A suspect being investigated in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been identified as Christian Brueckner as German prosecutors say the case is being treated as a murder, according to reports.

Met Police revealed on Wednesday that a German child sex offender is now a suspect in the case. Portuguese sources are understood to have told The Telegraph that Brueckner is the suspect in the case – however, police have not yet revealed his name.

The man, 43, is a white German national with short blonde hair, possibly fair, and about 6ft tall with a slim build at the time she vanished. Police said he was seen in the area around the resort of Praia da Luz, on the Algarve coast in the days and weeks ahead of Maddie’s disappearance, in Portugal on May 3, 2007

Germany’s Public Prosecution Office said in a press conference on Thursday: ‘We assume that the girl is dead. It is a sexual offender that has been convicted several times also for sexual abuse against children. He’s currently in prison for a different matter.’

German police revealed that other people may have ‘concrete knowledge’ of the little’s girl’s disappearance, which happened shortly before her fourth birthday.

Christian Hoppe, of Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), told the country’s ZDF television channel that the man is serving a prison sentence for a sex crime and has two previous convictions for ‘sexual contact with girls’.

Mr Hoppe said German police have not ruled out a sexual motive for the alleged crime against Madeleine, which is being treated as murder.

He added that it is possible the suspect may have broken into an apartment in the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz – where Madeleine was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, and her twin siblings Sean and Amelie – before kidnapping her.

A BKA appeal said: ‘There is reason to assume that there are other persons, apart from the suspect, who have concrete knowledge of the course of the crime and maybe also of the place where the body was left.’

It is understood the suspect is carrying out a seven-year prison sentence for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal in 2005, reported German newspaper Braunschweiger Zeitung.

He was convicted of the offence in Braunschweig district court in December last year, the newspaper reported.

A half-hour phone call was made to the suspect’s Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing.

Met Police said the man has been linked to a white and orange VW T3 Westfalia camper van in the Algarve resort from 1995 until 2007.

Scotland Yard said he was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Madeleine’s disappearance and is believed to have been living in it for days or weeks before and after May 3.

They also released images of a black Jaguar XJR 6 that was registered in the suspect’s name and believed to be in Portugal around the time of the disappearance, but was then registered in a different name in Germany in 2007.

Both vehicles have been seized by German police, who said there is information to suggest the suspect may have used one of them in an offence.

Clarence Mitchell, the McCanns’ spokesman, said: ‘The police themselves have called it a significant part of the investigation.

‘It’s the first time in 13 years that I can recall focusing on one individual, not named but clearly identifiable by them and the authorities, in terms of wanting to know extra detail about this movements and the vehicles he was using even down to the phone calls he was apparently receiving on the night where Maddy went missing.’

He added: ‘In my memory of being in the case, police have never been quite so specific about an individual as they have been about this individual. 

‘They make the point that allegiances change. This man is in prison and if he is involved to the extent it appears, then people shouldn’t be afraid to come forward now.’

Scotland Yard is launching a joint appeal with the BKA and the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria (PJ), including a £20,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible of Madeleine’s disappearance.

The Met’s investigation has identified more than 600 people as potentially significant and were tipped off about the German national, already known to detectives, following a 2017 appeal 10 years after she went missing.

She vanished shortly before her fourth birthday and would have turned 17 last month.

This is a breaking news story, more to follow…

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