16 Feb, 2024 @ 15:44
4 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: Chaos on first day of Christian Brueckner trial: Madeleine McCann suspect, 47, sees court case postponed over a judge’s bizarre tweets

By Jon Clarke in Braunschweig

A TECHNICALITY over a rogue tweet of a lay judge has postponed the opening day of the trial of Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner.

The German paedophile, 47, is in the dock for a range of sex crime charges, including multiple rapes and attacks against children.

However the first day of his trial ended in chaos upon the discovery of ‘concerning’ tweets from the part-time support judge Britta Donckel.

One random post threatened to kill the former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonero for his ‘destruction of the rainforest’. 

READ MORE: REVEALED: How Brueckner ‘joked that Madeleine McCann was in his basement’

In the dock: Brueckner at first day of trial in Germany on Friday (CREDIT: OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

The tweets brought the first day’s proceedings to a halt after just two hours.

It came after Brueckner, suspected of being behind the disappearance of British toddler McCann in Portugal in 2007, was led into the court in handcuffs.

Pictured for the first time since his mugshot arrest in Milan, in Italy in 2018, he looked frail and nervous.

Flanked by three bulky prison officers he was led into court in handcuffs, hidden by a blue file and sat in between his lawyer Dr Friedrich Fulscher and fellow brief Professor Dr Bock.

The Olive Press was in court to hear Kiel-based Fulscher make a nine-minute opening statement slamming the ‘aggressive’ and ‘irresponsible’ tweets of judge Donckel.

Speaking in German, the gathered English press pack, plus journalists from Spain, Portugal and Ireland, only managed to pick up the words ‘Twitter’, ‘X’, ‘Bolsonero’ and ‘James Palmer’.

Brueckner arrives in handcuffs at first day of multiple sex crimes trial in Germany (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

It soon became apparent that the lay judge, one of a panel of five judges, had actually written ‘kill the b*****d now’ and ‘kill the devil’, referring to Bolsonaro.

She had also called for the death of American hunter James Palmer, who had infamously killed 13-year-old Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe without a permit. 

It, perhaps understandably, led Dr Fulscher to insist she was unfit to judge his client and could not be relied upon.

After a dramatic 30-minute recess, in which Brueckner was led out to a holding cell again in handcuffs, the court adjourned with Judge Dr. Christina Engemann agreeing.

Despite there being three other lay judges already sworn in it was decided that the delay meant the trial should be rescheduled to begin again next Friday.

Bizarre: Tweets by a lay judge in Germany that caused case to be postponed (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)
The public witnesses to the case included the father of an ex-girlfriend, Dieter Fehlinger and his wife (pictured), as well as former local friends from Braunschweig (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

While frustrating for the international media and around two dozen members of the public, who had made it to the court by 8am today, one of the four prosecution team – all women – told the Olive Press it was ‘actually good news’.

The lawyer, who we are not identifying, said: “It’s good news as we don’t need a loose cannon who uses words like that in the case either.

“It will be better for us with a substitute judge and gives the defence the belief they have had a small early victory, but we’ll come storming back next week.

“It won’t stop the trial.”

Olive Press publisher Jon Clarke (right) at the court in Germany, moments before Brueckner enters (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

This afternoon, part of the legal team of Irish victim Hazel Behan, told the Olive Press: “It’s just another stunt. Delays are always going to happen, but we are still 100% convinced he was her attacker.

“We are confident in the BKA investigation and what they have found. They have convinced us they have more than enough evidence and Hazel is still completely sure Christian was her attacker. Justice will still be done.”

Hazel, then 20, had been savagely attacked in a four-hour late night assault, which her assailant filmed.

It took place in Portimao, close to where Christian B then lived in Praia da Luz, where Madeleine McCann was snatched from her holiday apartment in May 2007.

Brueckner – who is an official suspect in that crime, in both Portugal and Germany – has been accused of five other sex crimes that all took place in Portugal between the years 2000 and 2017.

Media frenzy outisde the courthouse in Germany on Friday (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

He is currently in prison for seven years for the sadistic rape of a 72-year-old American pensioner, also in Praia da Luz.

Brueckner – who has at least 17 other convictions – had arrived at Braunschweig Court at 7.54am in a grey VW Transporter van. 

He had left Oldfield Prison two hours earlier and was swapped into another van along the route as a decoy for potential attackers or the media.

He looked distinctly unwell and thin, wearing a light grey linen jacket, darker linen trousers and a mauve shirt.

He tried to look unmoved and stared blankly at one spot throughout the entire time he sat in court.

His lawyer Fulscher put his unhealthy look down to his prison regime and the media.

“He’s been two years in solitary confinement, so of course he is not healthy,” he said.

“He found the media presence extremely stressful because the media are here for the Madeleine case, not this one. He is in poor physical health.”

Media prepares to enter the court room for first day of Brueckner trial (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

The public witnesses to the case included the father of an ex-girlfriend, Dieter Fehlinger and his wife, as well as former local friends from Braunschweig.

Fehlinger told the Olive Press he was desperate to see ‘justice done for his victims’.

After driving four hours from his home in Schweinfurt, he said: “I’m pleased I came just to set eyes on him one last time.”

His daughter, who he no longer speaks to, had dated Brueckner in Portugal and stayed in touch for years.

The retired bus driver, 69, had met Brueckner in Portugal in the spring of 2007 and was shown around his ‘enormous’ winnebago, in which he claimed to have an adapted space ‘small enough to smuggle a child’.

“He said he used it to smuggle drugs. I couldn’t believe it when he said that, but when I watched the German TV appeal in 2013 I knew immediately he was involved in the Maddie case.

“And to believe this man was dating my daughter and even looking after my granddaughter. It makes my flesh crawl.”

He added: “I just hope he finally faces justice for all the awful things he’s done.”

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

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