Portuguese detectives face fresh scrutiny over missed opportunities to focus on a local sex criminal in their investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
The key suspect in the case, a German paedophile named in media reports as Christian Brueckner, 43, regularly lived in the Portuguese coastal village of Praia da Luz between 1995 and 2007.
A year before moving to the Algarve region he was reportedly convicted of two child sex crimes in Germany, the then-18-year-old serving only part of his two-year sentence.
Madeleine McCann was snatched from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007. - PA
A suspect in Madeleine McCann's disappearence lived in a house in Portugal for several years
Un visage toujours présent sur les appels à témoin. Qu’est-il arrivé à la petite Madeleine McCann, 3 ans, disparue en 2007 alors qu’elle était en vacances au Portugal avec ses parents ? Ce mystère qui dure depuis treize ans est-il sur le point d'être résolu ? La police allemande affirme tenir un nouveau suspect, un homme actuellement incarcéré en Allemagne pour une autre affaire. Le suspect, un Allemand de 43 ans, aurait fait plusieurs séjours dans le sud du Portugal. Il aurait vécu quelques temps dans une maison située à moins de 10 km du complexe hôtelier où Maddie s’est évaporée la nuit du 3 mai 2007. L’individu est soupçonné de meurtre par la police allemande. Les enquêteurs pensent que la fillette est décédée. Suspect mais pas coupable L’enquête avance et pourrait bien s’accélérer grâce aux appels à témoins lancés mercredi 3 juin au soir par la police allemande. Les enquêteurs s’intéressent à deux véhicules qui auraient pu être utilisés par le suspect. Les parents de Maddie saluent cette avancée après plusieurs années d’enquêtes et de fausses pistes. Ils avaient eux-mêmes été accusés, puis blanchis. Ils se sont exprimés par le biais de leur porte-parole. Un nouveau suspect, mais pas encore de coupable. Les polices britannique et allemande appellent à la prudence, dans cette enquête qui a déjà connu de nombreux rebondissements.
A candle burns next to a photo of missing British girl Madeleine McCann outside the church in the village of Praia da Luz, in southern Portugal, Wednesday, May 3 2017. Madeleine was nearly four year old when she vanished during a family vacation at a Praia da Luz resort ten years ago. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Police receive hundreds of calls and emails after new Madeleine McCann appeal
The apartment where British girl Madeleine McCann disappeared one year ago is seen with her picture on a windscreen Saturday May 3, 2008 at Praia da Luz beach, Lagos, Portugal. Madeleine disappeared during a family vacation in Praia da Luz on May 3 last year, a few days before her fourth birthday. Church services will be held in Praia da Luz, in Portugal's Algarve region, and at the McCanns' hometown in central England, to mark the one-year anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance. (AP Photo/Paulo Duarte)
Madeleine McCann: la fiscalía alemana que investiga el caso "asume" que la niña está muerta y da detalles de un sospechoso de la desaparición de la niña británica
Germany authorities say a man suspected of killing British toddler Madeleine McCann in 2007 is already in jail for another crime. CBS News' Charlie D'Agata has the latest on this long-cold case that grabbed the world's attention.
Kate and Gerry McCann attend a service to mark the 11th anniversary of the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine from a holiday flat in Portugal, near her home in Rothley, Britain May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter Madeleine disappeared from a holiday flat in Portugal ten years ago, speak during an interview with the BBC's Fiona Bruce at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough, Britain April 28, 2017. Photograph taken April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Giddens/Pool
Gerry and Kate McCann speak with journalists at the court in Lisbon June 16, 2014. Gerry and Kate McCann, the parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, appeared at a Lisbon court after they launched libel action against a Portuguese former police chief, who said in a book that Madeleine's parents covered up the death of their daughter. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante (PORTUGAL - Tags: SOCIETY CRIME LAW)
A Portuguese police officer rolls up police tape during the search for missing British girl Madeleine McCann in Praia da Luz, near Lagos, June 11, 2014. McCann was three when she disappeared from her room at the Praia da Luz holiday resort in the Algarve in May 2007 while her parents were dining with friends at a nearby restaurant, prompting a global hunt and worldwide headlines. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante (PORTUGAL - Tags: SOCIETY CRIME LAW)
Members of Scotland Yard work at an area during the search for missing British girl Madeleine McCann in Praia da Luz, near Lagos, June 8, 2014. McCann was three when she disappeared from her room at the Praia da Luz holiday resort in the Algarve in May 2007 while her parents were dining with friends at a nearby restaurant, prompting a global hunt and worldwide headlines. REUTERS/Carlos Vidigal (PORTUGAL - Tags: SOCIETY CRIME LAW)
Kate and Gerry McCann pose with a computer generated image of how their missing daughter Madeleine might look now, during a news conference in London May 2, 2012. Madeleine McCann went missing from a holiday villa in southern Portugal five years ago as her parents dined with friends. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW SOCIETY)
Kate McCann (L), whose daughter Madeleine went missing during a family holiday to Portugal in 2007, attends a news conference with her husband Gerry at the launch of her book in London May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Helgren (BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW SOCIETY)
Kate McCann (L), whose daughter Madeleine went missing during a family holiday to Portugal in 2007, poses during a news conference with her husband Gerry at the launch of her book in London May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Helgren (BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Kate and Gerry McCann speak about the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine, at a news conference in London February 19, 2010. A Portuguese court upheld a ban on a book about the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann written by former detective Goncalo Amaral who led the initial investigation. To match Reuters Life! BOOKS-MCCANN/ REUTERS/Jas Lehal (BRITAIN - Tags: SOCIETY CRIME LAW)
A likeness of missing British girl Madeleine McCann is seen in age progressed computer generated handout images received from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) in London on November 3, 2009. The images show what she might look like now, with a fair skin tone (L) and what she might look like if she were living in a hotter climate. Police released video and images of how Madeleine McCann might look now, in a bid to prick the conscience of anyone who knows what became of the missing girl. Madeleine, from Leicestershire, vanished from her room at the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, just days before her fourth birthday. REUTERS/CEOP/Handout (BRITAIN CRIME LAW) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. QUALITY FROM SOURCE
Football - Sunderland v Everton - Barclays Premier League - Stadium of Light - 08/09 - 3/5/09
Phil Neville - Everton with matchday mascot wearing a 'Madeleine McCann' tee shirt before the game
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Lee Smith
NO ONLINE/INTERNET USE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE +44 (0) 207 864 9000.
A billboard of Madeleine McCann is see at Praia da Luz tourist resort April 5, 2009, where Madeleine went missing. Gerry McCann,father of Madeleine, is at the resort to film a documentary re-enacting the May 3, 2007 disappearance of his daughter Madeleine, according to the family's press officer Clarence Mitchell.REUTERS/Hugo Correia (PORTUGAL CONFLICT SOCIETY)
A woman looks at posters offering rewards for finding missing British girl Madeleine McCann, in Praia da Luz, southern Portugal May 3, 2008. Madeleine McCann vanished from the family holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007. Her family and friends are marking the one year anniversary with church services in Praia da Luz and Rothley which will be dedicated to all missing children, including Madeleine. REUTERS/Hugo Correia (PORTUGAL)
A photo of Madeleine McCann surrounded by messages saying "pray for me" is seen inside the Praia da Luz church in Southern Portugal May 2, 2008. Madeleine McCann's parents said on Thursday they believe their daughter is still alive, a year after she disappeared while on holiday at Praia da Luz in Southern Portugal. REUTERS/Hugo Correia (PORTUGAL)
A man looks at posters offering rewards for finding missing British girl Madeleine McCann, in Praia da Luz, southern Portugal, May 2, 2008. McCann's parents said on Thursday they believe their daughter is still alive, a year after she disappeared while on holiday in Portugal. REUTERS/Hugo Correia (PORTUGAL)
TV broadcasting vans are seen parked outside the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz, southern Portugal, May 2, 2008. The parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann said on Thursday they believe their daughter is still alive, a year after she disappeared while on holiday at Praia da Luz in Southern Portugal. REUTERS/Hugo Correia (PORTUGAL)
Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann, the parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, shows the sketch of a man during a news conference in London January 20, 2008, who is believed to have abducted Madeleine from the family's apartment in Praia da Luz in Portugal. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico (BRITAIN)
Parents of missing child Madeleine McCann, Kate (R) and Gerry McCann (2nd R), walk by a billboard of their daughter on the beach near the Portuguese resort of Lagos May 28, 2007. REUTERS/Hugo Correia (PORTUGAL) BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE
Kate and Gerry McCann (R), the parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, are driven from his home in Rothley, central England September 14, 2007. REUTERS/Darren Staples (BRITAIN)
A women looks at a poster with a reward for finding British girl Madeleine McCann in Praia da Luz Southern Portugal September 8, 2007. Portuguese police named the parents of missing British four-year-old Madeleine McCann as suspects in their investigation on Friday, their lawyer said after they were questioned for hours by police. REUTERS/Carlos Brito - F32 (PORTUGAL)
Gerry McCann (L), father of British missing girl Madeleine, accompanied by his spokesman David Hughes (C) and his lawyer Carlos Pinto de Abreu leaves the criminal police headquarters in Portimao in Southern Portugal September 7, 2007. Portuguese police announced on Friday they had identified a new suspect in their investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and friends said it was the 4-year-old's mother, Kate McCann. McCann was questioned by police for more than 15 hours on Thursday and Friday and left the police station on Friday as her husband, Gerry, entered to be interviewed separately. REUTERS/Hugo Correia (PORTUGAL)
Football - Derby County v Portsmouth - FA Barclays Premier League - Pride Park - 07/08 , 11/8/07
Portsmouth players wear t-shirts for Madeleine McCann , Sean Davis
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Andrew Couldridge
Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, release air balloons in memory of their daughter kidnapped 50th days on the beach resort of Lagos on southern Portugal June 22, 2007. REUTERS/Vasco Celio (PORTUGAL)
A computer grab from the virtual reality Second Life shows an avatar standing near a digital poster of missing Madeleine 'Maddy' McCann, Paris, June 12, 2007. Police investigating the disappearance of the four-year-old child in Portugal six weeks ago are planning to post pictures of the missing child throughout the virtual world. REUTERS/Stringer (FRANCE)
A picture of missing British girl Madeleine McCann (bottom, L) is displayed next to pictures of other missing children outside the British Embassy in Buenos Aires June 11, 2007. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci (ARGENTINA)
Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, speak during a visit to Morocco's "Touche pas à mon enfant" (Don't touch my children) care organization in Rabat, June 11, 2007. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante (MOROCCO)
Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, attend an aid concert in a Lagos beach resort in southern Portugal June 8, 2007. REUTERS/Virgilio Rodrigues (PORTUGAL)
Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, hold hands before a news conference in Berlin June 6, 2007. Gerry and his wife Kate are visiting Germany to meet politicians later on Wednesday. REUTERS/Alex Grimm (GERMANY)
Kate McCann, mother of missing child Madeleine McCann, walks out from a mass at a church near the Portuguese beach resort of Lagos June 3, 2007. REUTERS/Nacho Doce (PORTUGAL)
Pope Benedict XVI greets the parents of four-year-old abducted British girl Madeleine McCann, Gerry (R) and Kate (2nd R) McCann, after his weekly general audience at the Vatican May 30, 2007. The parents of a four-year-old British girl snatched from a Portuguese holiday resort nearly a month ago met Pope Benedict on Wednesday and the Pontiff blessed a photograph of the child. The mother of Madeleine McCann appeared to be holding back tears as she held up the picture of her daughter, which the Pope touched gently and then blessed with the sign of the cross. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano (VATICAN)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
While in Portugal he worked odd-jobs, and had experience of breaking into apartments as police said he burgled hotels and villas as well as selling drugs.
Madeleine, then three, was abducted from a room in the Ocean Club holiday complex in the area on May 3 2007.
Brueckner received a half-hour phone call from an unknown person around an hour before Madeleine was last seen, and a Jaguar car registered in his name was re-registered to someone else in Germany the day after.
Reports say he had lived at a rented farmhouse around a mile from the resort, and was staying in a distinctive VW campervan at the time, living in a "transient" manner.
German police have released images of the farmhouse in an appeal for witnesses.
Grassy scrubland near the property on the outskirts of the town was extensively searched by British and Portuguese police seven years later in 2014, but no evidence was found.
Portuguese police would not answer questions about whether Brueckner was ever spoken to as part of their initial investigation.
Portuguese detectives were widely criticised for their handling of the case, missing chances to secure potentially key forensic evidence in the apartment room from where Madeleine was taken.
Brueckner was known to Scotland Yard's investigation but did not become an official suspect until 2017 following information received after the 10-year anniversary appeal and subsequent inquiries, the force said.
He is currently in jail in Germany for raping an elderly woman in the same area of Portugal around 18 months before Madeleine's disappearance, reports say.
German newspaper Braunschweiger Zeitung said he is serving a seven-year sentence for raping the 72-year-old American woman in 2005 after he was convicted at Braunschweig District Court in December last year.
German magazine Der Spiegel reported he was extradited from Portugal in 2017 and initially convicted of drug trafficking.
In 1994, a year before the then-18-year-old moved to the Algarve, he was convicted of "abusing a child" and "sexual acts against a child", the magazine added, citing official criminal records.
He served only a part of his two-year sentence in a young offenders institute.
German prosecutors said they believe Madeleine is dead and are conducting a murder investigation, but Scotland Yard still considers the case a missing person inquiry because there is no "definitive evidence whether Madeleine is alive or dead".