Prosecutor disputes claim McCann suspect to be charged with Irish woman’s rape

Christian Brückner is chief suspect in child’s disappearance and for assault of Hazel Behan

A German prosecutor has said media reports which claimed the chief suspect for the disappearance of Madeleine McCann would soon face charges for the rape of an Irish woman in Portugal are "not correct".

Christian Brückner is suspected of attacking Hazel Behan, then 20-years-old, in her apartment in Praia da Rocha on the Algarve in June, 2004. A stranger broke into her home and subjected her to a violent ordeal over several hours.

The scene of the attack, at Praia da Rocha, on the then hotel worker was a 30-minute drive from where Madeleine (3) was abducted, in Praia da Luz, while on a family holiday in May, 2007. Brückner lived in the area for 12 years, which covered the times of the British child's disappearance and the attacks on Ms Behan and an elderly American woman, who was raped in Praia da Luz in September, 2005.

Reports in the media, initially in Britain on Sunday and in Ireland on Monday, quoted German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters suggesting Brückner would likely be charged with the rape of Ms Behan and that this would happen within about three months.

However, when contacted by The Irish Times, Mr Wolters, the lead prosecutor in the case, said that “unfortunately” the reports this weekend were “not correct”. He took issue with both the certainty attributed to him that the suspect would be charged with the rape of Ms Behan and also the time frame attributed to him for those charges.

“I did not say that we would charge Christian B in the case of Hazel B in the next three months,” he said, using the versions of the suspect’s and victim’s names that has been used by prosecutors, who do not use full names.

“In fact, the investigation is ongoing and will probably continue for several months. Currently it is not foreseeable whether there will be an indictment.”

Brückner, a 43-year-old German, has been convicted of the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz in 2005 and is now serving a seven-year term in Germany for that crime. As he serves his sentence, he is being investigated for other crimes, including the abduction of Madeleine McCann who police believe was murdered.

Brückner is also being investigated for the rape of Ms Behan, who has waived her anonymity and spoken a number of times in the media about the ordeal she was subjected to. She contacted the police last year when she heard about Brückner’s conviction for the attack on the 72-year-old American woman.

“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,” Ms Behan told The Guardian last year. “I puked, to be honest with you, as reading about it took me right back to my experience.”

Ms Behan, who lives in Ireland with her family, made a complaint to the Met Police last year as Scotland Yard’s inquiry into the child’s disappearance is working alongside the German investigation into all of Brückner’s alleged crimes.

The details Ms Behan supplied resulted in her case being reopened. Brückner was also named last year as the chief suspect in the Madeleine McCann case.

Ms Behan has been very critical of the Portuguese police’s investigation of the attack but information she has given to the police, including about birth marks on her attacker’s legs, appears to match Brückner.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times