26 Apr, 2024 @ 15:00
5 mins read

EXCLUSIVE: Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner’s van ‘had two hidden compartments’ including one in the FLOOR: Cops search the vehicle for DNA of ‘German Maddie’ Inga Gehricke

EXCLUSIVE By Jon Clarke and Rainer Buckhard in Braunschweig

COPS have discovered a van driven by Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner had secret compartments.

The white Mercedes had been adapted to create two hidden spaces, one in the wall and one in the floor, the Olive Press can reveal.

German detectives seized the Sprinter van from its new owner earlier this month to check for DNA matches with missing Inga Gehricke, 5.

They believe he was driving it when the German toddler – dubbed the ‘German Maddie’ – vanished in remarkably similar circumstances and almost the same date.

READ MORE: ‘Christian Brueckner abused my four-year-old daughter during dog walks in the park’

Christian Brueckner during his ongoing trial in Germany (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)
Police are searching Brueckner’s van for DNA belonging to Inga Gehricht (pictured), dubbed the ‘German Maddie’ for her similar disappearance

They are now scouring it ‘for any DNA links to Maddie or other missing children,’ revealed a spokesman for the official Mercedes dealership.

The woman – who works at the Rosier garage, in Braunschweig, where Brueckner lived for four years – added: “Police turned up a few weeks ago and we passed on the details of the new owner, who lives nearby”.

This week, the new owner, Norbert F, confirmed the van had been dramatically seized, with police telling him it was being ‘impounded over various possible crimes’.

The delivery driver, 45, told the Olive Press: “It was a big shock but at least the police are paying for me to have a new van.”

It comes after we gave a tip off to the German BKA police last month that Brueckner was driving the vehicle at the time Inga was snatched.

We had discovered he had driven it various times to Spain and Portugal, where Maddie, 3, went missing on May 3, 2007.

SEIZED: Brueckner’s white Mercedes Sprinter was taken from new owner Norbert F (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)
Brueckner’s white van at the box factory he owned in Germany (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

Incredibly, Inga – who looked remarkably similar, with blonde hair and blue eyes – also vanished without trace on May 2, 2015.

The only evidence of Inga’s abduction in Saxony-Anhalt was a scream reported by a local farmer, while a witness reported seeing a white van driving away down a narrow nearby lane.

The day before Inga went missing – May 2 – Brueckner was involved in a car accident not far from the Wilmersdorf woods, in Stendal, where the toddler was snatched.

Brueckner allegedly had a friend working at a charity facility for ex-prisoners next door.

He owned a derelict box factory, in Neuwegersleben, just 90 kilometres away, where police later found thousands of child porn videos and photos, many in which Brueckner appeared.

While he has been twice probed over the crime, so far police have been unable to charge him.

The police files, however, were recently transferred to a new force, in Halle, who have reopened the file against him.

So far three recent searches of the area have been inconclusive.

WITNESS: Scotland Yard detective DC Mark Draycott (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

The white van had been returned to the dealership by Brueckner ‘suddenly’ in early 2016.

He handed it back just before fleeing to live in Portugal again, we have established.

It came just after he had been convicted of the abuse of ANOTHER five-year-old, the daughter of an ex-girlfriend Anja K, in Braunschweig.

The Sprinter van had ‘clearly been adapted’ and was ‘badly scratched and dented’, revealed a worker at the Rosier dealership, who spoke to him on the day he returned it.

“I couldn’t help but laugh when he opened the back door as it was in such a bad state,” he said.

“He made a joke and said: ‘It still looks great right!’ and added: ‘I’m sure you can ignore all the scratches out of goodwill’.

Fresh search for Inga in Germany last month

“I said we would be the ones to decide that after we have looked at everything and tell him the cost.”

The employee continued: “As he walked off, he said: ‘It was a really good van’.

He confirmed the garage later discovered ‘a lot of tinkering’ had gone on and it would have been impossible to get it back to a decent shape again.

There were holes drilled in its floor and sides where he had ‘constructed hiding places’ and there was ‘a lot of paint damage’, the tyres were ‘worn out’ and it had ‘never been’ properly cleaned.

There were also a ‘lot of dents’ on the underbelly meaning the convicted paedophile had likely frequently driven it on rough dirt tracks. 

“Basically there wasn’t a spot that wasn’t damaged in some way,” explained the employee. 

He added it would have taken ‘too long’ to get it back to a good shape and it was effectively sold on, via another garage, as a ‘write off’.

Pic 39 One Of The Warehouses At Brueckners Rented German Box Factory
One of the warehouses at Brueckner’s German box factory (COPYRIGHT OLIVE PRESS SPAIN)

“It was a real mess and it could never have been cleaned properly – it was too dirty, too damaged – so we just gave it a basic clean and passed it to another dealer,” he revealed.

“I’m sure if there were DNA traces there, the police will find them.”

According to friends, Brueckner had immediately adapted the Mercedes and drove it on ‘dozens of long trips’ around Europe.

He installed an ‘artificial partition wall’ by ‘attaching panels to the original interior panelling’, explained one pal, who drove with him on a few occasions.

“They were effectively double walls perfect to transport drugs and other things from Portugal and Spain to Germany,” said the pal, who worked at a kiosk he rented in Braunschweig.

“He also installed a secret space in the floor,” he added.

While he reinstalled the original panels before returning the van, he couldn’t fix the holes drilled in the side panels and floor, confirmed the Rosier employee. 

The prosecutor in the case against Christian Brueckner, Hans Christian Wolters, said he was ‘unable’ to comment on the case.

“It is not my jurisdiction, but in another region of Germany,” he told the Olive Press.

A source at the crack German BKA police force, which is investigating the case, said: “Thanks for the tip, we will let you know if and when we find anything.”

He added the force was still looking to track down at least two other vehicles.

The court case against Brueckner over five sex crimes committed in Portugal between 2000 and 2017 continues today.

On Wednesday, the Judge agreed with Brueckner’s lawyers that a detective from Scotland Yard, who has investigated the Maddie case for years, should give evidence.

DC Mark Draycott, who has worked on Operation Grange since 2011, is expected to answer questions next week.

In particular, he was the first policeman to officially interview witness Helge Busching, who told him about Brueckner’s sex crimes in Greece in 2018.

He and his immediate boss, hired a hotel room in Athens to grill the former German associate of Brueckner’s about his knowledge of the Maddie case and about the rape videos he allegedly made.

He is not expected to answer any questions about the Maddie case, which will follow on from this current trial.

This week, a retired judge who caged Bruckner for seven years in 2019 for a sickening rape of a pensioner in Portugal, explained her reasoning for her decision.

Judge Gerstin Dreyer recalled the evidence, including the fact that Portuguese Police found a hair of Brueckner’s on the bed of the American Diana Menkes, 72, in Praia da Luz.

The convicted paedophile had filmed the long late night attack in which he sadistically beat her before raping her.

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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