A plot to kidnap a child from a Portuguese holiday resort was hatched a week before Madeleine McCann was kidnapped there, a British expat has claimed.
Ken Ralphs said the main suspect in the McCann case, Christian Brueckner, tried to recruit a mutual friend to help him find a young man to sell to a childless couple.
Ralphs said Brueckner made the offer to the man who was penniless at the time and living in a tent in a remote area of Portugal’s Algarve coastal region, 20 miles from Praia da Luz, where Madeleine disappeared on the 3rd. May 2007.
“We were sitting around the fire one night after eating, had a few beers and during the early hours of the morning my friend started crying,” the expatriate said. News from heaven. “I asked her what was wrong with her and, finally, she confessed to me that she was getting involved with Christian to steal a child from Praia da Luz from a rich family.”
Madeleine was on vacation with her family when she disappeared. The case has never been solved and her fate is unknown.
A plot to kidnap a child from a Portuguese holiday resort was hatched a week before Madeleine McCann (pictured May 3, 2007) was kidnapped there, a British expat has claimed.
Brueckner was declared a formal suspect by Portuguese prosecutors in 2022, although he has not been charged in her disappearance.
He had previously been identified as a suspect by German prosecutors in 2020, at which time he was only named as German homeless man ‘Christian B’.
Mr Ralphs, a former UK political activist, Mr Brueckner and their mutual friend, a foreigner who cannot be named, were part of a nomadic group who lived an off-grid bohemian lifestyle in isolated places in the south-west of Portugal.
He took the Sky News reporter to the place where he said his friend lived with his family in a tipi 17 years ago. Mr. Ralphs said he and his wife would buy them food.
The 59-year-old said he encouraged his friend not to get involved in Brueckner’s plan, calling it “ridiculous” and telling him he would end up in jail.
“I said you can’t get involved in kidnapping a person for ransom, that’s ridiculous, then he explained: ‘no, that’s not the case.’ “Christian had a client, a buyer waiting, a German couple who couldn’t have children,” Ralphs told Sky News.
A week after their conversation, Madeline disappeared.
Ralphs says he was back in the UK when he heard the news.
Three hours later, he told Sky News, he drove to a police station in Cumbria and reported what he knew about Brueckner and the kidnapping plot.
Ralphs also said he gave police a “secret map” directing them to the spot in the woods where his friend had been living with his family in the store, and told them to send it to detectives in Portugal so they could investigate. .
He wrote a statement and repeated his story when he returned to the Algarve, but told Sky News that police there said they knew nothing about his report. She also returned to the place where the tipi had been, but discovered that it had been burned.
Ralphs told Sky News that he never saw Brueckner or his friend again, but that he recognized the German when he became a suspect in 2020.
This led him to contact the UK police again and he sent his written statement to German prosecutors. He was also questioned by Portuguese detectives, but it is not known whether his statement was used in the investigation into Brueckner.
German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters told Sky News he had passed the statement on to German investigators, the broadcaster reported.
“They told me that someone had contacted my friend abroad and he had denied knowing me, but I have a dozen witnesses who will say he is lying,” he added.
“I guess he just didn’t want to be questioned by the police.”
Another friend of Brueckner who knew the homeless man from his stay in Portugal also said that the German planned to steal a child.
“He (Brueckner) was always bragging about money and making money, especially through robberies,” Michael Tatschl told author Jon Clarke in his book My Search for Madeleine. “He even talked about selling children, perhaps to Morocco.”
The expat’s claim comes after news that the German suspect will likely remain silent during an upcoming trial for unrelated sex crimes in Germany, but “has nothing to hide”, according to his lawyer.
Brueckner will appear in court in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, on February 16, accused of five crimes between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal and already serving a sentence for rape.
Christian Brueckner will appear in court in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, on February 16, accused of five crimes committed between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal and already serving a sentence for rape.
Brueckner’s lawyer told bbc in an email that he did not anticipate his client would make “substantial submissions” at the upcoming trial in Germany, which could last months.
Friedrich Fülscher, public defender, said: “We will see whether the accused will defend himself silently or make statements denying individual acts.”
“At this time I do not assume that any substantial allegations will be made.”
Brueckner’s lawyer stated that “no negative conclusions can be drawn” from this.
He added: “Whether a defendant declares ‘I have nothing to do with this’, ‘I am innocent’ or something similar, or whether he uses his right to remain silent, it leads to the same result in the criminal process.
“So this doesn’t mean there’s anything to hide, it just makes procedural sense.”
Brueckner is still expected to confirm details such as his name and date of birth.
He has been charged with five crimes, allegedly committed between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal, including rape and sexual abuse of children.
In a subsequent ruling the Braunschweig court was found to have no jurisdiction over the case, but this was later overturned.
Madeleine McCann was on a family vacation in Praia da Luz, Portugal, when she disappeared on May 3, 2007. Brueckner was formally declared a suspect by Portuguese prosecutors in 2022.
The charges include the rape of an unidentified woman aged between 70 and 80 at his holiday home in Portugal sometime between 2000 and 2006 and the rape of a girl believed to be at least 14 years old at his home in Praia da Light sometime between 2000 and 2006.
He is also accused of the rape of a young woman after entering her apartment in 2004, the sexual abuse of a child on a beach in 2007 and the sexual abuse of a child at a playground in 2017.
Brueckner is serving a seven-year sentence for a rape that took place in Portugal in 2005.
During the trial, which will begin next week, it will be decided whether Brueckner remains in prison at the end of that sentence.