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Madeleine investigators dig up German allotment

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Police officers search an allotment in Hanover, Germany

Police officers search an allotment in Hanover, Germany

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Christian Brueckner

Christian Brueckner

Kate and Gerry McCann hold up a computer enhanced picture of what the older Madeleine might have looked like

Kate and Gerry McCann hold up a computer enhanced picture of what the older Madeleine might have looked like

Getty Images

Police officers search an allotment in Hanover, Germany

Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have searched an allotment in Germany.

Officers started using a digger and sniffer dog at the property in the early hours of yesterday morning.

A spokesperson for the public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig said the search was related to the McCann case but would not give further details.

Suspect Christian Brueckner, who is currently in prison for unrelated offences, formerly lived in both Hanover and Braunschweig - under an hour's drive away.

He reportedly moved to Hanover in 2007 - the year Madeleine disappeared - and was later convicted of forgery and theft by its local district court.

Brueckner is currently in prison for drug dealing, and is appealing a conviction for the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz.

The attack happened a year-and-a-half before Madeleine's disappearance in the same area of Portugal.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said Brueckner had a history of child sex offences and other crimes, including drug trafficking and burgling holiday apartments in Portugal.

Police said the suspect lived in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007 apart from brief spells in Germany.

He moved to Portugal with his then-girlfriend in 1995, while fleeing a prison sentence in Germany.

He had been convicted for child sex abuse for the first time in 1994, and in 2016 he was convicted for child sex abuse and possessing indecent images.

Brueckner is believed to have served prison sentences in Portugal, where he was known to police for drug dealing and breaking into holiday apartments and hotels. The Metropolitan Police previously admitted that he had been among 600 people previously considered potentially significant in the McCann inquiry.

But investigators said he was not considered a suspect until new information was received in response to an appeal made on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance in 2017.

They did not disclose what that information was, but Sky News reported that Brueckner himself had told a friend that he knew what happened to Madeleine in a Portuguese bar.

The BKA said it first received information linking Brueckner to Madeleine's disappearance in 2013, following a television appeal by her parents.

But a senior officer said it was not sufficient to trigger an investigation and "certainly not for arrest".

Documents seen by Der Spiegel said that in that year, he had fantasised about kidnapping and sexually abusing a child in an online chat with a friend.

In September 2013, he allegedly wrote that he wanted to "catch something small and use it for days", and then destroy the evidence.

The BKA is leading the McCann investigation, which it is treating as a murder inquiry, and since Brueckner was revealed as a suspect in June he has been linked to several other unsolved cases.

The Metropolitan Police said they were still treating the case as a missing person investigation, and that they had no "definitive evidence" indicating whether Madeleine is alive or dead.

Madeleine was three when she went missing while on holiday with her family in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007.

German investigators believe Brueckner killed her soon after abducting her from a holiday apartment in the resort.

German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the investigation into Brueckner, previously told the PA news agency that prosecutors have "concrete evidence", but not "forensic evidence" that Madeleine was killed by the suspect.

Mr Wolters said the German authorities may "know more" than Scotland Yard, who are still treating the case as a missing person investigation.

Belfast Telegraph