For the first time since Madeleine McCann disappeared from a resort in Portugal in 2007, Portuguese authorities say they have a formal suspect in the case.
Next month will mark 15 years since the British toddler vanished while vacationing with her family in the Algarve region of Portugal, and the new development comes just days before that grim anniversary.While investigators didn’t name the suspect, they have revealed that they’re working with German authorities in relation to the case.
That turn comes nearly two years after German police announced that they’d found a suspect in connection with McCann’s disappearance at the age of 3, a man identified by German and British media outlets as convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner .
At that time, in the summer of 2020, German authorities also reported that they believed, despite the fact that no body had been found, that McCann was dead.
“We assume that the girl is dead,” Braunschweig state prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said. “The public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig is investigating a 43-year-old German national on suspicion of murder.”
Brueckner, who's currently serving a prison sentence in Germany related to other offenses, has previously denied involvement in McCann’s disappearance. He has not been charged in the case.
His legal team declined to comment when NBC News reached out about the new development Friday morning. But German paper Bild quoted Brueckner's attorney as describing the move as a "procedural trick."
Madeleine disappeared while on vacation in Praia da Luz, a coastal Portugese town, on May 3, 2007. Her mother discovered she was missing from the family's vacation apartment after she went to check on the little girl while eating with friends.
Her parents spoke to NBC News on the ten-year anniversary of her disappearance about the hole it left in their lives.
"I mean, it's time that we should have had with madeleine," Kate McCann said. "We should have been a family of five for all that time. and, yeah, it just feels stolen."
As for the timing of Thursday’s announcement from Portuguese authorities, it could be related to a statute of limitation in Portugal that doesn’t typically allow this type of crime to be prosecuted more than 15 years after it's committed.