22 Mar, 2024 @ 16:10
5 mins read

MADDIE LINK: Is new hunt for missing Inga Gehricke linked to white van once leased by chief Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner? 

FOR five days this month, around 70 police officers have scoured deep woodland around a charity facility that ran programmes for sex offenders in Germany.

They hope to find clues to what happened to five-year-old Inga Gehricke, often described as the ‘German Maddie’.

And it is not just that the two girls looked so similar that brought the comparison to Madeleine McCann, who vanished, age 3, during a family holiday in Portugal in 2005: both of them vanished at the beginning of May and both disappeared without almost a single trace.

In the case of Inga, she had been helping prepare for a family barbecue next to the Wilhelmshof facility, run by a church charity called Diakonie, which sits isolated in the heart of a forest, near the village of Uchtspringe, in Saxony

Still missing – Inga Gehricke

It was May 2, 2015, and she had gone off to get sticks from the woods that surrounded a picnic area next to where the charity is based.

She never came back and the only evidence of her abduction was a scream reported by a local farmer and a witness who spotted a white van driving away down a narrow lane around the time.

This vehicle has never been identified, but today, it can be revealed, detectives might just be one step closer to solving the mystery.

German cops are making a request to impound a white van being driven by Maddie suspect Christian Brueckner at the time Inga vanished.

VAN AT THE LAIR: Brueckner’s white Sprinter was pictured by a pal at his box factory. COPYRIGHT: OLIVE PRESS /JON CLARKE/ RAINER BURKARD

After a tip off from the Olive Press, detectives from the BKA headquarters in Wiesbaden said they intended to inspect the top-of-the-range Mercedes Sprinter that Brueckner drove for a number of years.

Police confirmed this week that a request was being made to the official Rosier Mercedes dealership in Braunschweig.

They want to take possession of the van, which was pictured (see pic) at Brueckner’s derelict box factory, in Neuwegersleben, just 90 kilometres from where Inga vanished.

An employee at the Mercedes garage in Gartenstadt, confirmed to the Olive Press that it might still have DNA traces of ‘anyone kept inside’.

A female employee confirmed that Brueckner had rented the van with them, but could not give out any specific details due to data protection laws.

“But we are fully aware of the name Brueckner and are happy to give the details to the police,” she confirmed.

“They only need to make an official request and we can give them the details and they can fully inspect it.”

She added: “We cleaned it and repaired it but it wouldn’t have been wiped of all DNA. 

“There could still be hairs and other traces of anyone who was kept inside.”

Sex offender Brueckner, 47, was officially investigated over his involvement in the Inga case in 2016 and again in 2020 but police could find no concrete links.

The derelict factory where Brueckner lived. Picture: Olive Press

At the time of her disappearance, he was living on and off at his derelict factory, where police later found a giant hoard of child pornography, some 8,000 films and photos, on eight storage devices.

Kept in a Lidl bag buried under the dead body of his dog, Charlie, they featured around 100 files that he appeared in (see photo).

Nearby in a larger winnebago he slept in, they found clothing, including swimming costumes in children’s sizes.

Furthermore, the convicted paedophile was unable to give an alibi for May 2 and the day before, he was involved in a traffic accident in Helmstedt, just an hour away. 

Traffic cops got involved when Brueckner clipped a car at the Helmstedt service station on the A2 motorway.

A source told the Olive Press that he believes Brueckner attended an official rehabilitation programme for paedophiles at the Diakonie charity facility.

The Wilhelmshof facility

“Police told me he kept in touch with one of the staff at the facility,” said the source. “He had a friend there. I’m trying to confirm a name.”

Despite attempts we were unable to get further information on the sex offenders programme or apparent links to Brueckner from Diakonie.

Brueckner however, became a suspect in the Inga case in 2016, three years after officially being first asked to answer questions over his involvement in the Maddie case. 

He was probed again in 2020, after being confirmed as the official suspect in the ‘murder’ of Maddie, in Praia da Luz, on the Algarve.

A friend of Brueckner’s told the Olive Press: “He had the white Sprinter for years, from around 2013 to the end of 2015, if not early 2016, I think.”

The pal, who worked at his kiosk/bar in Braunschweig, added: “He drove around Europe with it and even took a girlfriend to Portugal and Spain with it.

“I went in it a few times with him, even to the box factory, and he used it all the time to move his stolen goods around.

“He had regular routes around Germany, south to Italy and through France and Spain.

“Then suddenly he decided to give it back.

“It only cost 315 euros a month, but he claimed he had got behind in the payments and the garage was demanding it back.

“He’s not stupid and knew the garage would get the police onto him if he didn’t give it back.”

He continued that ‘like all his vehicles’ the van had considerable damage and was dirty.

“He had quite a few accidents with it and there were lots of scratches. He was always driving drunk,” he claimed. “I expect the garage bosses were pretty angry at its state.”

This week, a police officer at the BKA told the Olive Press: “We are onto this now and appreciate the tip. We are getting in touch with the Rosier garage.”

List of finds at the box factory including 8,000 films and photos

Brueckner, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence for the rape of a pensioner, is currently on trial for five other sex offences, three against children, all taking place in Portugal between 2000 and 2017.

The trial in Braunschweig has just been extended for up to 12 more days and running into October.

As well as three new dates in August, lawyers must also make themselves available on July 5, three dates in September and four in October running up until October 22.

The disappearance of Inga Gehricke became the largest missing persons search in German history, so far involving 1,500 police and emergency personnel.

After complaints of corruption and failures to follow up leads the case was taken away from police in Stendal and handed to a new team in nearby Halle last year.

Police on their latest search for Inga

Today marks the fifth day cops have searched for clues to her disappearance this month alone.

Starting at 8am and continuing to 2pm the teams of officers and dogs have so far found nothing.

“But with every search we expand the area in which we are looking,” BKA police spokesman Alexander Junghans explained to Bild.

“We just hope to find further clues related to the disappearance of little Inga.”

Prosecutor Thomas Kramer, in charge of the probe said in December: “Police investigators from Halle continue to evaluate all documents, clues and evidence found so far.”

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