You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Madeleine McCann suspect played gent in Algarve hippy enclave while hiding paedo past

Daily Record logoDaily Record 13/06/2020 Martin Fricker & Andy Lines
a man standing in front of a beach: Christian Brueckner stood out in the coastal town of Lagos in the Algarve © Getty Christian Brueckner stood out in the coastal town of Lagos in the Algarve

The coastal town of Lagos is home to a curious mix of locals, drifters, bohemians and tourists drawn to the sunny, laid-back Algarve.

UP NEXT
UP NEXT

But even among this community, Christian Brueckner stood out.

The German detested the “scruffy hippies”, as he called them, preferring to dress in old tailored suits.

He also shunned their drug-fuelled lifestyle, at least publicly, saying narcotics made him “lose control”.

Brueckner apparently tried to portray himself as a gent, wooing women with his classic good manners.

But behind the veneer there was a dark side to him, which remained hidden to even his closest friends.

When he first arrived with a girlfriend in tow in 1995, aged 19, he was already a convicted sex offender in Germany.

He had fled to Portugal after serving a two-year juvenile term for abusing a six-year-old girl in a playground and exposing himself to a nine-year-old girl when he was 17. And that was not his first brush with the law.

Born Christian Fischer in Bavaria in 1976, he was given up by his birth mother and placed in a children’s home, then adopted by Fritz and Brigitte Brueckner from Bergtheim, Bavaria.

a young girl in a blue shirt: Madeleine McCann went missing from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007 © Collect Unknown Madeleine McCann went missing from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007

He was convicted of his first burglary in nearby Wuerzburg in 1992, aged 15.

His adoptive parents sent him to a reform home for delinquent teens after Fritz was seriously injured in a car crash.

In 1993, Brueckner got an eight-month suspended juvenile term for multiple thefts and driving without a licence.

After serving time for the later sex offences, he started his new life in Lagos.

He became a regular in the bars and clubs and was often seen at all-night parties in the hippy village of Barao de Sao Joao. He first came to the attention of Portuguese authorities in 1999, when he was arrested following a bar brawl.

He was handed a two-month jail term in Evora, near Lisbon, but was freed after a matter of weeks.

By the time he wooed a lonely 28-year-old English woman newly arrived in Lagos in 2004, he had been in Portugal for almost a decade.

As with previous girlfriends, he turned on the charm and played up to his “gentlemanly” image.

The woman, now 45, told our sister paper the Mirror: “At first I didn’t actually like him that much. I was 28, he was a couple of years younger.

"I knew he liked me but I wasn’t interested. But Chris could be very, very charming, very funny and very smooth in the way he talked.

“He always dressed nicely, held the door open, that kind of thing. He drove the nice car – the black Jaguar – was very gentlemanly and spoke properly.

“I was alone in Portugal, no family around and a bit lonely. We became friends in the spring of 2004 and that moved on to us becoming romantic. At first it was great.”

a person standing on a beach: Christian Brueckner's ex-girlfriend says his only interest was cash © Roland Leon Daily Mirror Christian Brueckner's ex-girlfriend says his only interest was cash

We told this week how the woman, who does not want to be named, said he later changed.

She claimed he flew into jealous rages and allegedly smashed her head against a toilet wall in 2005 after she hugged a male pal. She said she still lives in fear of him now.

Shortly after their relationship began, Brueckner left his bar job and made money repairing classic cars.

The woman, from Berkshire, said: “He liked taking me to the beach in his Jaguar. He didn’t like the town beach in Lagos. It would always be the West coast beaches, the isolated ones.

“He didn’t like lots of crowds. He didn’t like all the tourists in the summer.”

She told how he once made her “strange German food” at his home. It is this house, situated on a hill ­overlooking Praia da Luz, that has become the focus of police attention.

Brueckner moved out in 2006, after receiving a nine-month prison term for petrol theft – a year before Madeleine McCann disappeared aged three from her family’s holiday apartment in the resort in May 2007.

A neighbour who cleaned up the property told last week how she found filthy conditions and bags of wigs and exotic clothes.

This came as a surprise to his British ex, who remembered him being “house-proud”. But she also had an explanation for the items found.

She said: “Chris loved to dress up but not in a kinky way. He loved fancy-dress parties, especially Halloween, so he kept all sorts of outfits in the house.

“He wasn’t into anything weird with me. We just had a normal sex life.”

Despite his previous offences, his ex had no clue he was sexually attracted to young children. Instead, she and her pals in Lagos suspected Brueckner – now in a high-security German prison – had a thing for older women.

She said: “There was one lady he used to take out to dinner sometimes, she was a bit older, and he said it was just for company. There was another lady, she was much older. He used to walk her dog and clean her apartment and she gave him money for that.”

Months after they split in 2005, Brueckner raped a 72-year-old woman in her Praia da Luz home. He was handed a seven-year jail term last year but is appealing his conviction.

His ex said Brueckner’s only passion, besides his cars, was making money.

She said: “Other people get joy out of films, music, socialising, that sort of thing. But for him, if there was no money to be made out of something, then there was no point doing it.”

a tree in front of a building: The house Christian Brueckner left in 2006 when he was jailed © Roland Leon Daily Mirror The house Christian Brueckner left in 2006 when he was jailed

Brueckner was living in a camper van in the Praia da Luz area when Madeleine vanished from the Ocean Club resort. Police had him in their sights within five days and staff at the resort were shown his picture and name to see if they recognised him.

But he only became a suspect in 2017 when a caller to the German version of Crimewatch claimed he had hinted in a bar that he knew what had happened to Madeleine. In the intervening decade, Brueckner had regularly moved between Germany and Portugal.

His German pals told the Mirror he had two dogs he treated so badly that one of them died. One was a daschund-cross called Mrs Muller, the other a rottweiler called Charlie.

He reportedly left them locked inside a kiosk bar for six weeks – with one becoming so malnourished it died.

In another incident, he took the roof off a campervan with an electric saw then filled it with rainwater to use as a bath.

Back in Lagos, his ex and former pals are struggling to comprehend how he is being viewed as a suspect.

His ex, who still works as a barmaid in the town, said: “I was shocked and horrified. I’ve had loads of people contacting me saying ‘Do you think it’s true?’ ‘I’m so shocked’, ‘I can’t believe it’.”

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Daily Record

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon