Madeleine McCann: Witness claims 'police never returned my call' - latest updates in investigation

A friend of prime suspect Christian Brueckner has claimed he flagged concerns about him 15 years ago

Madeleine McCann headshot, British girl  missing during a family holiday in the Algarve region of Portugal, photo
Madeleine McCann was just three years old when she vanished from her family's holiday apartment in Portugal. (AP)

A potential witness in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann said he told police he had concerns about prime suspect Christian Brueckner in 2008 but they "never returned my call".

Helge Busching says he alerted authorities in 2008 that he suspected Brueckner was involved in the toddler's disappearance after he found a videotape of the suspect's that allegedly showed him abusing an elderly woman and teenage girl.

At the time, he said, "That’s when I knew what kind of guy Brueckner was."

Busching, a convicted criminal associate of Brueckner, said he believed Bruckener had made a comment that suggested he knew about the McCann case.

“He asked me, ‘Don’t you go to Portugal anymore and do business there?’. ‘I said, ‘no, since the girl disappeared there, there have been too many police checks for me and I don’t need that at all,’ Helge said in an interview with German outlet Bild.

“[The toddler's disappearance] came up and I said: ‘Anyway, I don’t understand how the little one could have disappeared without a trace.’

“Christian had drunk two or three beers, and he said: ‘She didn’t scream.’

“I thought: He knows that. He has something to do with it. But he also checked that I understood that and then left at night.”

Busching said he called the dedicated hotline to report what he suspected about Brueckner but was never contacted.

“I called Scotland Yard back in 2008,” he said “At the Maddie hotline. I said I knew someone who might have something to do with it and gave them the name. But nothing happened there. Nothing! I was never called back."

It was only in 2017, when Busching contacted them again, that police took his complaint seriously.

Following the tip-off, police in Germany took up the investigation and the tape that Helge had seen was also turned over to the authorities.

Brueckner has consistently denied any involvement in Madeleine's disappearance.

Yahoo runs down the latest key updates in the search for the truth about what happened to her.

Reservoir search

In May, police investigating Brueckner conducted a search of the area around the Barragem do Arade reservoir in Portugal, which he described as his "paradise".

The reservoir is around a 40-minute drive from the hotel where Madeleine disappeared and was the first major operation of its kind since June 2014, when British police were given permission to do digs in Praia da Luz that involved sniffer dogs trained in detecting bodies and ground-penetrating radar.

SILVES, PORTUGAL - MAY 25: Portuguese police investigators dismantle base camp at the end of the three-day search for remains of Madeleine McCann at Barragem do Arade Reservoir on May 25, 2023 in Silves, Portugal. British girl, Madeleine McCann, aged 3, went missing from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia Da Luz on the Portuguese Algarve in May 2007. German Prosecutors believe that a German national convicted of child sex offences was responsible for her abduction and possible death. The suspect is known to have visited the Portuguese reservoir several times in 2007. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos/Getty Images)
Portuguese police investigators dismantle base camp at the end of the three-day search for remains of Madeleine McCann. (Getty Images)

The reservoir is near Silves where a lorry driver says he saw a woman handing a child-like Madeleine McCann over to a man two days after she went missing from her Praia da Luz holiday apartment on 3 May 2007.

The Braunschweig Public Prosecutor's Office said after the search: "A number of items were seized as part of the operation. These will be evaluated in the coming days and weeks.

"It is not yet possible to say whether some of the items are actually related to the Madeleine McCann case."

According to Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha, a clue was found during digging after teams focused on a specific area of the reservoir - with sources saying pieces of clothing and plastic were among items found on the site that are set to be sent for forensic analysis.

However, the McCann family may face a wait of months before the results of the analysis return, according to The Mirror, which reported that evidence had been sent to Germany in a process that may not yield results for many weeks.

Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter Madeleine disappeared from a holiday flat in Portugal ten years ago, speak during an interview with the BBC's Fiona Bruce at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough, Britain April 28, 2017.   Photograph taken April 28, 2017.   REUTERS/Joe Giddens/Pool     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Kate and Gerry McCann have refused to give up on their daughter, 16 years on from her disappearance. (Reuters)

According to the Sun, investigators looked through more than 8,000 photographs belonging to Brueckner and believe there are other locations that could yield further clues in Madeleine's disappearance.

A source told the newspaper that the photographs led investigators to the reservoir but that "there are other places that have come up in the pictures too".

German authorities have not revealed why they have requested access to the site, only to say it is in relation to the McCann case.

Who is Christian Brueckner?

Convicted paedophile Brueckner, 45, remains the prime suspect, but he has yet to face any charges and denies involvement.

The German national is currently serving a seven-year sentence for raping a 72-year-old US woman in 2005 in the Algarve – the same region of Portugal from where McCann disappeared.

In 2020 German police named a man they thought was "probably" responsible for the girl's abduction and murder – describing him only as "Christian B" due to the country's strict privacy laws.

He was then declared an official suspect by Portuguese police in April 2022, with subsequent reports suggesting authorities in Germany were poised to charge him.

Foto difundida el 8 de junio del 2020 por la policía italiana de un hombre identificado como Christian Brueckner, al momento de su arresto en el 2018 (Carabinieri via AP)
Convicted sex offender Christian Brueckner is the prime suspect of Madeleine's disappearance, but he is still yet to be charged with her abduction. (AP)

Born in Germany in 1976, Brueckner was 17 when he was convicted of molesting a six-year-old girl in a playground in his hometown of Wuerzburg, Bavaria, in 1994.

The following year, after he'd turned 18 and got his driving licence, he moved to the Algarve with his then-girlfriend in 1995, escaping a youth custody sentence and abandoning a car mechanic apprenticeship.

Brueckner took on a variety of odd jobs at the Portuguese resort.

He was convicted in 2017 of sexually abusing a child and "creating and possessing child pornographic material" in Germany and sentenced to 15 months in jail.

In December 2019, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for the rape of an American woman. He is also being investigated for the rape of an Irish tour rep in 2004.

In April this year, five unrelated charges of rape and sexual assault against Brueckner were thrown out by a German court because he lived in a different region of the country at the time of the alleged offences.

The court’s decision means legal authorities in Braunschweig have no jurisdiction over Madeleine’s case.