I listened to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 this lunchtime, interested to hear his approach to the latest news on Madeleine McCann. I stopped what I was doing expecting some time to be devoted to the new information coming from Germany and the subsequent reaction but the slot was fleeting. No phonecalls just a handful of email comments. He spoke to Clarence Mitchell, the McCann’s longtime spokesman, and Professor Roger Graef, criminologist and filmmaker who, in 2007, made the documentary, Searching for Madeleine, which focused on the bungling of the investigation in the immediate aftermath of Madeleine’s disappearance. There was a delicacy about the handling of the piece. No opinions, as such, were forthcoming, merely sweeping sympathy in the wake of a heartbreaking story which, thirteen years on, is still without a conclusion; sympathy for the parents of the little girl who would, now, be seventeen.
It has been revealed that the German authorities are investigating a 43 year-old convicted paedophile who, as of now, is serving an unrelated sentence for drug trafficking. Court documents show that he has served two-thirds of that sentence and can be considered for parole from this Sunday onwards. However, in December last year, Brueckner was convicted of the rape of a 72 year-old American woman in Portugal in 2005 (which, apparently, he filmed!). Sentenced to seven years in prison, the term has not yet been imposed pending an appeal declaring the conviction unlawful. This was filed on 8th May and a decision can take up to six months during which time he will remain in custody.
Christian Brueckner was living in Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007 and, although the rape charges of 2005 had been dropped due to lack of evidence, he was known to the Portuguese police for dealings in drugs and the petty burglaries in the area which funded his lifestyle. His list of offences involving young girls – children – meanwhile, date back to 1994 when he was found guilty of several acts of paedophilia prompting him to flee to Portugal in 1995.
This man’s chequered record of convictions is, at once, complicated and illuminating and it beggars belief that he has, seemingly, been overlooked, until now, as a prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine on 3rd May, 2007. Known to be living in a camper van in the area, cell phone records reveal that he received a phonecall at 7.32pm, that night, which lasted half an hour. Madeleine was discovered to be missing at 10.14pm and, the following day, a Jaguar car which he owned, displaying German plates, was registered with another owner. The finger is, now, pointed. The gathering evidence, seemingly, damning. The German authorities believe Madeleine McCann is dead and they are dealing with a case of suspected murder.
Known as Operation Grange, the case surrounding the disappearance of Maddie has been unsolved for thirteen years, its cost, more than £12million. It gripped the world in 2007 and has continued to do so, intermittently, up to this day. Feelings have always been divided but never in the sympathy and sadness for the needless suffering of an innocent little girl. Today, the focus seemed to be directed at the incompetence of the Portuguese police while the selected mood – and selective messages – reflected nothing but empathy for the anguish of Kate and Gerry McCann. Kate and Gerry McCann. The same parents who left three children under the age of four alone in an apartment some 120 metres away, the windows and entrance of which they couldn’t see. The same parents who had chosen not to pay for the resort babysitting or monitoring service. The same parents who had left their three children alone on previous evenings, despite Madeleine asking where they were when the twins were crying. The same parents who chose to wine and dine with their friends, nightly, regardless. Forget the incompetence of the Portuguese police! It is insignificant in the wake of that of Kate and Gerry McCann.
Friday, now, I left this, overnight, appreciating the volatile nature of the subject and the need for care. My opinion, however, has never waivered. Inevitably, the papers are ablaze, once more, with the last photographs of three year-old Maddie; the news full of it. Perhaps, however, the most significant information was gleaned in an interview on This Morning with Mark Williams-Thomas, an investigative journalist and former police officer, who provided a timeline of the investigation. Yes, the majority vote would like to point all blame at the Portuguese police for their handling – or mishandling – of the case in the immediate aftermath, including – and most significantly – their declaring the McCanns to be their main arguidos or official suspects; and, yes, Brueckner was a name in the frame but dismissed. However, interestingly, when taking over the investigation in 2011, the British Authorities were passed 600 names believed to be persons of interest. Brueckner was one of those names. The British Authorities, too, eliminated him!
In 2013, it was the German Authorities who received specific information, as part of another ongoing investigation, naming this man and then, subsequently, in 2017, a new witness came forward detailing how he/she had met the suspect in a bar when Brueckner had talked about Madeleine’s disappearance, his involvement and the disposal of the body. It was, however, stolen video footage of the 2005 rape which brought him back into the frame and, for which, he has been convicted.
Nothing if not complicated, it is a horrific web of crime of which Madeleine’s disappearance is, seemingly, a part. It shocked the world, in May 2007, but Operation Grange and £12million has ensured the fate of the little girl has never been forgotten and each new lead is a reminder of one’s initial reaction. Mine was disbelief and anger at the parents who left three little children alone, shirking their responsibility in favour of their social life; a neglect which afforded the most tragic of fates. It remains.
‘All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice. We will never give up hope of finding Madeleine alive but, whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace.’
Somehow, I think peace shall remain ever elusive with guilt the eternal punishment. They made the decision, on that holiday, to leave their young children, repeatedly, on their own in the evenings. Checking on them, intermittently, was never enough. Deep down, they must have known that. Anything could have happened – and it did. As a parent, I remember many occasions, when on holiday, wishing the adults could, all, enjoy an evening together – or even just a meal – while the children slept. The risks – however far-fetched or rare – were never worth it. Instead we staggered our meals and our adult company, content that our children were safe.
We, all, make mistakes? Of course and nobody would wish the McCanns’ suffering on any parent but it is the word ‘parent’ which is key. They crave peace but, as the crimes of this monster are revealed, surely one can only focus on the horrendous suffering their little daughter must have endured because her parents weren’t there to protect her; to keep her safe. That was their job …
I have written a previous post on the McCanns – 1st April, 2018 – if anybody is interested. It is a case about which I feel very strongly – as do so many. Many who are scared to voice their anger for fear of contradicting the accepted public stance of blanket sympathy for Kate and Gerry. So it was that the emails chosen to be read out by Jeremy Vine, yesterday, were all of support. One listener referred to them as ‘incredible parents’, adding that her ‘heart goes out to them to this day.’ while Jeremy, himself, was encouraged to agree with the sentiment saying, ‘It’s true, there are a lot of people – newspapers among them – who should publicly apologise when they, finally, get the person who did it.’. Apologise for what, exactly?
Praia da Luz. Once a beautiful tourist destination on the Algarve, now, forever associated with the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The Portuguese authorities – ill-equipped to deal with a case of this magnitude, nor the pressure of the media spotlight – continue to be the chosen fall guys for those who wish to exempt her parents of blame. However, whilst vilified for daring to turn the spotlight on Gerry and Kate, the Portuguese police may have been mistaken in the crime, ironically, the intrinsic guilt of the little girl’s parents was never in doubt.
‘Neither can the wave that has passed by be recalled, nor the hour which has passed return again.’
This is Trish, signing off.