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Former friend of Madeleine McCann prime suspect tells how he boasted about breaking into hotels

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A former friend of the prime suspect in Madeleine McCann‘s disappearance has told how he discovered the video of him raping a 72-year-old that led to his conviction.

Christian Brueckner, 43, who is now serving a sentence for drug offences, is appealing against his conviction for the rape of the elderly American woman in Portugal in 2005.

The attack took place in Praia da Luz, the same area where three-year-old Madeleine went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in 2007. 

Manfred S., a former friend of Brueckner’s, told RTL that he’d bragged to him about breaking into hotels in the days when they roamed the Algarve together as small time crooks.

Christian Brueckner, 43, (left) was declared the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (right) by German investigators in June

Manfred S. told the broadcaster that when Brueckner was jailed for diesel theft in 2015, he took the opportunity to rob his home with another friend.

He says they discovered a video camera there which had on its tape footage of Brueckner raping the elderly woman.

At his trial in December, the court heard how Brueckner had tied the woman up and whipped her during the ordeal which took place in her home.

‘I felt that he enjoyed torturing me,’ she told investigators. He carried a sabre, she claimed, 30cm long.

Manfred S. says that also on the video tape was footage of a younger woman tied to a wooden beam in another house.

Disturbed by what he saw, Manfred S. told RTL that he took the footage to the police and that it was this that eventually led to Brueckner’s conviction. 

Brueckner’s mugshot issued by the Carabinieri military police in Italy around the time of his arrest in 2018 under an international warrant

It comes after the Mail on Sunday established that Brueckner had used a Casio Exilim digital camera to store 391 child porn pictures and 68 videos showing the rape and abuse of minors.

It was the same device that he used to take images of himself sexually abusing the five-year-old daughter of an ex-girlfriend.

The camera and its contents became the main evidence against Brueckner during two trials in which he was accused of sexually abusing the girl and possessing child pornography. 

He fled to Portugal after being acquitted in 2016, but admitted his guilt when he was extradited back to Germany a year later. He was given a 15-month jail sentence.

A ten-page judgment from Braunschweig District Court reveals that the photographs showed children under the age of 14 being abused by adults, while others involved children being forced to perform sex acts.

Police said the videos had been downloaded from the internet and stored on the camera’s memory card.

The judgment adds that there were several naked pictures of another ex-girlfriend of Brueckner’s – not the mother of the five-year-old – and photographs of her having sex with him.

Police also found a Reck P6E blank pistol with ammunition in his flat – illegal to possess without a licence under German law.

According to the document, the abuse of the five-year-old took place on June 16, 2013, in Braunschweig at around the same time that Brueckner came on to the radar of German investigators as a suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine.

It adds he took pictures of the abuse and ‘saved them on his later confiscated camera with the intent to later arouse himself sexually’.

Police received a tip-off about Brueckner following an appeal over Madeleine on German TV six years after she disappeared from her family holiday apartment in the Praia da Luz resort in Portugal in May 2007.

Brueckner was living in the area at the time and police have said that mobile data shows he was near Maddie’s apartment on the evening she was abducted.

The judgment also noted that at the time of his arrest in 2014, Brueckner was on parole for a drugs offence he had committed in Niebull, a German city near the Danish border.

While he was being investigated for child abuse, he was caught trying to steal diesel from a truck in a parking lot in May 2015.

He was then arrested for drink-driving in September the same year and, two months later, assaulted his then girlfriend at a bus stop in Braunschweig.

After being jailed for the child abuse, Brueckner – now serving a sentence for drugs offences – was convicted of the rape of the 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz and received a seven-year prison term.

His lawyers have sought to have that conviction overturned due to what they claim was a procedural error in his extradition from Portugal to Germany in 2017.

Last month, police searched an allotment near Hanover where Brueckner lived for a time after returning to Germany, shortly after Maddie disappeared in Portugal.    

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