The man who alerted authorities to Madeleine McCann prime suspect Christian Brueckner has claimed the girl’s suspected murderer let slip that she ‘didn’t scream’ when she was kidnapped, in his first ever public interview.
Key witness Helge Busching explained how he came to know about Brueckner’s shady past – and how his former acquaintance later appeared to incriminate himself in Madeleine’s disappearance.
Helge said he learned of Brueckner’s true nature well before the disappearance of McCann after he’d stolen some videotapes and gun from Brueckner’s house.
Remembering the moment he witnessed the clips, which purportedly showed Brueckner sexually abusing an elderly woman and a teenage girl in Portugal, Helge recounted: ‘[The victim] said: ”This borders on rape!” And he just said: ”Shut up.” That’s when I knew what kind of guy Brueckner was.’
Helge then left Portugal, but told German outlet Bild how he crossed paths with Brueckner, who has since been convicted for sex crimes, again in 2008 at a music festival in Spain.
‘He asked me, ”don’t you go to Portugal anymore and do business there?”
‘I said, ”no, since the girl disappeared there, there have been too many police checks for me and I don’t need that at all.”
‘[The topic of Madeleine’s disappearance] came up and I said: ”Anyway, I don’t understand how the little one could have disappeared without a trace.”
‘Christian had drunk two or three beers, and he said: ”She didn’t scream.”
‘I thought: He knows that. He has something to do with it. But he also checked that I understood that and then left at night.
‘At 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning he left a packed festival with his mobile home. I looked for him the next morning, but his neighbours said he had left.’
Police mug shot of Christian Brueckner, a suspect in the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann in 2007
Personnel at Barragem do Arade reservoir, in the Algave, Portugal, as searches continue as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. The area is around 50km from Praia da Luz where Madeleine went missing in 2007. Picture date: Thursday May 25, 2023
Madeleine McCann, a three-year-old from Rothley, Leicestershire, went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007
Helge went on to claimed he’d approached German authorities after finding the videotapes, but that a policeman told him to abandon them and keep quiet.
‘I spoke to a police officer I know in Germany. He said: ”Helge, keep your hands off it.” A lawyer told me the same thing. I wasn’t sure what could happen to me – I would have incriminated myself!’
He added that he tried to inform Scotland Yard about Brueckner in 2008 via the dedicated hotline for Madeleine McCann tips, but never heard back.
‘I called Scotland Yard back in 2008. At the Maddie hotline. I said I knew someone who might have something to do with it and gave them the name. But nothing happened there. Nothing! I was never called back.
‘In 2017 I had just served a prison sentence in Greece. When I heard about the 10th anniversary of the disappearance, I remembered. Apparently the call didn’t help at all. So I contacted Scotland Yard again.
‘Then they listened to me.’
Madeleine was staying with her family at a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal when she disappeared in May 2007.
The case, unsolved for the past 16 years, remains a mystery as no body has ever been found.
Last month, investigators combed a reservoir in the Algarve for the videotapes, a camcorder and the gun tossed by Helge and his accomplice Manfred Seyferth after they stole the materials from Brueckner’s house.
An area of around 160 square feet had been flattened and cleared of grass and shrubs with several holes dug into the ground to a depth of around two feet.
There were also other holes dug into the foreshore close to the waterline and path close to the edge of the reservoir had been cleared.
It is thought the soil removed was taken away by German officials for closer analysis at a lab in Wiesbaden where the country’s investigative force, the BKA, are based.
Germans Seyferth and Busching were living on the Algarve at the same time as Brueckner and the two were involved in petty theft with him before having a falling out.
Footage on the video camera was said to show Brueckner torturing and raping an American woman, with footage of a girl around 15 years old also subjected to the same horrific ordeal.
In 2019 Brueckner was convicted by a German court of the rape of an elderly American woman in her home at Praia da Luz close to where Madeleine vanished, and was given a seven-year sentence.