15 years on, Portugal eyes German suspect in missing Maddie case

Almost 15 years after British toddler Madeleine McCann went missing while on holiday, Portuguese authorities have followed German prosecutors and declared a convicted German rapist the prime suspect in her disappearance.

A note asks journalists not to enter in the house where a German suspect, related to the Madeleine McCann case, was living when the three-year-old girl disappeared 
In this file photo taken on June 5, 2020 a note asks journalists not to enter in the house where a German suspect, related to the Madeleine McCann case, was living when the three-year-old girl disappeared in 2007, near Lagos, Portugal. A man has been declared an official suspect in Germany at Portugal's request in connection with Maddie's disappearance. CARLOS COSTA / AFP

Portuguese public prosecutors announced late Thursday that a man had been named as an “arguido”, or formal suspect in the high-profile case.

While they did not name the suspect, it is understood to be Christian B., the same person German prosecutors in Brunswick are investigating on suspicion of murdering “Maddie”.

No charges have been brought yet against Christian B. in either country however, and no body has been found.

Christian B.’s lawyer, Friedrich Fuelscher, told AFP the Portuguese announcement “should not be overrated”.

He said the “arguido” move appeared to be linked to Portugal’s 15-year statute of limitation for certain crimes.

 “I assume that the statute of limitations was interrupted by this step,” Fuelscher said.

Brunswick prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters also suggested the step was a formality and unlikely to indicate a major breakthrough in the Portuguese probe.

 “Portugal apparently by now also sees reason to suspect” Christian B., Wolters said.

But he said he would be “surprised” if the Portuguese probe was further along than the German one.

Portuguese prosecutors said they were working “in cooperation with English and German authorities”.

Christian B. is currently serving a seven-year sentence in Oldenburg, northern Germany, for raping a 72-year-old American tourist in Portugal’s Praia da Luz in 2005.

Madeleine McCann, then aged three, went missing from the same seaside resort on May 3, 2007.

Her disappearance sparked a huge manhunt and an international media frenzy, with photographs of Maddie plastered across billboards and news bulletins.

Maddie’s parents Gerry and Kate were at one point also declared “arguidos” in the Portuguese investigation, before the status was lifted for both of them.

Criminal past
The latest step “is related to the statute of limitations”, agreed ex-police inspector Goncalo Amaral, who led the inquiry into Maddie’s disappearance in Portugal in 2007.

“It’s a procedural trick by the public prosecutors,” he said.

Amaral was sued by Kate and Gerry McCann over a 2008 book in which he accused them of concealing her body after she died accidentally.

Portuguese police shelved their controversial investigation — which saw Amaral sacked — in 2008, but reopened it five years later citing “new elements”.

British police opened their own inquiry in July 2013, but on-site excavations in Praia da Luz yielded no evidence.

The case appeared to have gone cold until Brunswick prosecutors made the stunning revelation in June 2020 that they were certain Maddie was dead and that they believed Christian B. killed her.

READ ALSO: ‘Concrete evidence’ that Madeleine McCann is dead, says German prosecutor

Christian B. was at that time already serving a jail sentence for drug trafficking in Kiel, northern Germany.

He has a long criminal history including sex offences and convictions for child sexual abuse.

Christian B. lived just a few kilometres (miles) away from Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region at the time Maddie vanished from her family’s holiday accommodation, according to Brunswick prosecutors.

Wolters said his team was currently also investigating Christian B. on suspicion of raping an Irish woman in 2004 and over suspected cases of child abuse in Portugal.

Wolters said he hoped to complete those probes soon, while the Maddie investigation “could take a while longer”. 

READ ALSO: German police resume Maddie McCann allotment search


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German police foil teenage school ‘Nazi attack’

German investigators said Thursday they foiled a school bomb attack, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a "Nazi terror attack".

German police foil teenage school 'Nazi attack'

“The police prevented a nightmare,” said Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state.

Police in the city of Essen had stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

Some of the pipe bombs found contained nails, but officers did not find any detonators, Reul said.

There are “indications suggesting the young man has serious psychiatric problems and suicidal thoughts,” said Reul.

Material found so far in the suspect’s room include his own writing which constituted “a call for urgent help by a desperate young man.”

The suspect was allegedly planning to target his current school or another where he studied previously.

“All democrats have a common task to fight against racism, brutalisation and hate,” said NRW’s deputy premier Joachim Stamp, as he thanked police for “preventing a suspected Nazi terror attack”.

The suspect is being questioned while investigators continue to comb his home for evidence.

Investigators believe that he was acting alone.

They had been tipped off by another teen who informed them that the young man “wanted to place bombs in his school”, located about 800 metres from his home.

The school, as well as another institution, were closed on Thursday as investigators undertook fingertip searches as the locations to ensure that no bombs had been placed on site.

‘Neo-Nazi networks’ 

Germany has been rocked by several far-right assaults in recent years, sparking accusations that the government was not doing enough to stamp out neo-Nazi violence.

In February 2020 a far-right extremist shot dead 10 people and wounded five others in the central German city of Hanau.

Large amounts of material championing conspiracy theories and far-right ideology were subsequently found in the gunman’s apartment.

And in 2019, two people were killed after a neo-Nazi tried to storm a synagogue in Halle on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Germany’s centre-left-led government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office in December pledging a decisive fight against far-right militants and investigators in April carried out country-wide raids against “neo-Nazi networks”, arresting four suspects.

The suspects targeted in the raids were believed to belong to the far-right martial arts group Knockout 51, the banned Combat 18 group named after theorder in the alphabet of Adolf Hitler’s initials, US-based Atomwaffen (Atomic) Division or the online propaganda group Sonderkommando 1418.

German authorities were also battling to clean extremists from within their ranks. Last year, the state of Hesse said it was dissolving Frankfurt’s elite police force after several officers were accused of participating in far-right online chats and swapping neo-Nazi symbols.