Sunday, 29 May 2022

Investigator slams new Madeleine McCann documentary as ‘speculation’ and ‘nothing new’

Madeleine McCann: Mark Williams-Thomas discusses case

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It appeared to contain a claim investigators have the wrong man due to a lack of hard evidence; prosecutors said it added “nothing new”, while a missing persons expert said it would be “surprising” if evidence hadn’t been concealed or destroyed. While the documentary posed some interesting questions about the case, after the first half has aired, some of the assertions made ahead of its release have yet to quite come true.

Madeleine went missing while on holiday in the Algarve in May 2007. In 2020, German prosecutors named convicted rapist and child sexual abuser Christian Brueckner as their prime suspect in the case. Brueckner has always denied any allegations in relation to Madeleine McCann.

Investigators said at the time that they believed to have found records of a phone call on the night Maddie disappeared placing Brueckner nearby, and that he had transferred his car to another person the following day.

Ahead of the new documentary, host and police officer turned investigative journalist Mark Williams-Thomas, made bold claims about what he had uncovered – most notably he believed Brueckner to be innocent.

Interviews he gave ahead of its release suggested he had found a woman who could provide an alibi for Brueckner for the night Madeleine disappeared – testimony that could have put the investigation into jeopardy.

The re-registration of Brueckner’s Jaguar to another person the day after Madeleine went missing – a key piece of circumstantial evidence cited by German investigators – was planned “weeks before”, according to the man who is said to have bought the car.

He told the programme that it was pure coincidence he had filed the paperwork the day after Madeleine disappeared.

Meanwhile, the documentary also questioned the identity of the owner of a phone number ending 680, which investigators believe Brueckner was using at the time and made a call from in the Praia da Luz area an hour before Maddie’s disappearance.

In the first part of the documentary, which aired on Wednesday, Mr Williams-Thomas did not find Brueckner’s alibi. Perhaps more is yet to be revealed in the second part, due to air next week – but it’s fair to see why both German and Portuguese investigators, in the absence of forensic evidence, still believe they have the right man.

He previously told the Star that in a four-page letter Brueckner had written to Mr Williams-Thomas from his Oldenburg prison cell, the paedophile had said there was someone who could give an alibi for the night Madeleine went missing, but had not disclosed her name as he did not want to involve her.

The documentary claimed that they had tracked this woman down – a German who had a short fling with Brueckner while on holiday in the Algarve in 2007.

Brueckner also claimed the two had been photographed by a New Scotland Yard officer at a road block a few days after Maddie’s disappearance. The Metropolitan Police were asked if they had such an image in their possession, but had not responded to a request for comment.

Instead of speaking to the source of Brueckner’s supposed alibi, Mr Williams-Thomas spoke to the woman’s husband, who confirmed she had been on holiday there at the time, but said she “can’t be sure” of the exact details as it was so long ago.

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Mr Williams-Thomas also discovered that the phone call on the night in question could have been made within a 35km radius of the Praia da Luz phone mast – meaning that the call, even if attributed to Brueckner, could not place him exactly at the scene.

When queried about the phone call, Hans Christian Wolters told the documentary there was “always a possibility” someone else used it and that it “doesn’t give us an exactly location” of where the call was made.

However, he said investigators had found a witness who saw Brueckner using the number, but not on May 3, 2007. Mr Wolters added: “We still assume that Christian B was using this number on the evening of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance.”

Asked if this could still be used to place Brueckner, he said: “Yes, from what we know, this is right, but we need the other person, so that this person can tell us who he was talking to.” Mr Wolters also revealed that investigators had other evidence that they had not yet made public, though no forensic evidence.

That other number, ending 683, was found by the documentary team to be linked to a social media account, which cyber analyst Martin Kayes discovered had a pattern of searching for child abuse online. Mr Williams-Thomas feared Brueckner could have been involved with other paedophiles.

The documentary also featured online chat messages – first published by German news outlet RTL earlier this year – sent between Brueckner and a user called Panikspatz 66 in 2013, in which the two discuss their dark fantasies.

As part of that discussion, in which Brueckner states he wants to keep “something small” and “use it for days”, he also entertains the notion of “destroying the evidence after”.

That same year, Brueckner was invited to an interview about Madeleine’s disappearance, and was reportedly told in advance what it was about. It is said he only became a suspect in the investigation in 2017, after being named by a second person.

Mr Williams-Thomas said in the documentary: “Christian B is a dangerous paedophile. One thing that runs through his offending behaviour is that he keeps the footage of his offences.”

Asked about the possibility that the lack of pictorial evidence that might link Brueckner to Madeleine’s disappearance could be because the evidence was destroyed, or that Madeleine was passed to another sexual predator, Mr Wolters declined to comment, but told that “we followed and will follow every trace”.

He also would not say if there was any link between Panikspatz 66 and the unknown person at the other end of the phone on May 3, 2007. The person allegedly behind the Panikspatz 66 account told the documentary he had spoken to the police and never knew Brueckner.

Mr Wolters described Mr Williams-Thomas’s views as “speculations”, and said that the documentary “included nothing new”.

The public prosecutors’ office in Braunschweig also told the programme that not all the evidence they had was public knowledge.

Charlie Hedges, a former British policeman and missing persons expert at Amber Alert, commented: “In any cold case such as this, being able to find pure evidence becomes increasingly difficult as more time passes.

“Given the almost unprecedented amount of publicity given to this case, it would be surprising if anyone who was involved in the commission of the crime did not destroy or conceal evidence.”

Channel 5 was contacted for comment.

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