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New Major Development in Madeleine McCann Case as Detectives Search Reservoir That Prime Suspect Called "His Little Paradise"

Police search for body of girl missing since 2007.

Sixteen years ago, toddler Madeleine McCann disappeared from a Portuguese holiday resort, and the case captivated the world. The three-year-old from Rothley, Leicestershire, was never found, but police haven't stopped the search. While there is no "specific lead," according to the Daily Mail, German authorities are scouring a Portuguese reservoir for the missing girl's body.

Reportedly, a dozen police officers are digging in a specific area and have sniffer dogs with them, but they haven't revealed what led to the ​​excavations or given any additional information.

Why Police Are Searching the Reservoir

Sky News

Searching the reservoir is the first major operation in the case since 2014, when British authorities did an extensive investigation along Portugal's Priai da Luz coastal community.

Police are looking into the reservoir because it's an area that suspect Cristian Brueckner, a German criminal, and convicted sex offender, previously visited, the Telegraph reports. Divers are expected to search for two days, or more if evidence is found. 

What Sources Close to the Investigation Have Said About the Reservoir

Sky News/Metropolitan Police

According to the Daily Mail, "Sources close to the investigation said they had evidence the clearing in the trees – where tents have been set up – was the spot Brueckner used to spend time at after parking up his campervan nearby."

The outlet also reports, "A local who asked not to be named, but knows the area well, said: 'It's pretty well-hidden by the trees and you don't realize it's there until you're almost upon it. 'People wild camp there overnight from time to time which is why you'll find the remains of fires inside small walls of stone. 'It's got old sun loungers in it and makeshift benches that visitors use to rest on. It's very out-of-the-way and very peaceful but at the same time it's got a slightly eerie feel about it.'"

The Suspect Called the Area "His Little Paradise"

Sky News

The Telegraph says the reservoir is "an area of interest." The outlet reports, "The Portuguese broadcaster SIC reported that German police sought permission to search the dam in an official judicial request to Portugal several weeks ago after concluding it was an "area of interest."

The official request said: "Investigators know suspect Christian Brueckner used to come to this dam regularly. He would call it his little paradise and would often spend the night here. He was seen here often."

Prosecutor Can't Reveal What Prompted the Search Yet


The Daily Mail reports that German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters released a recent statement that German officers are in Portugal investigating "on the basis of certain tips." While he was unable to give further details, Wolters said details would be released "if we think the results are publishable." He also stated, "There is a major search operation taking place that is being implemented by the Portuguese authorities. But there are also German officers from the Federal Criminal Police Office on site who are supporting the whole thing."

He added, "I can't disclose the background at the moment, i.e. why we are searching there and what we hope to find there. That shall remain our secret for the moment," and asked for more time. "The action itself will also take a bit of time. It will not be completed within two hours or so. And whether we then find something and what we find, of course, we have to see that first."

The Suspect is a Convicted Sex Offender

Metropolitan Police

Cristian Brueckner was never charged in the disappearance of McCann and has denied any involvement. However, the suspect, who is a known sex offender, was in the area when the toddler went missing. According to the Telegraph, a driver claimed he saw a woman giving Brueckner a child who fit McCann's description at the reservoir a couple of days after the girl was taken from her family on May 3, 2007. 

Cristian Brueckner is Convicted of Raping a 72-Year-Old Woman

Carabinieri Milano

Brueckner is currently serving jail time for the rape of a woman in the same area where McCann went missing. According to the Daily Mail, "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 outlet reports the assault took place two years before McCann disappeared and was just a 10-minute walk from where the child vanished. 

Brueckner Was Charged with 5 Charges of Sexual Assault, but Charges Were Dropped

Sky News

Last year Brueckner was charged with three counts of rape and two counts of child sexual abuse. The crimes were reportedly said to have taken place in the Algarve region, where the three-year-old vanished in 2007 – between 2000 and 2017.

However, the charges have been dropped due to a lack of jurisdiction in Brunswick, Germany, where the case was being brought. 

The Five Charges

Police Handout

The BBC reports that the five assault charges Brueckner faced included the following: 

  • "The rape of an unidentified woman aged between 70 and 80 in a holiday home in Portugal
  • The rape of a German-speaking girl believed to have been at least 14 years old in his home in Praia da Luz
  • 2004: The rape of a 20-year-old Irish woman after entering her apartment in Praia da Rocha
  • 2007: The sexual abuse of a 10-year-old German girl on a beach in Salema, Faro
  • 2017: The sexual abuse of an 11-year-old Portuguese girl in a playground in Bartolomeu de Messines"

Brueckner's Lawyer Spoke Out Against the Charges


The suspect's attorney Friedrich Fulscher told the Daily Mail that, "In its decision of April 19, 2023, the Regional Court of Braunschweig declared that it had no jurisdiction over the charge against Christian B. and revoked the arrest warrant against him." The lawyer added, "The defense already pointed out during the preliminary proceedings that the Braunschweig judiciary should not have local jurisdiction."

Brueckner's council continued, "For reasons that are not understandable here, the public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig clung to its jurisdiction and thus risked being overturned by the Federal Court of Justice if it were opened. This is very questionable, in particular given the fact that a large number of witnesses would have had to appear in court again (on very incriminating issues) in the event of an annulment."

Brueckner Could Be Charged with the Same Offenses in a Different Court


The BBC also reports that "Originally the case was taken up in Braunschweig because that was the region where he was last officially registered. Although the court in Braunschweig has dropped the case, it is understood Brueckner could still be charged with the same offenses in a different court in Germany."

The McCann Family Remains Hopeful

ITV News

After their daughter's disappearance, Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, launched a website that is updated regularly. They keep her memory and hope alive by continuing the search and believing she will come home. They write, "There is absolutely nothing to suggest that Madeleine has been harmed. Madeleine is still missing and someone needs to be looking for her. She is young and vulnerable and needs our help. We love her dearly and miss her beyond words."

The Family Was on Vacation When Madeleine Was Abducted


According to The Independent, the Mccan family went on holiday with friends from the United Kingdom to Portugal. The adults went to dinner and left the children sleeping in their rooms. When they came back, the toddler was missing. "The story began when the McCanns – affluent doctors Kate and Gerry, their three-year-old daughter Madeleine and her two-year-old twin siblings – joined a group of seven family friends and their five children on holiday at the Ocean Club in the village of Praia da Luz on the southwestern tip of Portugal on 28 April 2007."

The outlet added, "The adults in the party went out for dinner at the resort's open-air tapas bar on 3 May, gathering at 8.30 pm. The children were left behind sleeping in their respective apartments with the doors unlocked and a rota system in place among the parents to ensure that someone returned every half-hour to check on them." Kate McCann returned at 10:00 p.m. and that's when she discovered her child had been abducted. "Madeleine's gone! Someone's taken her!" The police were quickly called and 60 staff and fellow guests searched the complex, calling out the girl's name in vain until daybreak the following morning."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more
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