A DANGEROUS paedophile linked to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann spent long periods of time in southern Spain, the Olive Press can reveal.
Convicted rapist Christian Brueckner was a regular visitor to the Alpujarras area of Granada, where he bought and sold drugs.
The Olive Press has discovered that the German sex offender, 43, would frequently stop en route to Portugal or Germany, in his various buses or vans.
And chillingly, he was seen in the area with an expensive new winnebago just weeks after the toddler went missing from Portugal in May 2007.
“He was there in various vans and he came many times in his Jaguar,” said his close friend Michael ‘Micha’ Tatschl, 46, who lived in the town of Orgiva for many years.
Austrian Tatschl – who had previously shared a home with him on the Algarve – told the Olive Press: “I am sure he snatched Maddie. I know he did it. He was a pervert and a very strange man.”
The carpenter and petty criminal, who spent eight months in prison with Brueckner, knew the German well and lived with him for years.
The pair even shared a run-down finca in Praia da Luz, which overlooked the seaside resort where Maddie was snatched.
He knew Christian was an excellent burglar, who stole hundreds of passports, and they even got convicted together for stealing fuel from lorries in 2006.
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After a two-day grilling by German police last year, he expected an arrest to be ‘imminent’ and he ‘cannot believe’ Portuguese detectives have still not yet searched the former home they shared.
The father-of-one, who now lives near Graz, revealed that the German had a huge stash of cash hidden in the attic, as well as dozens of expensive watches.
Speaking for the first time, he revealed: “I know he did it. I was living with him at the time. He was my best friend and he was definitely a pervert and more than capable of snatching a child, for sexual kicks or money.
“I was staying at his house and camping in a van in the garden. We spent a lot of time together and had good fun.
“He had a German girlfriend who was at least 20 years older than him. I can’t remember her name but she lived a few miles out of town.
“He was always very smart and snappy in the way he dressed. He always had good shoes and sometimes even wore a suit to go out.
“He liked to walk into town so he could drink and get home easily. He did not take drugs at the time and liked to have a drink.”
But while Micha had fun hanging out with the German, he became aware of his dark side.
“He was definitely quite a strange character… how to explain it? Well he was always quite criminal… He liked to brag about the crimes he had done and planned to do… And how he aimed to steal as much money as he could until he reached his dream of having €1 million. Then he would stop.”
Talking by phone at his ex-girlfriend’s home in the village of Tablones, near Orgiva, he added: “It was rich pickings there in Praia da Luz. He was always breaking into apartments in the area and bragging about it to me… He was a very good burglar and would easily climb up to 1st floor apartments when tourists were out.
“He particularly liked European Championships or big football games when everyone would be out watching the game in bars.
“He would climb up to the first floor and steal everything, lots of money, valuables and so many passports. In fact hundreds of passports and lots of Rolexes and other expensive watches.
“He had a hiding place in the house in the rafters. He had all the money and passports hidden up there.
“It was his stash and when we were taken to prison, he ordered a friend to go into the house and clear it up and get rid of any evidence of burglaries or robberies.”
But it was this decision that may ultimately lead to his conviction of Maddie, as the friend and another mate, both German, found a series of sick videos that Christian kept there.
In particular, they found a video camera with a video of him raping an old woman.
“That’s how I found out he was a sick bastard, as they told me it was of this elderly lady who was chained to a wooden post and she was being beaten and raped.
“They said ‘hey Mika what should we do with this?’ I said ‘I really don’t know, I don’t want to see it’ and I think they ended up burning it.
“I told the police all about that story and I hope they verified it somehow.
“On top of that, Christian was always on the dark web. He would talk about it and always had internet in the houses he rented. I don’t know exactly what he did but I suspect it involved drugs and pornography.
“He was always bragging about money and making money. He even talked about selling kids maybe to Morocco…and I think he probably sold Maddie to someone. Maybe a sex ring.
“I didn’t really think about it at the time. Just brushed it off as joking. But I admit I got sucked into some of his schemes.
“Taking fuel seemed pretty harmless and we did it for a few months.
“The cops caught us red handed, caught us stealing diesel and we got 8-and-a-half months in prison on remand waiting for a trial in Portimao.
“It’s just a small prison, so we got to spend a lot of time together. We were caught on April 7, 2006, but we didn’t have our actual trial until December 21. I don’t know why they kept us for so long and I ended up with a €1800 fine, while Christian got a little bit more as he was rude to the judge he said ‘fuck you’ and the judge naturally gave him a bigger fine.”
After spending a few weeks back in Austria for Christmas he came back in February to find Christian was now living in his distinctive white and yellow VW van, having lost his rental home.
“But he was still enjoying living in the Praia da Luz area. I think that confused the police a little as they were not sure where he was living exactly when Maddie vanished.
“He was living free, going to raves and I think selling drugs to the local party crowd. He also had his Jaguar parked up somewhere.”
Micha however, decided to move back to Spain, partly because he hadn’t paid his fine and also to attend the Dragon Festival in Orgiva in March that year.
“The Dragon Festival was fun and the next time I saw him was in late May or early June 2007 when he arrived in Spain with his big American campervan, the Winnebago, the one with the (childrens) swimsuits.
“He parked it up in Orgiva and came looking for me. It was the only reason he had come to Orgiva to find me. He knew that I was living there and he knew I had connections to the marijuana world and could help him make money.
“He had a big dog, an old dog, a big brown and white dog called Charlie I think… But otherwise he was on his own.”
There were certainly suspicions however, about where he had got his money.
“We all wondered where he’d got this big expensive van which he parked it up by a French group who had a big sound system.
“I remember specifically having a conversation with an English guy who lived there called ‘Pops’ and we both said how on earth could have had that vehicle? where did he get the money from? We assumed a big drug deal or something like that. Now I suspect it was Maddie.
“He was only there that time for a couple of days and went on back to Germany selling marijuana.
“After that he was often coming backwards and forwards to Spain and to Portugal, mostly dealing drugs, and we often saw him here with this Jaguar.”
It was only when Micha watched the in-depth Netflix documentary in March last year on the case, that he finally realised Christian may have snatched Maddie.
“I knew immediately that he was guilty. The part where the female tourist talked about the man turning up at her door while her child played by the front door, the creepy guy with acne and blonde hair… I just knew it was Christian.”
It is a bit unclear what happened next but within weeks there was a knock at the door at his village near Graz and four policemen asked him to escort them to the police station.
“It was the first week of April last year and there were two Austrian police and two German Police. I told them my story over 14 hours from 10 am to 6 pm on the first day and then from 10 am until 4 pm the next day.
“They were very clear with me from the first minute. They said ‘we are investigating Maddie McCann and Christian Bruckner’ and I told them I was convinced it was him.
“I told them I know what you want. I hope I can help.
“I hope my information leads to a conviction and I now wish I had gone to the police earlier. It is just I don’t like the police because of my criminal past.
“I just dread to think of what other crimes he may have committed since.
“He was definitely a pervert and all his friends thought that about him. He had some sexual issues but we didn’t think that he liked young children.
“He was certainly in Orgiva quite a few times since then…many times with his Jaguar and other vehicles and normally transporting hashish.
“What sort of crimes might he have committed there? I know there have been some sex crimes around the area over the last decade and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was involved.
“I really hope they can finally close this case for the family and find Christian guilty for what he has done. He needs to admit it to the police and close it for good.
“At least I’m sure he’s having a terrible time in prison and everyone is out to kill him. He won’t be having a nice life now and he doesn’t deserve it.”
Did you see Christian Brueckner in southern Spain? Did he camp near you in the Alpujarras on the Costa del Sol?