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Irish woman's rape in Portugal may be linked to Madeleine McCann suspect

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Madeleine McCann (PA)

Madeleine McCann (PA)

Madeleine McCann (PA)

Police in Portugal have reopened their investigation into the rape of Irishwoman Hazel Behan after she came forward to say she believes her attacker may be Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner.

Ms Behan (37) was working as a holiday representative in Praia da Rocha when she was viciously assaulted in June 2004, two weeks before her 21st birthday.

She told police her attacker was about 6ft 1in tall, had "blond eyebrows, piercing blue eyes" and spoke English with a German accent.

The victim believes Brueckner, a key suspect in the Madeleine McCann case, could be her attacker after she noted similarities between his 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz and her own ordeal.

Sky News reported yesterday that Portuguese detectives collected archived files earlier this week in order to reopen the case.

Ms Behan made a statement earlier this year to London Police after Brueckner was identified as a suspect in the McCann case. They said they were taking her case very seriously and would be contacting Portuguese police.

Noeline Blackwell, lawyer and head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said it is "heartening" that police are reopening their investigation.

"One of the things that is going to make progress for us as an Irish and European society is somebody who is the victim can depend on the cooperation between European states and can depend on a high level of knowledge in the area of sexual violence.

"I know from reading reports that she was unhappy with the initial investigation, and what we can do now is hope that progress can now be made."

Brueckner is currently serving a 15-month jail term for drugs trafficking and has applied for early release. He has denied any involvement in Madeleine McCann's disappearance.

There is a 15-year statute of limitations in Portugal, which may impede any charges being brought in Ms Behan's case if police do find evidence.

Ms Behan, who waived her right to anonymity, told The Guardian last month: "My mind was blown when I read how he had attacked a woman in 2005, both the tactics and the methods he used, the tools he had with him, how well he had planned it out.

"I puked, to be honest with you, as reading about it took me right back to my experience."

"This woman was the victim of a horrific crime and she has suffered a lot. It is a matter for police all over Europe to do their best to bring the person who carried out this crime to justice," she said.

"I think if the police had done their job investigating what happened to me, if this is indeed the same man that attacked the American and abducted Madeleine McCann, they might have prevented the attack on her and Madeleine would now be at home with her parents."

Belfast Telegraph