Belgium reopens case with possible link to McCann suspect

Matthieu DEMEESTERE
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McCann went missing from her family's holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007

Belgium reopened an investigation on Thursday into the 1996 murder of a German teenager because of a possible link with the man suspected of murdering British girl Madeleine McCann.

Carola Titze, 16, was found dead and mutilated in July 1996 in the resort town of De Haan on the Belgian coast.

The public prosecutor's office in Bruges "is indeed reopening the file relating to this murder", a spokesman told AFP, without giving further details.

At the time, Titze was on holiday with her parents and the investigation turned to a German suspect in his early 20s.

The man had bragged to her about his criminal past, according to the Belgian media, but he was never found.

Following the identification of the German suspect in the "Maddie" case, Paul Gevaert, the now retired investigator in charge of the Titze murder probe, said there was "certainly a connection to be made".

The suspect, named as 43-year-old "Christian B." by German media, has a history of sex offences, including child abuse and rape.

"The description fits," Gevaert told Belgian newspaper De Standaard.

His investigation was closed unsolved in 2016.

McCann went missing from her family's holiday apartment in Portugal on May 3, 2007, a few days before her fourth birthday, as her parents dined with friends at a nearby tapas bar.

Her disappearance sparked one of the biggest searches of its kind in recent history and became a cause celebre in the British and world media.

Last week, German police raised hopes that the case could finally be solved when they revealed they were investigating the new suspect.

- Missing girls -

According to German police, Christian B. lived in the Algarve in southern Portugal -- where McCann disappeared -- between 1995 and 2007.

Currently held in solitary confinement at Kiel prison in the north of Germany, he is serving a jail term for drug trafficking.

He has refused to speak about the McCann case, one of his lawyers told German television on Thursday.

The possible link between the case of the missing British girl and the Titze investigation in Belgium is not the only one to be raised by investigators since the emergence of Christian B. as a suspect.

In Germany, a five-year-old girl named Inga from the town of Schoenebeck in Saxony-Anhalt in 2015 disappeared without a trace in the woods while on an outing with her family.

And in Portugal, the stepfather of an eight-year-old girl who disappeared in 2004 has asked authorities to explore possible links.

Joana Cipriano disappeared in September 2004 in the village of Figueira, not far from Praia da Luz in the southern Algarve.

She has also never been found.

In the Netherlands, investigators are taking a closer look at the unexplained disappearance in 1995 of Jair Soares, a seven-year-old Portuguese child.

The case was reopened in 2019, but now the Dutch police say they are "closely monitoring" investigations in Germany concerning Christian B., a spokesman told AFP in The Hague.

Soares was last seen on August 4, 1995 on a beach just south of the Dutch capital.

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