Police reopen rape investigation linked to Madeleine McCann suspect


Police reopen rape investigation linked to Madeleine McCann suspect

Portuguese police have reopened an investigation into the unsolved rape of a woman linked to Madeleine McCann suspect Madeleine McCann (Picture: ITV/Reuters)

Police in Portugal have reopened an investigation into the unsolved rape of an Irish woman who believes she may have been attacked by the main suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Hazel Behan, 37, was working as a holiday rep in Praia da Rocha on the Algarve coast when a masked intruder held a knife to her throat, tied and gagged her, then repeatedly raped her in June 2004.

She said she threw up after reading that the German drifter suspected in the McCann case, Christian Brueckner, had been convicted of carrying out a similar attack on an American woman a year later.

Ms Behan contacted the Scotland Yard detectives working on Madeleine’s case, who then alerted their Portuguese counterparts.

A handout picture made available to Reuters on July 16, 2020 from the Carabinieri military police shows a man identified as Christian Brueckner, at the time when he was arrested in 2018, under an international warrant for drug trafficking and other crimes. Carabinieri/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. DO NOT OBSCURE LOGO. MANDATORY CREDIT.

German authorities announced they were investigating Christian Brueckner last month (Picture: Reuters)

A source told Sky News: ‘Detectives are looking again for new evidence and the investigation is reopened.’

The investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance was renewed in June after German authorities announced they were investigating Brueckner, a convicted German child sex offender.

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He is currently in a German jail for drug dealing, and is appealing against a conviction for the 2005 rape of the 72-year-old American woman at Praia da Luz.

Ms Behan told the Guardian last month: ‘My mind was blown when I read how he had attacked a woman in 2005, both the tactics and the methods he used, the tools he had with him, how well he had planned it out.

‘I puked, to be honest with you, as reading about it took me right back to my experience.’

However, vital forensic evidence potentially bearing the attacker’s DNA was destroyed, as is routine in Portuguese cases where detectives are unable to identify a suspect.

The extraordinary decision was revealed in court documents relating to Ms Behan’s case.

She described her attacker as white, slim, with blonde hair and blue eyes and possibly German.

Should police be able to gather enough evidence to link Brueckner with the attack, he is unlikely to be charged due to Portugal’s 15-year statute of limitations on rape investigations.

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