Irish woman 'raped by Maddie suspect' speaks out after he is charged

Irish woman ‘raped by Madeleine McCann suspect’ says she is ‘delighted I am finally going to see justice’ as he is charged with sexually assaulting her

  • Christian Brueckner, main suspect in Maddie disappearance, charged with five sex crimes in the Algarve dating from 2000 until 2017 
  • Hazel Behan, now 39, was raped in June 2004 and believes he was the attacker
  • She has spoken out, saying she is ‘delighted I am going to finally see justice’ 
  • Brueckner’s lawyer said charges are ‘a surprise’ based on discredited evidence

An Irish woman raped at knifepoint in Portugal 18 years ago by a man she believes is the chief suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance has spoken of her ‘delight’ after he was charged. 

Hazel Behan, now 39, was attacked inside a holiday apartment in Praia da Rocha – 10 miles from Praia da Luz, where Maddie vanished – in June 2004 by ‘a German man with piercing blue eyes’ who broke in via the balcony. 

Christian Brueckner, the man German prosecutors believe abducted Maddie in May 2007, has now been charged with Ms Behan’s rape and four other sex crimes carried out in the same area between 2000 and 2017.

Ms Behan, who previously waived her right to anonymity to speak about her ordeal, said yesterday that she believed there was ‘zero chance’ Brueckner would ever face court over the allegations and she is ‘delighted’ at her chance to get justice.

Hazel Behan, now 39, was raped aged 20 inside a holiday apartment in Praia da Rocha, Portugal, by a man she believes is the main suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance (pictured speaking about the attack in 2020)

Christian Brueckner (left), was yesterday charged with Ms Behan’s rape and a string of four other sex offences said to have taken place in the Algarve between 2000 and 2017. He is also suspected of kidnapping Maddie (right) from the same area in 2007, but has not been charged

She said: ‘I am delighted that after many hours and days of interviews in Ireland and Germany I am finally going to see justice. It was the most horrific attack.’

Ms Behan, aged 20 and working as a holiday rep at the time of the assault, says a mask-wearing attacker scaled the outside of her apartment as she slept and climbed in through the balcony. 

She awoke to find herself being held at knifepoint. She says the man then beat her, tied her up and raped her while filming the attack.

Speaking to Olive Press, she added: ‘It was very hard and gruelling going back over the attack, having to spend over 20 hours with detectives in Ireland and then three days with police in Germany.

‘But the specific dedicated teams in both countries were so sensitive and good at taking me back to my room that night.

‘I always said from the get-go that my attacker was a German with piercing blue eyes and a voice I would recognise immediately.

‘When Brueckner’s name was released in connection to the Madeleine case, I knew it was him. It made me sick to the core.

‘I knew I had zero chance of justice, but thanks to all of the campaigning and the perseverance of Madeleine’s amazing parents, today, 18 long years after my rape, I have an opportunity to see my attacker behind bars (for my crime).’

Brueckner was also charged with two rapes said to have taken place some time between 2000 and 2006 – one on a 14-year-old girl and another on a woman aged between 70 and 80 years old – both at his apartment in Praia da Luz.

He is also accused of ambushing a 10-year-old German girl playing on the beach at Salema in April 2007 – close to where Madeleine vanished just a month later – in the district of Faro in Portugal, wearing only shoes and otherwise naked.

He allegedly forced her to watch him perform a sex act. 

Ten years later, he is said to have carried out a similar crime against a girl at a playground at Bartolomeu de Messines in Portugal. 

Prosecutors say the girl ran to her father for help and the suspect was arrested by Portuguese police at the scene.

Brueckner’s lawyer Friedrich Fulscher said the new charges had come as a ‘complete surprise’ to him and his client, and said they were based on ‘dubious witnesses and on video evidence that no one has been able to find’.

The charges in relation to the rapes of the two unknown women come after police were told about a video recording of Brueckner allegedly attacking them.

Helge Busching and Manfred Seyferth – two key witnesses and former friends of Brueckner’s – are said to have stolen the camera with the recording on it from the German’s house near Praia da Luz on Portugal’s Algarve coast.

In the footage – which has since disappeared – they describe how an elderly woman and a young girl are raped by a man who they identify as Brueckner.

Under German law, German nationals accused of crimes in other countries can be tried in their home country.

Investigators believe the 45-year-old also killed Madeleine, then three, after abducting her from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007. 

However, he has not been charged with her disappearance.

Brueckner, who has denied any involvement in the case, was identified as a suspect in the McCann case by Portuguese officials in June 2020.

But the fact that Brueckner has not been charged for Madeleine’s disappearance from the holiday apartment of parents Kate and Gerry in Praia da Luz will bring fresh heartache as they had hoped this would mark the end of the 15-year-mystery. 

The Braunschweig prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the accused was the same person under investigation in connection with Madeleine’s disappearance.

‘Specifically, the accused is charged with three offences of aggravated rape and two offences of sexual abuse of children,’ the prosecutor’s office added. ‘The investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann continues,’ it noted. 

Madeleine went missing from this apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz, Portugal, while on holiday there with her family in 2007

When asked about the McCann case prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters told MailOnline: ‘We hope that we can put all our energy into the McCann case once the other investigations have ended.

‘But we don’t know how it will end, for the time being it is still open, maybe we can bring a charge, maybe we can’t, but we are still hopeful.’

Reacting to the string of new charges, Brueckner’s lawyer Fulscher told MailOnline: ‘This has come as a complete surprise to me and my client. 

‘The charges appear to be based on statements from two dubious witnesses and on video evidence that no one has been able to find.

These same two people have also given evidence in the McCann case and I have not even been shown their testimony.

‘Part of the evidence in the case of the rape [of the 20-year-old woman] is that the attacker had a large tattoo or birthmark on his leg and the prosecution knows full well my client has neither.

‘To bring charges the prosecutor has to be convinced the information in the case is reliable and relevant and we believe it is not. This is not a fair investigation.’

The case against Brueckner is expected to start next Spring. 

Brueckner is currently in Oldenburg jail serving seven years for the rape of an elderly American woman in her home in Praia da Luz in 2005.

He was convicted after DNA from a hair in her bed was matched to him. Brueckner and his lawyer Fulscher have denied his involvement and insisted he was convicted after a bungled investigation. 

Hans Christian Wolters, the German prosecutor investigating Madeleine’s disappearance, recently warned there’s no end in sight for the three-year-old’s probe

In a letter to a friend, seen by MailOnline, Brueckner said: ‘In the 2005 rape of the old lady, the offender was described as having dark eyes and incredibly strong. I got convicted but I never had dark eyes or looked like Dwayne Johnson.’

He added:’ There is absolutely no evidence that I committed this cruel crime. No DNA – just nothing. Things just appeared when there wasn’t anything before.

‘My hair from the 2005 case – 13 years it just happens to appear in the BKA (German police) laboratory. It was one of 15 hairs that were found but mysteriously no DNA was found on 13 but on two there was – mine and the old lady. 

‘No more words are needed,’ he added.

Brueckner’s lawyer has now filed an appeal request in the German courts asking that the 2019 rape conviction be re-examined because the evidence used to convict him is weak.

He claims evidence in the new cases being investigated prove Brueckner could not have raped the pensioner as German authorities say that attack and the one on Behan were carried out by the same tattooed man.

But Mr Fulscher has pointed out his client has no tattoos and so therefore could not have carried out the rapes although he told MailOnline he was not hopefully of his appeal being granted.

He said: ‘Only a vanishingly small proportion of applications are successful.’

Earlier this year, on the 15th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance, her parents said it is ‘essential’ to learn the truth of what happened to their daughter.

On the same day, the Metropolitan Police, which continues to treat the case as a missing persons inquiry, said it is ‘committed’ to finding the truth.

In July 2013, Scotland Yard launched its own investigation, Operation Grange, into Madeleine’s disappearance.

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