Madeleine McCann murder suspect Christian Brueckner was thrown out of his adopted home because of his disruptive and criminal behaviour, MailOnline can reveal as his parents are exclusively pictured for the first time.
Brigitte and Fritz Brueckner had taken baby Christian into their family as an act of charity for the tiny foundling who had been given up by his mother.
But the kind-hearted parents sent him to live in a reform home for delinquent teenagers after Herr Brueckner was seriously injured in a car crash and could no longer discipline the boy.
Widowed Frau Brueckner today told MaiOnline she knew nothing about her estranged son’s alleged crimes.
Standing inside the doorway of her modest home in Bergtheim, near Wuerzburg, she told MailOnline: ‘I don’t know anything about it. I don’t want to know anything about it.’
She distanced herself from the 43-year-old prisoner as neighbours revealed the family’s difficulty in controlling Christian.
They told of how Frau Brueckner could not cope with Christian’s disruptive and increasingly criminal behaviour and simultaneously look after her disabled husband who suffered brain damage and was confined to a wheel chair following the smash in 1992.
Today neighbours of the couple in the village of Bergthei, where he grew up also told of their shock that Brueckner has been linked to the murder of four-year-old Madeleine in 2007.
Brigitte and Fritz Brueckner (left) had taken baby Christian (right, as an adult) into their family as an act of charity for the tiny foundling who had been given up by his mother
The former home of Christian Brueckner: Today neighbours of the couple in the village of Bergthei, where he grew up told of their shock that Brueckner has been linked to the murder of four-year-old Madeleine in 2007
The primary school in the village of Bertheim, southern Bavaria, where Christian Brueckner grew up (pictured today)
Brigitte (left) and Fritz Brueckner (right) had taken baby Christian into their family as an act of charity for the tiny foundling who had been given up by his mother
One neighbour told MailOnline: ‘The Brueckners were a lovely couple, very kind. But what happened with their boy Christian is a catastrophe.
‘They took him in as a baby and brought him up as their own. He was often in trouble and he got worse and worse as he grew into a teenager. Christian must have been 13 or 14 when Herr Bruecker, Fitz, had the car accident.
‘As the man of the house it was Fritz who disciplined the boy. Christian needed a firm hand. But after the accident he could not do that any more.
‘Brigitte, the mother did her best, but she could not cope with the boy and look after her husband. Christian had been in trouble and that is when he was sent to a reform school for delinquent teenagers in Wuerzburg.’
She added: ‘Sadly Fritz, the husband is dead now. But his wife Brigitte did everything she could for him. She was awarded a medal.’
Another neighbour added: ‘Brigitte is a lovely woman. I knew Christian but I have not seen him for years.
‘If what I read is true it will destroy his mother. Brigitte and Fritz did everything they could for him when he was a boy.’
Christian Brueckner (pictured left) left Portugal after then three-year-old Madeline (pictured right) disappeared in 2007
The village of Bergtheim in Germany where Brueckner grew up. He later moved to Praia da Luz, where Madeleine McCann vanished in 2007
Brueckner, now 43, is the key suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine from Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007.
He moved from Germany to the Portuguese coastal town in 1995 after serving part of a two-year sentence for molesting a six-year-old girl in Wurzburg.
Following his naming by German police, he has further been linked to the disappearances of six-year-old boy René Hasse in the Algarve, 1996, and five-year-old girl Igna Gehnricke in Germany, 2015.
Now languishing in a German prison in Kiel, at the time of Madeleine’s vanishing he was living in the area about a 10-minute drive away.
In 2005, two years prior to the infant’s disappearance, he raped a 72-year-old American woman on a waterfront villa less than a mile from the Ocean Club hotel where Madeleine went missing.
Prosecutors in Germany are now desperately trying to build a case against Brueckner, who is eligible for parole this weekend.
Did Christian Brueckner snatch this boy too? German cops contact family of six-year-old who vanished near Praia da Luz in 1996 after running into the sea while new Madeleine McCann suspect was in area
By Emer Scully and Paul Thompson for MailOnline
The family of a six-year-old boy who went missing in the Algarve 24 years ago have revealed they have been contacted by German police in the wake of the Madeleine McCann developments.
René Hasse’s father Andreas Hasee told his local newspaper that an investigator from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) phoned him yesterday, for the first time in 20 years and said they were re-investigating the case.
The six-year-old from Elsdorf, Germany, was on holiday with his family in Aljezur – just 25 miles from Praia da Luz, in the Algarve – when he vanished on June 21, 1996.
The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine, Christian Brueckner, now 43, moved from Germany to Praia da Luz in 1995 at the age of 18. He was already convicted of sex offences against children and would have been 19 at the time René disappeared.
The schoolboy went missing after running towards the sea and his family and the authorities had previously accepted René drowned in a tragic accident.
German detectives investigating Christian B, 43, have contacted the family of René Hasee to say they were looking into his 1996 abduction again
Inga Gehricke vanished from Diakoniewerk Wilhelmshof in Saxony-Anhalt during a family outing on May 2, 2015 in an case that detectives have been unable to solve ever since. Prosecutors confirmed they have reopened a preliminary investigation into whether Christian Brueckner (pictured in 2018) was involved in the unsolved Inga case
Christian Brueckner, pictured with a friend in 2011, was adopted as a baby after being given up by his birth mother and began abusing children as a teenager
Painful memories of the past return to Praia da Luz
A woman exercises in Praia da Luz today
The Portuguese coastal town where Madeleine McCann vanished has once again been forced to relive the shuddering events which rocked the community 13 years ago.
Praia da Luz has been tossed into a fresh media frenzy following the naming of German paedophile Christian Brueckner as the key suspect in the 2007 disappearance of the British three-year-old.
The developments have dredged up painful emotions for residents, who are hoping the police investigation is conclusive and allows them to ‘move on’.
But after a decade of new leads and false hope, which has frequently pinned the holiday hotspot under the spotlight, locals say memories of the fateful night and frantic search will never fade.
‘Everyone hopes this is the end, that they got the right guy and we can get closure,’ one resident told the Guardian.
Mayor Hugo Pereira acknowledged the region has never shaken off the events of May 3, 2007, when Madeleine disappeared from the ground floor Ocean Club hotel room while her parents were a dinner.
He said the subsequent hunt for Madeleine throughout the night and over the following days and weeks has forever remained etched in his brain.
The community leader said: ‘I remember the first news and the beginning of the searches and efforts to try to find Maddie. That stays with you.’
He had been running ahead of his mother and step-father during a walk on the beach. After losing sight of him, they never saw him again, with just his clothes left lying on the beach.
Andreas Hasee, René’s father, revealed an investigator from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) contacted him today – the first time he had heard from police in 20 years. He told German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger: ‘There could be a connection.’
This comes as MailOnline can reveal the paedophile suspected of abducting Madeleine carried out a brutal rape at a beach front villa less than a mile from where the three-year-old disappeared in 2007.
Brueckner broke into the secluded home two years before Maddie went missing from her family’s apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz.
A 72-year-old American woman was tortured and raped by Brueckner who filmed the savage attack. He was jailed last year for seven years by a German court after DNA evidence linked him to the assault.
The villa, called Casa Jacaranda, is just a ten-minute walk from the Ocean Village apartments where Maddie was sleeping in a ground floor apartment when she was snatched 13 years ago.
It has also been revealed that paedophile Brueckner, 43, vowed on a web chat to ‘grab himself a little something and abuse it for days’.
He fantasised in an online chatroom in September 2013 about kidnapping and sexual abusing a child, according to German magazine Der Spiegel.
He allegedly added it would be safer ‘if the evidence is exterminated afterwards’. The German word he used, vernichten, is the same word the Nazis used for the final solution.
Mr Hasee, who had accepted his son had drowned, added: ‘René went to Portugal with my ex-wife and her new partner.
‘He was actually also a very careful child, he would not have easily climbed into the Atlantic alone. Of course you start thinking, yes. I don’t imagine that René is still alive,’ he added.
An expert at the time found tide and current conditions in the sea made a swimming accident unlikely and BKA police officers in Germany have maintained other victims could be linked to the Maddie investigation. The force declined to comment on René Hasee.
It comes after prosecutors re-opened the investigation into whether Brueckner abducted five-year-old Inga Gehricke after she was grabbed from Diakoniewerk Wilhelmshof in Saxony-Anhalt during a family outing five years ago.
Her disappearance on May 2, 2015 – almost eight years to the day after Madeleine vanished in Portugal on May 3, 2007 – was only 48 miles away from where Brueckner lived on the five-acre site of a box factory in the isolated of village of Neuwegersleben, south-east of Hanover.
One day before Inga went missing, Brueckner’s vehicle was in a minor crash at a service station close to where she wandered away.
More than 100 officers descended on the old box factory in February 2016, digging holes looking for Inga’s body.
The little girl wasn’t found but Brueckner’s USB stash of child sex abuse images was found on a USB stick hidden under ‘animal bones’ with police now set to return, according to German tabloid Bild.
Brueckner was prosecuted over the child porn but he was never charged with Inga’s disappearance when the probe was dropped after four weeks.
He refused to comment about the disappearance recently when questioned in prison by German police. A Met Police detective from the Operation Grange team is also thought to have been present at the time.
But today prosecutors confirmed they have reopened a preliminary investigation into whether he was involved in the unsolved Inga case.
Stendal Public Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Birte Iliev said: ‘It is now being examined whether there is any new evidence in connection with the murder suspect in Braunschweig.’
Petra Küllmei said: ‘Just a day before Inga disappeared near Stendal, Christian B. was seen nearby on the A2. The file was closed again only four weeks after starting work. I think that’s not very ambitious.’
Last night Portuguese police last night hit back at claims that Madeleine McCann suspect Brueckner slipped through their net.
Policia Judiciaria insisted the German’s name was one of those passed to British police in case files in 2012 – and said Scotland Yard had never asked them to take a closer look at him.
Inga’s disappearance on May 2, 2015 was almost eight years to the day after Madeleine vanished in Portugal on May 3, 2007
A map of the area of Praia de Luz in Portugal showing the suspect’s house and the McCanns’ holiday apartment which was nearby
Deputy director Carlos Farinha said: ‘If the suspicions about this man were so obvious, he would have been the subject of requests made by the British, which were always authorised by Portugal, but those requests about him were never made.’
In an interview with Portuguese news agency Lusa, he added: ‘If the PJ is being accused of giving Brueckner a lack of priority, the same could be said of the Metropolitan Police. In theory everything could have been different but in 2007 and in 2012 we didn’t known what we knew in 2017.’
He said this week’s fresh appeal was an initiative of the German police who were convinced it could lead to additional information coming in.
But appearing to hint that the evidence the three police forces have may not be enough to bring charges and a successful prosecution, he said: ‘Suspicions about the German national have grown but unfortunately they are not enough to make him an arguido and formally accuse him.’
It also came as documents revealed by Spiegel allegedly show Brueckner fantasised in disgusting online chats about the kidnapping and sexual abuse of a child in September 2013.
What do we know about Maddie murder suspect Christian Brueckner and his criminal past?
1976: Christian Brueckner is born in Würzburg under a different name, believed to be Fischer. He was adopted by the Brueckner family and took their surname.
1992: Christian Brueckner is arrested on suspicion of burglary in his hometown of Wurzburg, Bavaria.
1994: He is given a two-year youth jail sentence for ‘abusing a child’ and ‘performing sex acts in front of a child’.
1995: Brueckner arrives in Portugal as an 18-year-old backpacker and begins working in catering in the seaside resorts of Lagos and Praia da Luz.
But friends say he became involved with a criminal syndicate trafficking drugs into the Algarve.
September 2005: He dons a mask and breaks into an apartment where a 72-year-old American tourist.
The victim was bound, gagged, blindfolded and whipped with a metal cane before being raped for 15 minutes. She said afterwards that he had clearly enjoyed ‘torturing’ her before the rape.
April 2007: He moves out of a farmhouse and into a campervan now linked to the crime. The farmhouse is cleaned and a bag of wigs and ‘exotic clothes’ is found.
May 3, 2007: Madeleine McCann is snatched at around 10pm from her bed as her parents eat tapas with friends yards away.
Brueckner’s mobile phone places him in the area that night. He returns to his native Germany shortly after that.
October 2011: He is sentenced to 21 months for ‘dealing narcotics’ in Niebüll, in northern Germany.
In 2013 police released a photofit of a man seen lurking near the McCann apartment and Scotland Yard said that suspect last night had not yet been ruled out of the probe
2014: He moves to Braunschweig where he starts running a town-centre kiosk. He then goes back to Portugal with a girlfriend.
2016: He is back in Germany. He is given 15 months in prison for ‘sexual abuse of a child in the act of creating and possessing child pornographic material’.
May 3, 2017: Brueckner is said to be in a bar with a friend when a ten-year anniversary appeal following Madeleine’s disappearance is shown on German television.
He is said to have told him in a bar that he ‘knew all about’ what happened to her. He then showed his friend a video of him raping a woman.
MailOnline understands the friend went to police shortly afterwards.
June 2017: He heads back to Portugal and extradited again to Germany. The reason was a sentencing of the Braunschweig district court to 15 months’ imprisonment for the sexual abuse of a child.
August 2018: After his release from prison he lives on the streets. But he was jailed again for drug offences.
First Prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters addresses the media during a press conference on the Madeleine McCann case at the public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig
September 2018: Brueckner is arrested in Milan, Italy and extradited to Germany and put on trial for raping the American tourist in 2007 after a DNA match to hair found at the crime scene.
July 2019: He is jailed for 21 months for drug dealing in the northern German resort of Sylt.
August 2019: Brueckner is charged with the rape of the American tourist in Praia da Luz in 2005.
December 2019: He is convicted of rape of extortion of the tourist based on DNA evidence. He is given a seven year sentence, but this has not been imposed pending an appeal.
June 3, 2020: Scotland Yard and the German police reveal that that they have identified a suspect in the Maddie McCann case
June 4, 2020: Prosecutors in Braunschweig, where he lives, say they believe Madeleine McCann has been murdered, says spokesman Hans Christian Wolters. He is named in the German press as the prime suspect.
Madeleine McCann prime suspect Christian Brueckner was released from Portuguese prison just months before three-year-old vanished from Praia da Luz villa
By Paul Thompson and Harry Howard for MailOnline
The paedophile suspected of abducting Madeleine McCann had only been released from a Portuguese prison just months before her disappearance from a family villa.
Christian Brueckner served nine months in jail for robbing a petrol station in 2006 and was released in December – just five months before Madeleine went missing.
Soon after his release the three-year-old girl disappeared and has since been the focus of a worldwide hunt with the 43-year-old German now the prime suspect in her disappearance.
Brueckner was imprisoned after leaving a petrol station in the coastal resort of Portimão, just over 20 miles from Praia da Luz, the resort where Madeleine disappeared.
It also emerged that the Brueckner had previously been jailed in 1999 after carrying out a string of thefts from villa’s and apartments in and around Praia da Luz.
Madeleine McCann’s parents are encouraged by public response
More than 270 people contacted Scotland Yard in the first 24 hours of its appeal for information about the new Madeleine McCann suspect.
Parents Kate and Gerry McCann are said to be very encouraged by the response.
They are now waiting to learn if potential witnesses have crucial information about German convicted child sex offender Christian Brueckner.
The McCanns believe the appeal was the most significant development to date in the 13-year search for their missing daughter.
Spokesman Clarence Mitchell said the couple, both 52, from Rothley, Leicestershire, were ‘trying to maintain as normal a life as possible’ for the sake of their younger children Sean and Amelie, who were toddlers when Madeleine disappeared.
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.
‘They are continuing their medical work where necessary and bringing the twins up as best they can, while shielding them from all the attention.’
He was known to supplement his income from drug dealing and working in restaurants by stealing from homes.
In 2005 he broke into a luxury beach-front villa where he raped a 72-year-old American woman.
It was thought he had initially entered the property to steal valuables rather than carry out a sex attack.
Police sources said Brueckner’s name was well known to them from his previous crime with his fingerprints and other details on their files.
This led to his name being included among the hundreds of suspects identified as part of the Portuguese police investigation and later passed to Scotland Yard who launched their own inquiry into the disappearance of the three year old.
Brueckner, who is serving a seven year sentence in northern Germany for the 2005 rape, was first jailed in 1999 three years after settling in Portugal.
He spent two months in jail in the city of Evora in central Portugal.
After being released he stayed out of trouble and relocated to the Algarve, moving into a remote villa in the hillsides above Praia da Luz.
But in 2006 he was convicted of driving away from a petrol station in the coastal resort of Portimão and jailed for nine months.
He was released in December of that year – a few months before Madeleine went missing on May 3rd, 2007.
At the time of Madeleine’s disappearance he was understood to have been living in a distinctive camper van.
As he was known to police his name was one of 600 that became suspects in the hunt for the missing toddler.
It is not known if Portugese police contacted their German counterparts to find out if he had any other convictions.
Had they done so they would have discovered a string of sex offences starting from when he was a teenager.
Portuguese Police have insisted that they passed all the relevant details on Brueckner to Scotland Yard in around 2012.
Carlos Fariniha from the Portuguese Judiciary Police (JP) said British police, who launched Operation Grange to locate the missing girl, showed no interest in the name of Brueckner and did not ask for any further details.
He said it wasn’t until 2017 when German police provided information on Brueckner that they became interested and have since launched a new appeal for witnesses to come forward.
How the unsolved case of missing Inga Gehricke, five, involved a search team of 500 people after she wandered off to collect wood
Inga Gehricke, five, had been having a barbecue with her family on May 2, 2015
The disappearance of five-year-old Inga Gehricke during a trip to a forest area in Saxony-Anhalt prompted a huge search involving 500 people.
She had been having a barbecue with her family at an apartment complex in Diakoniewerk Wilhelmshof on May 2, 2015 when she disappeared.
The girl is believed to have wandered off to collect wood to light a campfire at about 6.30pm but never returned.
Police dogs also failed to pick up the scent of Inga who had been wearing a butterfly T-shirt, blue jeans and her hair in two plaits.
One of the main suspects was former security guard Silvio Schulz, but he denied involvement police were never able to prove any link.
In July 2016, Schulz was handed a life sentence for murdering two children, one of them a four-year-old Bosnian boy snatched from a migrant registration centre the year before.
Police also allegedly investigated Christian Brueckner and found a device at his home with child pornography, but could not prove any link to Inga’s case.
In June 2017, officers formally dropped the probe into Inga’s disappearance.
Inga had been on the trip with her parents Victoria and Jens-Uwe Gehricke, as well as her three siblings Maxim, 15, Julius, 13, and eight-year-old Freya.
Speaking in April 2017, Mrs Gehricke told Stern magazine that her ‘feeling tells me that she is still alive’, while her husband said: ‘I still have the hope that she will be found. But the hope that she will come back alive goes to zero for me.’