Madeleine McCann’s parents ‘encouraged’ by response to latest appeal

Madeleine McCann’s parents are “encouraged” by the results of the latest appeal over their daughter’s disappearance, their spokesman said.

Scotland Yard’s Operation Grange received more than 270 calls and emails less than 24 hours after revealing details of a new suspect, who is believed to have been in Praia da Luz, Portugal, when she went missing on May 3 2007.

The 43-year-old German national is a convicted child sex offender named in media reports as Christian Brueckner, who is currently in prison in his home country.

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for Madeleine’s family, said her doctor parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, from Rothley, Leicestershire, are “trying to maintain as normal a life as possible” and awaiting updates from police.

“Two hundred and seventy calls and emails isn’t a bad result, given it was 13 years ago,” he said.

“They certainly will be encouraged to know the appeal is yielding results already and hopefully within that there will be crucial bits of information the police can act upon.”

It comes after claims, originally reported by Sky News, that the suspect confessed to his part in Madeleine’s disappearance to a friend as they watched a TV news report on the case in a German bar on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance.

The Metropolitan Police said his name was already known to its investigation but he did not become a suspect until after information was received as a “direct consequence” of a 2017 appeal.

Operation Grange still considers the case a missing person inquiry because there is no “definitive evidence whether Madeleine is alive or dead”.

But German prosecutors have said they believe Madeleine is dead and are investigating the child sex predator on suspicion of her murder.

The suspect is reportedly serving a seven-year prison sentence in the German port city of Kiel for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal in 2005.

German newspaper Braunschweiger Zeitung reported the suspect, who has been partially identified as Christian B by local media due to the country’s strict rules on the naming of criminals, was convicted of rape at Braunschweig District Court in December last year.

Missing Madeleine McCann
A house in Portugal linked to the suspect (Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany)

Der Spiegel reported his criminal record contains a total of 17 entries, including child abuse while he was still a teenager.

The details emerged after British, German and Portuguese authorities launched a fresh appeal for information on Wednesday night.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell, who is leading the Met’s probe, said he was “pleased” with information coming in after receiving more than 270 calls and emails by 4pm on Thursday.

Kate and Gerry McCann welcomed the latest appeal, saying: “We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive.”

Their spokesman said on Friday: “They are trying to maintain as normal a life as possible under the circumstances, continuing their medical work where necessary and bringing the twins up as best they can, while shielding them from all the attention.

“They wait to hear any developments from police.”

German prosecutors said the suspect was living in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, where he funded his lifestyle by committing crimes, including breaking into hotel complexes and holiday apartments.

His Portuguese mobile phone was in Praia da Luz when it received a half-hour phone call around an hour before Madeleine, three, was last seen.

Missing Madeleine McCann
A VW T3 Westfalia campervan that has been linked to the suspect (Met Police)

Detectives said he was believed to have been living in a distinctive early 1980s VW T3 Westfalia camper van at the time and re-registered a 1993 Jaguar XJR6 in someone else’s name the day after her disappearance.

Christian Hoppe, from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), has said that German police have not ruled out a sexual motive for the alleged crime against Madeleine.

He said that the suspect may have broken into an apartment in the Ocean Club complex, where Madeleine was on holiday with her parents and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie, before spontaneously kidnapping her.

The revelations raise questions over whether mistakes in the Portuguese probe may have allowed the suspect to slip through the net.

Portuguese police would not answer questions about whether Brueckner was ever spoken to as part of their initial investigation.

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