Do USB drives hold clues to what happened to Madeleine McCann?

Do USB drives hold clues to what happened to Madeleine McCann?

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On June 4, 2020, in the German city of Braunschweig, public prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters gathered the press for a stunning announcement. German authorities believed they had the answer to the question that some of the finest investigative minds in the world had been been wrestling with for 13 years: What happened to Madeleine McCann?

“48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant has been covering the case since 2007 and takes a look at the investigation into the new suspect in “The Puzzle: Solving the Madeleine McCann Case”.

Madeleine McCann, 3, disappeared  while vacationing with her family  in the resort town of Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007.

More than a decade has passed since 3-year-old Madeleine, on vacation with her parents and younger brother and sister in the beach resort town of Praia da Luz, Portugal, disappeared from her bed on the evening of May 3, 2007, without a trace. With local police slow to respond, Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, both British doctors, turned to the international press to enlist the help of the entire world in finding their daughter. Hundreds of man-hours spent searching, millions spent on international investigations, endless global media attention, thousands of false Madeleine “sightings,” even a meeting with the pope, and more than 13 years of desperate hope have yielded not a single viable clue.

So how is it that an unassuming small city prosecutor in Germany can say with absolute conviction that “…in connection with the disappearance of the 3-year-old British girl Madeleine Beth McCann …  the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office is investigating a 43-year-old German citizen on suspicion of murder.  From this you can see that we assume that the girl is dead”? When asked by Van Sant why they were so certain of this terrible outcome, Prosecutor Wolters responded, “We have strong evidence that Madeleine McCann is dead and that she was killed by our suspect, Christian B.”

Because of German law, Wolters is not allowed to use Christian Brueckner’s full name nor comment on the evidence they have against him, but it is no secret that this career criminal and repeat sex offender is their prime suspect in the abduction and possible murder of Madeleine McCann. In fact, he has been on their radar for some time.

Christian Brueckner, 43,  is a sex offender with several previous convictions.


Wolters says that in 2017, a decade after Madeleine had disappeared, a person contacted German police and gave them the suspect’s name. Wolters was tight-lipped about the details but according to news reports, Christian Brueckner had allegedly made a drunken confession to a friend that he knew what had happened to Madeleine McCann.

Germany’s highest police agency conducted an investigation and what they uncovered was that Brueckner had a long and disturbing history of crime. “Christian B. is a … criminal who committed a lot of financially motivated crimes like burglary or drug trafficking,” says the Germany-based crime and intelligence analyst Mark Hofmann. “But he also has a darker side,” Hofmann adds.

Brueckner has a record for possessing child pornography and has been convicted twice for sexually abusing a child. Hofmann says, “He absolutely matches the profile of a person who could potentially abduct and or kill a little girl like Madeleine McCann.” 

In 2016, investigators conducted multiple searches of a deserted factory deep in the woods of Saxony Anhalt, Germany, that Christian Brueckner once owned.  “48 Hours” has learned these searches were part of a broader investigation into child pornography.

Spiegel TV

In 2016, investigators conducted multiple searches of a deserted factory deep in the woods of Saxony Anhalt, Germany which Brueckner once owned. “48 Hours” has learned these searches were part of a broad investigation into child pornography. Hofmann says they found USB drives containing pictures and videos of child abuse buried underneath a dead dog. But what, if any, connection could they have to the Madeleine McCann case?

“He is definitely a psychopath. And he is definitely a full-time criminal. … But the question is … is he guilty in the Maddie McCann case?” Hofmann asks. 

Learn more about Brueckner’s sordid background and the evidence that may place him near or at the crime scene in Portugal in an all-new episode of “48 Hours.” “The Puzzle: Solving the Madeleine McCann Case”.

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