dictionary – the Sun notes, “Christian B allegedly boasted to a pal about performing a sex act in front of a room full of sleeping British girls.” The convicted rapist and paedophile did what? He “told a close friend he crept into a holiday home in Portugal naked and started masturbating. He fled when one of the teens woke up and began to alert her friends, it’s claimed.”
Alleges. Claims. May. May not. In search of facts, the Express peers into a hole: “Madeleine McCann suspect ‘dug out cellar at a second cabin’.” The inclusion of inverted commas alerts readers to the fact that the suspect might not have dug out a cellar in a converted cabin. Reading on, we learn:
The suspect, 43, is said to have had access to an isolated German bungalow beside a vegetable plot for three years before vanishing in April 2016. Residents are now urging police to dig at the site in Braunschweig, northern Germany.
The plot of land is about 50 miles from the allotment near Hanover where police found a hidden chamber during a three-day digging operation this week.
Chilling similarities have emerged as neighbours told how the suspect fell foul of officials at the Braunschweig site after digging a cellar beneath the house without permission.
A friend of the suspect told German television that the suspect had planned to turn the basement of his “garden colony” house into a “cellar dungeon” like that of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian monster who held his daughter prisoner for 24 years.
Another “friend” said his pal wanted to be like the notorious paedophile Josef Fritzl? Where does Brueckner meet his so-called friends? The Mirror hears a witness say:
“Brueckner excavated the floor of the house. He took out the rocks and the earth. He dug a big hole.He carried out the rocks and earth by hand and dumped it out by the front of the house. He put put [sic] planks of wood over the top of the hole. It took him two months to complete. He started in the morning and worked until evening. Doing this work got him in trouble with the authorities in charge the gardens.”
They watched him dig. And the authorities knew about it. And how can this be linked to Madeleine McCann? Says the Mirror:
His first allotment in Hanover was excavated this week. Buildings on the site were demolished in late 2007 or 2008 but the cellar remained hidden. Neighbours told how he set up camp there in 2007 – the year Madeleine disappeared. Neighbours in Braunschweig now believed this site will also be probed by police.
Another owner of an adjoining garden in Braunschweig told reporters how Brueckner never seemed to do any gardening, but instead would work in his shed and spend time with his young girlfriend, Nakscije Miftari.
This was before he suddenly disappeared.
They referred to him as a “strange man” and would occasionally have a beer with him.
Is having beer with him another act of ‘friendship’? The Express picks up the story – and yet again there’s a typo. The Star, Express and Mirror are all owned by Reach plc. Someone there should invest in a sub-editor
Such are the facts.
Madeleine McCann: a look at reporting on the missing child.
News is that German police have solved the case. Well, they’ve reportedly solved 90% of the mystery as to what happened to Madeleine McCann in 2007. The story of Madeleine McCann has but one thread: child vanishes. A fishing expedition followed her disappearance in 2007, something akin to that scene in the movie Jaws when a flotilla of hapless amateurs and cock-sure professionals head out in search of the big catch. They chuck bait into the waters and pull on a hundred lines. German police on a boat. They can feel something on the other end of their line. Is it a red herring or the murderous predator? They’re reeling it in. We can see 90% of the line. The rest remains hidden.
The Sun and Mail bring news of the nagging 10% hidden from view. German sleuths need evidence to charge Christian Brueckner, the convicted paedophile they suspect kidnapped and murdered Madeleine McCann. He says he’s innocent. German police allege he is not. They need evidence. Is it there, hooked on the end of their line?
Might be worth a look at the source for this story. The Sun explains the story:
The dad of an alleged accomplice says police are close to charging him over her abduction. The father, whose daughter was linked to Christian B during burglaries in Portugal, said: “I was with the police for an hour last month. They said they had 90 per cent solved the case and seemed very confident.”
He added: “They seemed to be very convinced that Christian B was their man.”
No direct word from German police. Although on July 14, the Sun delivered the headline: “MADDIE BETRAYAL Madeleine McCann’s parents’ heartache as German cops prepare to drop investigation.”
The ‘dad’ is Dieter Fehlinger – father of Brueckner’s alleged former lover Nicole Fehlinger. The source for the Mail’s story is the Sun. And that’s it. The fishing continues.
For a few weeks this year Madeleine McCann was high on the news agenda. Amid stories of thousands killed by Covid-19, desperate calls for help from Hong Kong and global protests against the killing for a black man by American police, we read that progress had been made in the hunt of the world’s most recognisable missing person. German prosecutors went on the record. They remain convinced they have their man, the convicted paedophile they believe kidnapped and murdered Madeleine McCann. Weeks on since the story broke, Christian Brueckner, the suspect, remains innocent of all claims. No smoking gun has been found. No evidence. No body. This morning the Sunday Mirror leads with a story about the Madeleine McCann investigation. What’s new? Nothing.
The media story is about the child’s parents, as it has been since 2007. The “exclusive” front-page news is that Gerry and Kate McCann face “fresh agony” as police searched three wells in Portugal, close to where the suspect in the case lived. We know of their pain through “a family source” who tells of the McCanns’ “prolonged agony” and how they retain “a glimmer of hope” their daughter is alive 13 years after she disappeared. They “cling to hope she’s alive”.
Plus ca change. This is no-news journalism, a scoop that makes Sunday newspaper readers hanker for the days of kiss ‘n’ tell and stories with an end.
The “family source” tells us: “It is a period of prolonged agony. They have still absolutely no idea what evidence police have to suggest Madeleine is dead. They are not being told what police believe happened to her. We feel desperately sorry for them as they’ve endured so much pain and angst for 13 years.”
You can unpack that if you must. The Mirror thinks ‘Our Maddie’ continues to sell papers. The story’s framing tells us nothing. We can wonder why the source is unnamed?; why feelings are the lead news story?; and if making the parents the central plank of the “exclusive” serves no useful purpose other than to give people who continue to eye the innocent McCanns with suspicion something to gossip about and wonder if PR is ever news?
Clarence Mitchell, a former publicist for Madeleine’s parents, both 52, said: “Kate and Gerry want answers more than anyone. But while the Metropolitan Police are still treating Madeleine’s disappearance as a missing person, rather than a murder inquiry, it gives them a glimmer of hope that she could still be alive. They continue to hope until there is incontrovertible evidence which proves she is dead. They are being kept informed every step of the way.”
And there it is. The hunt for evidence continues. There is no evidence Madeleine McCann is dead. There is no evidence any crime befell her. The Germans say they have “concrete evidence” she was murdered. But the only fact they can prove is that in May 2007 an innocent child vanished. The legalities are that everyone is innocent of any possible crime under proven otherwise.
Madeleine McCann: an at-a-glance look at reporting on the missing child.
The media continues to look at Christian Brueckner, which given his status as a prisoner of the German state is a news beat light easy on shoe leather.
The Star kicks things off by telling readers that the man suspected of kidnapping and murdering Madeleine McCann once live next to a British policeman in Portugal. Do you know your next door neighbour? Do you know what they’re up, if they have a criminal record for child abuse or work for an organisation some see as institutionally racist?
The insight into life on Brueckner’s street comes via Austrian couple Oliver and Karin Stenard. They tell a telly show in Portugal that they employed Brueckner as a handyman. He lived opposite them with his girlfriend. “The next door neighbour at the time’s an English policeman,” the Star quotes one saying. “He’s working for Scotland Yard.” The Sun watches the same show. The Sun presents its review of the show as an “exclusive”.
What of this copper? Was he sent to Portugal to watch the suspect? That seems unlikely because he is said to have already owned the property in 2007 when Brueckner was there and Madeleine McCann vanished. “Scotland Yard detective who lived next door to Madeleine McCann suspect in the Algarve ‘is working with police to find her’,” says the Mail. Now he is or then he was? The Mail adds:
The British police officer owns a house next door to a property where the German paedophile worked following the youngster’s disappearance, the drifter’s former Algarve bosses say.
We’re then told the suspect allegely exposed himself to children:
…angry parents revealed he had escaped trial in the Algarve despite exposing himself to four young children in a playground while he was on the run from German police for a separate sex crime. One of the parents fought back tears in an interview last night as she admitted: ‘If he had snatched one of the children and put them in his van, we might never have seen them again.’
He didn’t snatch the woman’s child. And as far as the evidence goes we do not know if he has ever snatched a child. “Madeleine McCann suspect ‘could have snatched another child’, say parents of young girl he allegedly exposed himself to.” says the Telegraph. Well, he could have. And then again, he might not have. As for snatching “another child”, well, police have yet to charge him snatching any child.
Nelia Bras, mum of one of the youngsters Brueckner allegedly pleasured himself in front of, added: ‘My daughter was eight at the time. He spoke to her in English and asked her, ‘What’s your name?’
‘It’s very traumatic knowing that someone who’s been linked to so many cases and is perhaps a very dangerous man was so close to my little girl and spoke to her and could have snatched her or any other child who was there.’
And then the speculation is cranked up.
“Christian Brueckner was living in the house in Foral when Madeleine McCann disappeared,” says Karin Stenard. “Foral is a big area and there was no-one around at the time. I say he killed her and there was a lot of space to bury her. I think her body may be buried there and I told the police that.”
The report below the TV show on Portuguese broadcaster RT’s website tells us (via Google Translate):
Germany knew that Christian Bruckner had been a pedophile since 1994, found him twice in Portugal and never associated him with the disappearance of Madeleine Mccann. Nor do the Portuguese authorities, although they have extradited him twice for sexual crimes against children. The first in 1999, the second in 2017.
For 22 years, this man lived among us and traveled without any motorhome control in Europe, benefiting from the free movement guaranteed since the Schengen agreement.
Burckner was last extradited in 2017, after being caught in the act of committing a crime that today qualifies as sexual abuse against four Portuguese children, all of them girls under the age of 14.
Despite the flagrant crime in a playground in São Bartolomeu de Messines, this crime by Brukner against Portuguese children was never prosecuted and remains unpunished.
What news of Madeleine McCann, the innocent child famous for being missing since May 2007? The Mail kicks off today’s round-up of news and in the main no news of Madeleine McCann with the line: “The lawyer for Madeleine McCann’s kidnap and murder suspect Christian Brueckner has insisted his client is ‘no psychopathic monster’.” Fair dos? But is he a murderer?
We know Brueckner is a paedophile and a rapist. But did he kidnap Madeleine McCann and murder her, as German authorities suspect he did? He is no monster says his brief. He is a man. Good. They’re easier to spot and punish. And what do we mean when we label someone a psychopath? Do we mean a predator lacking in all empathy? If we do, do we assume that they can be cured. Do they see them as victims of biology or nurture?
The American Psychological Association says psychopathy is characterized by “exploitation of others, deceitfulness, impulsivity, aggressiveness . . . [and] accompanied by lack of guilt, remorse and empathy.”
In 2017, research by New York-based psychologist Paul Babiak’s suggested up to 4% of business leaders in the US could be psychopaths. A study of supply chain managers found between 3% and 21% had clinically significant psychopathy, compared to 1% of the general population.
And they can pull. “Psychopathic men are really good at pretending to display what women are attracted to,” says Kristopher Brazil, one of two researchers at Brock University in Canada who led a study into why women love a psychopath. “They’re really good at putting on this mask, and making themselves look attractive… You exude a larger-than-life presence, and give off an impression of greatness.”
The Mail broadens its position, relaying the words of Brueckner’s suit:
Friedrich Fulscher described the 43-year-old serial paedophile as a ‘friendly conversationist’.
He went on to claim: ‘The prosecutor’s office seems to have shot at our client and is now trying to correct their lack of evidence by any means possible.
‘I experience him as a very calm and friendly interlocutor, and the atmosphere between us has always been very pleasant.’
The suspect’s innocent must be presumed. And as for the suspect coming across as decent bloke, well, if all paedophiles and rapists were easily identifiable the judiciary would have a far simpler time of things.
Fulscher was talking about his client to Germany’s RTL. The IBT notes:
This account of Brückner’s demeanor follows other reports that have surfaced in recent months about his behavior behind the scenes. Not only did a former roommate state that he had once been “obsessed with the dark web,” but others claimed that he had once “freaked out” when McCann’s name was mentioned.
And..? Not much. Such are the facts.
Madeleine McCann: a look at reporting on the missing child.
The Mirror says Christian Brueckner, the man suspected of murdering Madeleine McCann, “‘made [a] all from ‘same place” where she vanished about an hour later”. He did? Well, so it is “claimed”. And why is ‘same place’ in inverted commas? The teaser is more precise – sort of: “Paedophile Christian Brueckner allegedly used a mobile phone outside the Ocean Club about an hour before Madeleine McCann disappeared from her family’s holiday flat at the same complex in May 2007.”
The news is alleged. And the source is an entertainment TV show in Germany:
Rudi Cerne, the host of Aktenzeichen XY… Ungelöst (Case number XY… Unsolved), told Focus: “The call came from the same place where the little girl was last seen alive. I get the impression something important is happening now.”
Rudi gets the impression… More after the ads… Stay tuned… Cerne shared his thoughts in a trailer for tomorrow night’s TV programme. “The only thing I can say at the moment is that this also includes the telephone number of the Portuguese prepaid card that was called from the German suspect’s cellphone,” he says. “Not even an hour before Maddie disappeared. The call also came from the same place where the little girl was last seen alive, in Praia da Luz in the Algarve.” Lest you mistake the toothsome, tanned TV host for a detective, he then note: “I’m not an investigator.”
In another of its myriad stories on the missing child, the Mirror announces: “Madeleine McCann suspect had rape case bungled by police two years before she vanished – Christian Brueckner, 43, could have been jailed for the brutal rape of a US woman in 2005 – almost 18 months before Madeleine McCann was taken – but blunders by Portuguese police kept him free until 2017.”
In December 2019, Brueckner was convicted of rape. He is appealing the conviction. Says the Mirror:
A rope, hair and some clothes from a house where Brueckner, 43, raped an American woman in 2005 didn’t get tested for DNA, leaving him at large until 2017 when he was caught.
The villa the rape took place in is a 10-minute stroll from the Praia da Luz apartment where Madeleine, who was three at the time, vanished in May 2007.
What other heinous crimes took place in the area in 2005, when the American woman was raped, are not said. As for that crime scene being a “stroll” from the place where Madeleine McCann vanished from, well, she vanished in May 2007. You can walk slowly.
The Mail repeats the story, observing that the suspect could have been caught two years BEFORE the innocent child went missing. In which case… if he did do it, she would not have gone missing. We’re told:
The 2005 rape case inquiry was abandoned five months after the horrific attack, while neither a red T-shirt stuffed in the victim’s mouth nor a nylon rope used to tie her hands together were DNA tested, according to The Sun.
Over to the Sun, then:
After her disappearance Portuguese police failed to seal off the McCann family holiday apartment for almost 24 hours.
It led to a crime scene contamination by up to 50 people. Cleaners washed bed sheets and ash from officers’ cigarettes was found in evidence samples. The 2005 rape inquiry was abandoned after just five months.
Is there a source for new that Portuguese police made a hash to the rape case?
Official documents show Carlos Farinha, then Director of the Judicial Police’s Forensic Science Laboratory, wrote in a letter dated November 28, 2009: “We have learned by telephone that the examination is no longer necessary. We are therefore cancelling the tests and returning the material sent to us for analysis.”
German prosecutors are now convinced the mistakes made by Portuguese police in the 2005 rape case left child sex offender Christian B free to snatch Madeleine.
They might be convinced. But they don’t have any evidence to charge the depraved criminal.
Madeleine McCann: an at-a-glance look at news of the missing child.
Christian Brueckner could be out of prison next week, says the NY Post. The convicted peadophile and rapist suspected to murdering the missing child has applied for parole having served two-thirds of a sentence for drugs.
In the Sun we hear from an unnamed source “close to the German investigation”. “If the superior court decides to free him then it will severely impact the case,” says someone. “He could vanish and then we will not be able to put him on trial. We are fighting for him to be kept in court.”
How likely is it that if he is released from prison the man suspected of killing the child who has obsessed media for over a decade will vanish and not be closely watched by a million reporters, police, members of the public and bounty hunters keen to get their hands on the scoop and the reward money? And there’s the matter of his conviction for rape.
Christian Brueckner was pinched in 2018 on a warrant issued for a drugs offence in 2011.
But he was subsequently put on trial and convicted of raping a 72-year-old American woman at her villa in Praia da Luz in 2005. He was sentenced to seven years in December. But because he is appealing against the rape conviction, under German law the sentence is yet to be imposed.
So he will walk “free”? No. He won’t.
The Mirror looks at the child’s parents, as ever it has done. “Madeleine McCann parents face more pain as police say suspect could escape justice.” This headline pivots on your concept of justice. The teaser nails its:
“German authorities are convinced paedophile Christian Brueckner killer Maddie but prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters sais the investigation ‘could be stopped if we fail to find the missing evidence'”
In the dash to scream “no news” first, the Mirror makes two typos in one line. But worse than that is the interpretation of what justice is and if you can achieve it without evidence. German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters tells German newspaper Braunschweig Zeitung: “You have to be realistic that the investigation may not lead to a charge for the murder of Madeleine. It could be stopped if we fail to find the missing evidence. But we are still convinced of the guilt of the accused and hope for further promising investigative approaches.”
May. Could. If. Missing evidence. The German prosecutors case looks watertight, in the same way a sieve makes a good lifeboat.
The Metro chips in with: “Madeleine McCann suspect might not be charged despite ‘concrete evidence’ of murder.” When “concrete evidence” is couched in inverted commas it’s not all that concrete. Says Wolters: “I am currently unable to predict the outcome of our investigation but we are still convinced of the guilt of the accused and hope for further promising investigative approaches.” But is there to convince a judge and jury?
Is the suspect about to walk free, then? Wolters explains: “Of course, it is always good to know where a suspect is to be able to access them if necessary. And, of course, detention always offers a certain guarantee that the detainee will not commit any further crimes.”
And on it goes. But wait. The Manchester Evening News has news!
“Lawyer who represented Madeleine McCann parents wants to turn village pub into nursery.” In Rochdale.
Such are the facts.
To coincide with the resumption of the football season, the Mirror leads with a photo of Madeleine McCann in her Everton kit. The news is that convicted rapist and peadophile Christian Brückner / Christian Brueckner says he didn’t dit not kidnap and murder the missing child. Brueckner’s lawyer Friedrich Fulscher says his client “denied any involvement”.
As the suspect denies all and wallows in solitary confinement in a German prison for depraved and violent crimes, the Mail looks at the vehicle he drove back and forth between Germany and Portugal. Says the paper:
It is not clear when Brueckner bought the 30-year-old Tiffin Allegro but he was known to be driving a vehicle matching its description in 2007, when Madeleine, three, vanished.
People who knew him described a ‘large cream-coloured Winnebago campervan,’ which he allegedly bragged could hide ‘drugs and children’.
Police have located the van on land owned by the suepct. According to Spiegel, police found the van when they investigated the vanishing of five-year-old Inga Gehricke.
Germany’s Spiegel TV reported that during a six-day search of the site detectives found numerous items of children’s clothing, most of them ‘small swimsuits’ in the motorhome. Brueckner does not have any children.
The convicted rapist has no children.
Police also found six memory sticks with more than 8,000 files, mostly containing pictures and videos of child abuse. They were in a bag in a hole in the ground, underneath the body of his dead dog. Brueckner, now 43, was convicted of possessing the child porn but not charged in relation to Inga. He was identified as a suspect in the McCann case in recent weeks and police near Hanover have reopened the file into Inga’s disappearance, looking again at Brueckner.
A bloke called Dieter tells the Mail that he once looked around the van:
“Brueckner told me again, ‘I have 50kg of grass, and I transport it around Europe’. I thought he was joking at the time. He said, ‘In my van, I can take 50kg of grass – nobody can see it … I can transport children, kids, in this space. Drugs and children, you can transport them in this van – it’s a safe space in the van. Nobody can find them. Nobody can catch you’.”
The Sun picks up more of the Spiegel report:
While living in Braunschweig, Christian B ran a kiosk between 2013 and 2015 and he was pictured inside wearing dark sunglasses.
Bjorn told the documentary how Christian B had been contacted in 2013 by police investigating Madeleine’s disappearance.
He said: “One day I came into the kiosk and he was a little bit distraught and said, ‘Hey, look what I’ve got here’ — and he showed me a subpoena for the Madeleine McCann case.
“You could see it churned him up a bit but he wasn’t panicking and he wasn’t saying ‘they are on my heels’.
“I think he said he had been there but that he had nothing to do with it and that was that.”
Such are the facts.
On June 15 the Sun told readers that Madeleine’s McCann’s parents were due to receive a letter from German prosectors. The letter would tell Gerry and Kate McCann how their daughter died, allegedly at the hands of convicted rapist and paedophile Christian Brueckner, currently serving time in a German prison. By way of a clue, the Mail added that police in Portugal were getting ready to search wells around the Algarve resort where the child vanished in 2007.
One day on and with the murder suspect is not talking, the Sun told readers that the McCanns had been sent the “saddest letter”.
The “concrete evidence” of Madeleine McCann’s death was not revealed in the missive. But the letter had been sent, That much was certain. “Prosecutors in Germany have written to Kate and Gerry McCann to tell them Madeleine is dead,” said the Sun. They have “concrete evidence” suspect Christian B killed her but cannot yet reveal details.”
And then the fact was undone by a “BOMBSHELL”, of which there have been many. This one is that the McCanns have yet to receive the letter.
Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters has already proven to be less than certain, having informed us that he assumed Madeleine McCann was dead adding later that she might not be. Maybe the letter was sent to the family’s reps, the police or has been delayed in the post. The McCanns note on their website:
“The widely reported news that we have received a letter from the German authorities that states there is evidence or proof that Madeleine is dead is FALSE. Like many unsubstantiated stories in the media, this has caused unnecessary anxiety to friends and family and once again disrupted our lives.”
Says Wolters, as quoted in the Express:
“We have re-established contact with the McCann family in writing. We, of course, really consider the fact that it is going to be very hard for the family when we tell them that we assume Madeline is dead. But we can’t say why she is dead. It is more important that we are is successful and we are able to get the culprit as opposed to just putting our cards on the table and tell them why we think she might be.”
“Might be.” She might be dead. He might be a murderer. Or to put it another way, she might not be dead. He might not be a murderer.
Wolters is quoted more on the Sun:
“It would be easier for them [the McCanns] if I could tell them what we know but I can’t. All I can say is there is no forensic evidence but there is other evidence which indicates she is dead. I don’t want to go into any details about the letter, when it was written or how it was sent. All I will confirm is that it has been written.”
Such are the facts.
Christian Brueckner has yet to be arrested or charged with the alleged murder of Madeleine McCann. there is no news. So the media returns to its default poistion: watching the parents. The Sunday Mirror leads with news that Kate and Gerry McCann have called on the German prosecutor who assumes their daughter is dead to provide evidence.
Last week. Hans Christian Wolters, a spokesman for the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office, told Sky News:
“The hard evidence we don’t have, we don’t have the crucial evidence of Madeleine McCann’s body. We expect that she is dead, but we don’t have enough evidence that we can get a warrant for our suspect in Germany for the murder of Madeleine McCann. At the moment, we also don’t have enough proof for a trial at court, but we have some evidence that the suspect has done the deed. That’s why we need more information from people, especially places he has lived, so we can target these places especially and search there for Madeleine.”
Seems fair to ask him what he’s seen, no, especially if you’re the parents of the missing child and are desperate for news. Surely Wolters is not just speculating, riffing in the public arena in the hope that someone takes the line and points the finger? “German Prosecutors Dash Hopes of Finding Madeleine McCann alive,” says the New York Times. Can we see the evidence, please?
Hold on a mo. Wolters is talking to the Mirror:
“Because there is no forensic evidence there may be a little bit of hope (that she is alive). We don’t want to kill the hope and because there is no forensic evidence it may be theoretically possible. I know it’s important for the British people when I say she is dead, but I did not know it was so important.”
There is no forensic evidence so it’s theoretical she is alive. It’s also theoretical that she is dead. The theories can go on and on infinitum until we see evidence. And at the moment the theory is that convicted paedophile Christian Brueckner murdered the innocent child. And German cops are so certain he did it they’ve not charged him anything in relation to the case. Will they?
“I think the Portuguese officials still think that Maddie’s parents are responsible for her disappearance. From our perspective, the suspect is in jail in Germany right now. And this is not the case for Maddie’s parents. We think that the parents don’t have anything to do with it. We are convinced that our 43-year-old suspect is the murderer of Maddie McCann.”
Wolters is convinced the German police have identified the suspected murderer. Although the victim might be alive. Clear?
The Times says the rapist and child abuser is “receiving counselling in prison while he is held in isolation to prevent other inmates attacking him”. If he’s in isolations, how… Never mind. Here comes the depraved criminal’s lawyer, Friedrich Fülscher, to tell RTL TV how his client is coping:
“How should a person who is isolated in a correctional facility and who is accused by half the world’s population of the worst crimes?”
Confessing would be useful. But he’s not done so.
Madeleine McCann returned to the front pages with a new suspect and a flurry of questions, none of which will be answered until we know what happened to her. But guessing is an armchair sport. So a German police worker assumes the missing child is dead. British police think she might not be. The tabloids mangle the most basic facts to fit a narrative. The BBC breaks ranks and renames her ‘Madeline’ over the media’s usual ‘Maddie’, and readers get to know of other missing children who convicted paedophile and rapist Christian Brueckner, aka Christian Brückner and Christin B might or might not have kidnapped and murdered.
On the matter of his name, there is a little confusion. German media only identify him as Christian B. German privacy laws make it illegal to name convicted criminals, let alone suspects. As for his spelling, well, while the tabloids do away with the umlaut (Sun, Mail, Mirror, Star), the broader-sheets (Guardian and Telegraph) use it. The BBC refers to him only as ‘Christian B’, which given that you can find his name all over the web and on the Mail’s hugely popular website, is peculiar. The BBC redacts the suspect’s full name on its website and puts a large black square over photos of his face. The Sun sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t.
Today’s front page news is that police are looking at Christian Brueckner in connection with the vanishing of René Hasee. The German chid went missing from the Algarve in 1996. He was six. Yesterday I mentioned Hasee and that his story was of interest, so too that fact that like Madeleine McCann, he too is blond. The Mail highlighted the importance of being blonde whilst missing in its story, “Two fair-haired little girls who vanished on a family trip… with the same man now under scrutiny.” Aref Ishmaili and other missing darker skinned children do not make the front pages.
So is the depraved criminal a serial child killer? The Guardian says “German prosecutors believe the 43-year-old convicted paedophile may have also been involved in the disappearance of Inga Gehricke”. Believe. May. Any facts? Any..? Yes, you, the Daily Mail:
Madeleine McCann’s suspected murderer Christian Brueckner was a twisted loner who was hated by the other children at school, a former classmate has revealed.
The former pupil said: ‘I’ve only ever had one fight in my life and that was with Christian Brueckner. He spent a year talking about me behind my back. He would not stop making nasty comments. One day I exploded and told him to go back to the orphanage where he had come from. We all knew he was adopted, so I shouldn’t have said that but I lost my temper with him. He jumped on me and we traded punches until a teacher pulled us apart. Everyone hated him in class and they all kept their distance. But it wasn’t just the children – it was the teachers as well.
Are we trying to build up a sympathetic backstory or nail the swine?
Any more facts? Yes, you, the Mirror. Today the paper calls the naming of suspect Christian Brueckner an “alleged breakthrough” in the Madeleine McCann investigation. That’s a bit of a climbdown because last week he was the “Maddie suspect” and we saw the “Face of Maddie ‘killer suspect'”.
Brace yourselves for more of this sort of thing. Sky says “almost 400 tip-offs about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have been handed to British police since a new suspect was identified on Wednesday”. Will anything prove to be more than circumstantial? We all hope so. But no body and no evidence are not paths to justice. The only thing we know with absolute certainty is that in May 2007, Madeleine McCann vanished.
The Sun has been talking about depraved criminal Christian Brueckner with a “Key Madeleine McCann witness”. But has the paper been sticking to the facts to get a story? The paper reports:
The woman reported the sighting within hours of three-year-old Madeleine’s disappearance on May 3, 2007, and has always been viewed as a credible witness. Her confirmation came amid claims of glaring blunders by Judicial Police feared to have let the beast cheat justice.
The Sun understands from another British witness that Portuguese detectives circulated a photograph of Christian B years ago but failed to act. The second woman saw the image in 2007, and also confirmed it was a man she had seen behaving bizarrely in the days after Madeleine went missing…
A Sun trawl of witness statements all pointed to a man matching the paedophile’s description.
“Claims.” “Understands.” The hunt for facts continues. Can the Sun cut through the fog and help us form a clearer picture?
The Sun mentions British-born Tasmin Sillence, 12 at the time of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in 2007 and living in Portugal since she was two months old. Twice she saw the man in the area of the McCanns’ apartment. The Sun says she “told police she saw a white man in dark glasses with his gaze fixed on the complex. Moments later, she looked up and saw a girl around Madeleine’s age on a sun deck in the same block. Tasmin provided police with the photofit picture circulated at the time which bears a striking resemblance to Christian B, 43. It would appear Christian B’s name and background were known to police all along.”
But that’s not exactly what she told police.
The Sun says this is what Tasmin Sillence told police in her statement of 9th of May 2007:
“She saw the man, this time in front of the Ocean Club reception, once more looking at Madeleine’s house.”
“She added that his face was pockmarked, he looked “ugly” and was casually dressed and wearing large-framed sunglasses.”
The Sun has got things in a muddle. Facts matter. This is what she told them, her words helping to form the efit image you can see above. (He words have been translated from Portuguese by Google translate):
Concerning the individual, she describes him as being: Caucasian race, light skin, so he wasn’t Portuguese, but could be British, according to her criteria. Approximately 180 cm tall, thin complexion, 30/35 years of age. Short hair, like shaved with 1 cm of length and fair, but she isn’t sure if it was blonde because the sun was reflecting, and made perception more difficult. She didn’t see the eyes because he wore dark glasses of black colour, with a structure of mass, a thick frame. He had a large forehead. Nose of normal size, a bit pointy and sharp. Large ears, close against the head. Mouth with thin lips, she didn’t see his teeth. Chin pointing up, which stood out on a face that she describes as sharp. No beard, no moustache, a clean shave. No other special signs, apart from some small pimples on the face as a result of shaving. He looked ugly, even ‘disgusting’.
Christian Brueckne has pockmarked skin. The witness did not say the man she saw did. He had a bit of pimply shaving rash. And there’s more.
Let’s recall for a second times what the Sun says:
Tasmin Sillence, 12 at the time, told police she saw a white man in dark glasses with his gaze fixed on the complex. Moments later, she looked up and saw a girl around Madeleine’s age on a sun deck in the same block.
But the police report does not present the same picture. In it we learn:
She also mentions that she lived in the apartment where the missing child was staying, that belonged to her Grandmother, who is already deceased. That she didn’t actually reside there, but spent extensive and repeated periods of time there, with her Grandmother and her Mother. The apartment was bought in 1994 and sold in 2002 and therefore she knows it perfectly, both from the inside and from the outside.
She wishes to clarify. On the 30th of April, Monday, at around 8 a.m. and when she was walking to the bus stop for the school bus that leaves at 8.15, a path that she walks every day when there is school, she noticed the presence of a male individual, at the back of Madeleine’s house, on a little pathway to the apartments that exists there, looking in an ostensive manner at the house’s balcony. This happened when she was walking down the street, on the left side, which was right in front of the balcony, and the distance between them was the width of the road. That when she was walking down she decided to look at the pathway, because as she lived there, she likes to watch the house and the neighbouring garden. She walked with her mother, that she is certain she didn’t see the man, and she was walking two dogs on a leash, which forced them to cross the road, a bit further down. At that moment she saw the man more closely, as they crossed the road, and then lost visual angle when they finished crossing.
Says that the man didn’t see the deponent, because he was staring at the balcony.
She presumes that nobody was on Madeleine’s house’s balcony, but she cannot state it beyond doubt.
On May 2, she saw the same man for the second time. She did not see him again:
She started walking up the street on the left side going up, and saw the man, this time in front of the ‘Ocean Club’s’ reception, once more looking at Madeleine’s house in an ostensive manner, where he stood he could observe, she thinks, the house’s two side windows and part of the balcony. She thinks that he could also be looking at the other residences that are located in the same direction.
And then this:
When asked she says that she saw Madeleine once, on a day that she cannot indicate, on the balcony where the man was staring at, the first time. She even waved at her because it was a small child, in a caring gesture.
She did not see the man stare at the balcony and then “moments later” see Madeleine McCann on the same balcony. She used to look at the McCann’s rented holiday home a lot, as she says. She once lived there. She could recall the two dates and times she saw the man and how she did not see anyone on the balcony on either occasion. She did see once Madeleine McCann on the balcony the man had observed but not when he was there. She did not see him looking at Madeleine McCann.
Such are the facts.
After moral panics, conspiracy theories, false accusations, arguidos and hundreds of journalists typing the words “every parent’s worst nightmare”, we are now invited to wonder if Christian Brueckner kidnapped and murdered Madeleine McCann. As pastimes go, debating an innocent child’s fate is one down from dogging. But you can play armchair detective from the comfort of your own home and shape the single-thread story – child vanishes – to fit with your own prejudices.
And so to Christian Brueckner. Did he also kidnap and murder a child in his native Germany, a girl called Inga Gehricke? We don’t know. And innocence, even when the suspect is a convicted paedophile and rapist should be presumed. Evidence and proof are the stuff of justice. But the ‘maybe’ keeps us reading. The tabloids lead with the story of what might or might not have happened.
Inga appeared on these pages in 2015. A child killer named Silvio S had been arrested in connection with her disappearance. But he had nothing to do with Inga’s vanishing from a family trip to the woods in Wilhelmshof. The Sun told readers Inga is known as “The German Madeleine”. As we’ve noted, many countries seem to have a version of the missing child. Madeleine McCann is the media’s benchmark for all the world’s missing children – but only the white ones:
Australia has an Our Maddie – Chloe Campbell Is Australia’s Madeleine McCann
Brazil has an Our Maddie – Madeleine McCann: Isabella Nadoni Is Brazil’s Our Maddie
Israel has an Our Maddie– Madeleine McCann: Israel’s Rose Is The International Our Maddie
France has an Our Maddie –Typhaine Taton Is France’s Madeleine McCann
America has an Our Maddie – America’s Madeleine McCann Turns Up Alive
Spain has an Our Maddie – Madeleine McCann: Mari Luz Cortes, Maddy 2 And Gerry McCann Writes
New Zealand has an Our Maddie – Madeleine McCann: Patronising Aisling Symes
South America has an Our MaddieA Madeleine McCann Found In Panama
Holland has an Our Maddie – Madeleine McCann: Milly Boele Is Holland’s Our Maddie
Australia has an Our Maddie – Kiesha Abrahams Is Australia’s Madeleine McCann
What else Inga Gehricke and Madeleine McCann have in common is made plain in the Daily Mail: they are both blonde:
It was Madeleine McCann’s blondness that helped turn her into the media’s ‘Our Maddie’, Would a black child have been news for 13 years, his or her face on the national newspapers’ front pages and leading the TV news bulletins? No need to answer. The answer is ‘no’. Black lives matter. Blonde lives sell papers.
Aref Ismaili has been missing since April 4, 2016. He had fled from Afghanistan to Germany under adverse circumstances with his parents. Aref Ismaili vanished in the small town of Wanfried in Hesse, Germany. He has dark hair and dark eyes. His face is not familiar to people the world over.
This is news as much as it is entertainment. Take this story also in the Mail: “Luxury villa where new Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner raped a 72-year-old US tourist is just a ten minute walk from apartment where the toddler vanished 18 months later.” The circumstantial nature of the link is clouded further by pictures of the luxury villa (price on application; there’s a swimming pool). Again the Mail notes Inga’s “blonde hair and blue eyes”.
In 2017, Jens-Uwe Gehricke recalled in German media how he’d seen his daughter Inga shortly before she disappeared on the footpath that leads from his friends’ house to the barbecue area on the edge of the forest. Inga was carrying two large bottles of water. She wanted to help prepare for a barbecue. Shortly afterwards, two other children watched her again as she made her way back home. That was around 6:30 p.m. Nobody knows what happened then. Said Jens-Uwe Gehricke: “It was only 100 meters to the house. But she never got there.” Read that and your skin crawls and your heat breaks.
But if we’re looking for links why not look at the vanishing of six-year-old René Hasee? Eleven year before Madeleine McCann disappeared, the boy from Elsdorf, Germany, was on a summer holiday with his family in Aljezur, not far from Praia da Luz when he disappeared. René Hasee is blond, so we may well hear of him in the British tabloids before any mention of Aref.
Yesterday Madeleine McCann returned to the front pages. A relaxing of the Covid-19 induced lockdown meant the time was ripe for police and media to bring us an update on Operation Grange, the investigation into what happened to the innocent child who vanished in May 2007. News is that a convicted German child abuser named Christian Brueckner, 43, was in Portugal at the time Madeleine vanished from the Praia da Luz resort where she’d been holidaying with her family and their friends.
The prisoner has been spoken to by British and German police. Today papers lead with the opinion of German police that Madeleine McCann is dead. Well, maybe she is. They “assume” she is. You might assume she is not. In the field of cold case facts, assumptions are not evidence of anything other than opinion and prejudice. British police are keeping an open mind.
Want to see what the man named in Germany as ‘Christian B’ looks like, the man the Guardian says is the “strongest” suspect yet? This is how the BBC reveals the face of the suspect:
Have we come any distance since the early days of the investigation, when these suspects occupied newspaper front pages?
But in the newspapers and all over the web we can see the suspect’s face:
The Daily Mail publishes a picture of Christian Brueckner in a bar in 2011 and posted to his Facebook page. He has more than 17 criminal convictions. But what links him to the missing child? Well, allegedly he confessed or boasted to a friend that he’d kidnapped Madeleine McCann as they watched a TV show on the tenth anniversary of her disappearance. The Sun says Christian Brueckner also showed his friend a video on his mobile phone of him raping a woman. You might well wonder how the revolting Christian Brueckner came to have any friends and at what point you grass your drinking buddy to the police?
The bigger question is why we should accept Christian Brueckner at face value. This is a man described by German prosecutors as “a predator convicted of crimes against little girls”. He is a deeply nasty individual who has led a “sordid” (Times) life. The Sun tells us he is in prison for “raping a 72-year-old woman in the Algarve resort [Praia da Luz] in 2005”. German police say they suspect him of selling drugs and burglarising homes when he lived in a rented home near Praia da Luz. They suspect him of murdering Madeleine McCann.
And then the paper says: “The rapist’s alleged confession led to the latest breakthrough, but Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry’s hopes of finding her alive were yesterday dealt a crushing blow.” But the German authorities don’t know anything. They are assuming and believing. The investigation and the current appeal for help and witnesses is the enduring hope that this story will reach a conclusion.
German public prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters adds: “The public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig is investigating a 43-year-old German national on suspicion of murder. From this you can see that we assume that the girl is dead.” And then we learn: “B was investigated by Portuguese cops in 2008 over Madeleine’s disappearance but was ruled out at the time.”
So they bungled it or correctly ruled him out? Says the Sun, “Experts said B matched the profile of a Jimmy Savile-style “paraphiliac”, who targets victims of all ages.” Jimmy Savile was never arrested. He was neither tried nor convicted of any crime.
The investigation continues…
There’s a new suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. It’s a 43-year-old German man. No need to look for him. He’s already in prison. German media has identified him as ‘Christian B’. Hans Christian Wolters, from the Braunschweig Public Prosecutor’s Office, says: “We are assuming that the girl is dead. With the suspect, we are talking about a sexual predator who has already been convicted of crimes against little girls and he’s already serving a long sentence.”
The story leads the news cycle. The Times says he’s a “paedophile”. The Telegraph says it’s the “biggest breakthrough yet”. It’s “time to nail” him, says the Star. Great news. And it is – until you get the facts… How can you charge a man with a crime with no evidence he committed one – and no evidence any crime took place?
The Mail and Sun both lead with questions. “Did German take Maddie in this van?” wonders the Sun, making the suspect’s nationality a key part of the story. “Have they found man who took Maddie?” asks the Mail.
And one more question: did police working on Operation Grange keep the story from media until coronavirus had been washed from the front pages? Was it done to help their appeal for anyone who saw the man or his van to come forward? If they did, it’s worked. Did they also want to show us that for £11m, the cost of the investigation so far, you get results?
The BBC leads its story by telling us, “He is believed to have been in the area where Madeleine was last seen, when she disappeared in Portugal 13 years ago.” Believed by..? “Someone out there knows a lot more than they’re letting on,” says Det Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell.
So did you see a man with a camper van in Portugal 13 years ago? He has short short blond hair and about 6ft tall with a slim build at the time. German and British police have spoken with him about Madeleine but he’s not confessed.
Time to review the evidence:
The Express says he was known to be in Praia da Luz when Madeleine McCann vanished. He had 30-minute phone conversation with a “mystery caller” the night Madeleine went missing. The day after Madeleine vanished in 2007, the suspect transferred the Jaguar to someone else’s name. The BBC says this is “suspicious”.
On the night of the vanishing, he received a phone call at 7.32pm, which ended at 8.02pm. Madeleine is believed to have disappeared between 9.10pm and 10pm that evening.
The Telegraph says he’s a multiple child sex offender.
The Mail says the suspect was renting a “ramshackle farm building” two miles from Praia da Luz where the McCann family were holidaying.
German police also suggested there “may” have been other people involved who are still at large, says the Mail. As one German officer puts: “There is reason to assume that there are other persons, apart from the suspect, who have concrete knowledge of the course of the crime and maybe also of the place where the body was left.”
It all adds up to a lot of belief, assumption and maybe. Plus ca change.
And you can help find Maddie. Scotland Yard is launching a joint appeal with German and Portuguese police with a £20,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the person responsible for Madeleine’s. Remember when the reward was huge and the innocent girl who became the media’s ‘Our Maddie’ was spotted in: Canada,Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Majorca,Belgium, Bosnia, France, Australia, Brazil,Wales, Malta, Italy, Germany, Australia, France, India, Dubai, Dorset, USA and New Zealand (taken there by boat).
The last word is with the parents who issue this statement:
“We would like to thank the police forces involved for their continued efforts in the search for Madeleine. All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice. 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.”
Madeleine McCann is missing.
Madeleine McCann: an at-a-glance look at the missing child in the news.
The Sun: “BIRTHDAY WISH Madeleine McCann’s mum Kate still throws her a birthday party each year with cake and presents in the hope she’ll come home.” This is news? No. It’s voyeurism. The story contains one fact: child vanishes. But ever since Madeleine McCann vanished in 20017, we’ve been gawping at the parents. “Nearly 12 years of presents and cards are waiting in her unchanged pink bedroom in Rothley, Leics,” says the Sun. Is the cake uneaten, stored in Tupperware?
“Ex-GP Kate” – the tabloid rules dictate that the parents’ jobs then and now must be mentioned in every no-news update – said: “I do all the present buying. I think about what age she is and buy something that, whenever we find her, will still be appropriate so there’s a lot of thought goes into it… There are gifts people have sent – from teddy bears to rosary beads – and photographs and pictures Sean and Amelie have drawn for her pinned on the walls.” Stuffed toys, god and purgatory. “She also has a keepsake box in which the twins leave little things for her: the last sweet in their packet, a new drawing, sometimes just a leaf that has taken their fancy. Everyone sits in there from time to time to feel close to her. The children sometimes borrow toys to play with for a while but they always return them for Madeleine.”
The Express also wants its readers to hear those words. It presses f9 on the keyboard and creates another ‘Our Maddie story. “Madeleine McCann: How Kate McCann STILL keeps birthday presents in hope of Maddie’s return,” says the paper’s headline.
We’re not watching Madeleine McCann. We’re not looking for her. We just stare at the familiar. We’re being asked to look at woman who appears to have been buried alive. Can the New Zealand Herald offer relief from the mawkish and claustrophobia of a child’s bedroom without a child?
NZ Herald: “Insider: What I think really happened to Madeleine McCann.”
Oh, go on, then, tell us. It turns out we already know what “I” really think. The man revealing the contents of his mind to deadline – aka speaking – is Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ media handler. “Now he has revealed what he believes really happened, saying the investigation points to an abduction but still shares hope she could be alive.”
Believes. Points to. Hopes.
No facts. Opinions are all we have. The single thread story feasted on by a voracious media is a nagging dry cough with no product.
And here’s De Montford University journalism lecturer Lee Marlow to share his opinions, which you might have caught on the recent Netflix documentary the Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The university’s website quotes him:
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to be involved in the documentary, to be honest. I didn’t know if people would be interested and I was a bit doubtful of their intentions. But I met with the producers. They told me what they wanted to do. They outlined their plans and seemed thorough and decent and they reassured me it wouldn’t be a garish, sensationalised, tabloid hatchet job. They were true to their word, too. It wasn’t that.”
What was it? It looks a lot like bald entertainment. Says Mr Marlow:
“I know the parents didn’t want to get involved and I can see, journalistically, that weakens the documentary. But it’s their choice. They were asked and they said no. The people behind the documentary respected their decision, which is also entirely right, I think. Should it have been shelved because the parents didn’t want to be involved? No, I don’t think so. Most of what was in the documentary is a matter of public record. All they did was collate it, re-tell the story and try to fill in as many gaps as they could.”
Most of it? All of it. The show offered nothing new on the case. We’ve learned nothing since she vanished.
Madeleine McCann: an at-a-glance round-up of stories about the missing child in today’s media.
The website Mama Mia has “6 unanswered questions we have after watching The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann“. Tosh. There is only one question, and it’s unchanged since the child banished in 2007: what happened? The Netflix show shed light only on itself.
9News (Australia): “EXCLUSIVE ‘Maddie’s DNA possibly in car boot’: Top US scientist has key to unlock baffling McCann forensic riddle.”
Possibly. On planet Maddie, a possibility – a thing without proof – is an exclusive. We meet Dr Mark Perlin, “one of the leading DNA scientists in the world”. He’s not worked on the case. He says “modern methods” are best. 9News is all in, chiming: “Dr Perlin’s powerful DNA testing software, widely regarded as the most sophisticated on the planet, is a quantum leap ahead of the forensic science used in 2007, when the McCann samples were tested.” Regarded by whom? And why is Dr Perlin in the news? Answer: “Nine.com.au sent [Perlin] a copy of the FSS [the Forensic Science Service] DNA report which was handed to Portuguese police in September 2007.” Nine then interviewed Dr Whatshisface in the fifth episode of Maddie, “Nine.com.au‘s podcast investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance”. Dr Perlin has a company that he says could look at any DNA and maybe – maybe – crack the case. Or not. Possibly.
Yahoo: “Madeleine McCann Facebook page warns against ‘nasty comments’.”
Moderators behind the official Madeleine McCann Facebook page have put out a post warning against “nasty comments” following Netflix’s documentary on the case. The post reads, “As a reminder, all posts are hidden until they are approved. If you make a nasty comment, your post will be deleted and you will be banned. This is a place of hope. We will not tolerate negativity towards Madeleine, her family or anyone else on this page. “
In the Daily Telegraph most talk os possible things. Here’s Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ spokesman. “I asked the British authorities what they think happened and if there was any family involvement, ” he says “and they assured me it was just a rare case of stranger abduction. It’s very rare, but it can happen. A sexual motive is an obvious possibility.” Adding: “A child was taken to order from that room.”
It can happen? But did it happen?
The Sun: “HUNTED BY PAEDOS Madeleine McCann was ‘snatched to order’ by paedo gang who spied on her room, Kate and Gerry’s spokesman believes.”
Belief. So not a fact, then. He adds: “A lot of it is misinformed, misguided and based purely on assumptions or lack of knowledge. People deciding that the don’t like the McCanns. People also assumed the worst. That [the McCanns] were getting drunk, that they were having fun and that they did not care about their children.”
One man’s guess is not as good as another man’s guess.
The Sun: “MADDIE TROLLS Madeleine McCann’s parents ‘angry and upset’ as trolls bombard them with hate mail in wake of Netflix documentary”
Armchair detectives can be nasty. The Sun adds: “Heart doctor Gerry, 50, and former GP Kate, 51, now a medical worker, of Rothley, Leics, have slammed the programme saying it will “do absolutely nothing” to help the worldwide search to find her and could even hinder it.”
But we need an end to the story.
The Sun: “THE MADDIE FILES Madeleine McCann conspiracy theorists made bonkers claim Maddie was born as part of a government cloning project.”
Discuss in the form of an eight-part documentary or podcast.