Court sides against Madeleine suspect in rape appeal bid

A European court has sided against the suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in his bid to overturn a rape conviction.

German investigators believe Christian Brueckner, 43, killed Madeleine, then three, after abducting her from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007.

He is serving a prison sentence in Germany for drug trafficking and is appealing against a conviction for the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in the same Portuguese resort, for which he was sentenced to seven years in jail.

The case, at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, hinges on a legal point relating to his extradition to Germany from Portugal and later Italy.

According to court documents, Brueckner was extradited from Portugal for sexually abusing a minor in June 2017, then travelled to the Netherlands and Italy whilst still on probation after his release.

He was extradited to Germany from Italy in October 2018 on a warrant for drug trafficking before being tried and convicted of rape and extortion in December last year.

Brueckner’s legal challenge centres on whether the German authorities needed Portugal’s consent to bring rape proceedings because of the 2017 extradition.

Italy had agreed Brueckner could be tried for rape and extortion in Germany.

A preliminary opinion by Advocate General Michal Bobek, which is not binding, on Thursday said the consent of only the Italian authorities was needed for the Germans to carry out their proceedings legally.

It comes ahead of a final decision by ECJ judges at a later date.

German prosecutor Julia Meyer told the PA news agency: “The advocate general shares our opinion.

“We are pleased and wait for the decision of the court the next few weeks.”

Brueckner is serving his sentence for drug trafficking until early next year and will be in custody until 2027 if his appeal against the rape conviction fails.

German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the Madeleine investigation, has previously said investigators have “concrete evidence”, but not “forensic evidence” that he killed her.

Speaking about Brueckner’s appeal, he earlier told PA: “Ultimately, we cannot influence the decision because it is not related to the McCann investigation.

“This does not affect our investigations, but of course we would like to know where our suspect is.

“As long as he is in custody, we know this.”

Last week German police reportedly discovered the remains of a hidden cellar among foundations of a former cabin following a three-day search of a garden plot on the outskirts of Hanover.

The Metropolitan Police maintain their active investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, Operation Grange, is a missing person inquiry as there is no “definitive evidence whether Madeleine is alive or dead”.

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