Rape trial involving Madeleine McCann suspect adjourned over alleged ‘assassination’ posts

Alleged victims of Christian Brückner include Dublin woman

A rape trial involving Christian Brückner, prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, was adjourned in its opening moments on Friday after a lay judge was confronted with social media posts calling for the assassination of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

The unexpected twist, nine minutes after the highly-awaited trial began, means proceedings will continue in a week’s time with Brückner facing two counts of indecent assault and three counts of rape – including of an Irish woman.

Led into court in handcuffs on Friday morning, Brückner wore a crumpled blue jacket and a neutral expression and appeared more gaunt than in police photographs.

The trial at Braunschweig regional court, which began with an hour’s delay due to a visitor security bottleneck, is being heard by three full-time judges and two lay judges. After preliminary remarks the trial was halted before it could begin when Brückner’s defence team filed a motion rejecting one of the lay judges on grounds of bias.


Defence lawyer Friedrich Fülscher questioned whether one lay judge, a female child physiotherapist sworn in moments earlier, “would respect the constitutional rights” of the defendant. He began reading a series of social media posts from an account with her name, calling for the murder of former president Bolsanaro over his backing for rainforest clearings. “Kill this b*****d! He is a destroyer and has to be eliminated,” the woman allegedly posted on social media..

Mr Fülscher said “a fair trial and that is not possible with this woman”.

After a 30-minute recess the state prosecutor agreed it was likely the woman had made the posts and backed the motion to dismiss her – indicating the woman many now herself end up in court. “Incitement to murder and manslaughter are not things we tolerate,” said state prosecutor Ute Lindemann. “Such a person cannot be a lay judge.”

The court will make a final decision on whether to replace the lay judge ahead of the next sitting in a week’s time.

German lay judges are drawn by lot from a volunteer pool for a four-year term, according to a court spokesman, with minimal background checks.

Brückner’s lawyers plan to lodge further motions, arguing the defendant is unlikely to face a fair trial due to the scale and nature of reporting linking him to the three-year-old’s disappearance.

Brückner has been a suspect since 2013 in the German investigation into the disappearance of British child Madeleine McCann in 2007. He is serving a seven-year prison sentence for rape in Oldenburg.

In total 40 witnesses are listed to testify, including a Dublin woman. She was 20 years old and working as a waitress in Portugal in June 2004 when a masked man she identifies as Brückner broke into her apartment. She says he attacked and raped her at knifepoint and filmed the four-hour attack.

She told police her attacker had blond hair, piercing blue eyes and spoke with a German accent.

Two additional witness said they saw someone resembling the German man enter the woman’s apartment complex at dawn – with one claiming they saw Brückner without his mask.

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Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin