By Jon Clarke in Braunschweig

THE prosecutor leading the investigation into Madeleine Mccann suspect Christian Brueckner said the case ‘could be solved’ this year.

“We hope to solve the Maddie case, but it will take months,” said Hans-Christian Wolters. “Perhaps we will be able to say something by the end of the year.”

But while the German prosecutor is ‘satisfied’ with the way the probe is going – and has more people working on it ‘than ever before’ – he is more likely to charge Brueckner sooner over two other crimes.

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Jon Clarke meets Hans-Christian Wolter at his office in Braunschweig.

In an exclusive interview to mark a year’s anniversary of an appeal for witnesses, he revealed that the German rapist was being probed over at least five separate cases.

These include the rape of Irish girl Hazel Behan, then 20, and the abuse of children in a playpark on the Algarve in 2017.

He told the Olive Press in Braunschweig that the probe into the Behan case was likely to take ‘a few months more’, while the case of Maddie and two separate cases of child abuse in Portugal might take a little longer.

“The investigation (into Behan) will take a few months more and will probably not be as long as the Maddie case,” he insisted. 

“We only have Christian B as the suspect. However some information is missing, which we are in the process of pulling together.

“We are working with the Irish and Portuguese authorities and it takes a bit of time to get all the information we need. Once we have it all we will close the case. It will continue for a few more months, but not three months as it was recently reported.”

Regarding the two child abuse cases in Portugal, he said they continued to investigate, albeit slowly.

In particular, the case in Sao Bartolomeu de Messines, where Brueckner exposed himself to four or five children late at night in a park during a town fiesta in 2017.

“I think that case was a little bit forgotten in Portugal, because he was extradited back to Germany,” explained Wolters, who works closely with the German BKA police force.

“We have now picked up the investigation and he is facing several years in prison. I cannot say exactly, but it will be two, four or six years. 

“It was sexual abuse and as it is not a first offence the sentence will be higher.”

He added: “It is fair to say that the evidence is perhaps better than in the other cases, but we don’t have everything yet or we would close the case.”

A second child abuse case against a young German girl, 10, that took place near Praia da Luz in April 2007, a month before Maddie went missing, is also progressing.

The girl was grabbed by a naked man, as she played in rock pools, near Salema beach.

“We are investigating Christian B’s possible involvement in this but I can’t say how good the evidence is at this stage,” he added.

“We can only give out more information at the end of the investigation.”

He also confirmed that the Belgian authorities had been in touch and continued to probe Bruckner’s links in the case of Carola Titze, who was killed in July 1996.

In terms of the investigation of Madeleine McCann, who vanished from her bed while on holiday in Praia da Luz, on the Algarve in May 2007, he is more cautious.

He confirmed that his prosecutors department had been working on the case since the summer of 2018, but that Germany’s crack BKA police had launched an investigation a year earlier in 2017.

He said they had received other key information in the Maddie investigation, ‘maybe video, maybe phone’, but it was not the time to confirm exactly what.

In total, they had received ‘more than 1000 tips’ from the public since the appeal last June.

“The majority are from Germany and the UK… and we have been getting at least one tip a day, of varied quality,” he insisted.

He said the amount of information was good and that it was keeping his team ‘of up to 100 men busy’.

“I am only allowed to say we have between 10 and 100 in the group, but it has not got smaller since last year.

“It shows we are still investigating and we have work to do… and as Germany does not have enough police officers, they would be put on other cases if there wasn’t enough to do.”

But he admitted it was a little frustrating the speed of the operation.

“I don’t know if frustrating is exactly the right word but it would be nicer if it went quicker.

“It would certainly be a lot better if we could just pick up the phone and they would tell us if it was true or not.”

He added: “It is also a problem when you have many countries involved.”

He also confirmed that it is unlikely another appeal will be made for information.

“We would prefer to confront the accused and his defence team first before we put our findings out in front of the public,” he added.

“We prefer to confront the accused and give him a chance to respond before going public with these findings.

“We made an exception last year when we were dependent on assistance, but let’s assume I will only be able to give out details when we conclude our investigation, and he will be given the chance to react.”

It is known that Brueckner was in the vicinity of the Ocean Club on the night Maddie went missing as he had a long phone call with an unknown person nearby.

The German, who has a long crime record including three convictions for child pornography and sex abuse, lived for seven years just outside Praia da Luz.

His best friend Michael ‘Micha’ Tatschl told the Olive Press last year that he is ‘certain’ that he snatched Maddie and was always on the darknet.

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