New revelations now appearing in the German press via a chief suspect raise a number of alarming questions about how the British police and the journalists who worked alongside them were complicit in a Portuguese cover-up.
German prosecutors claims to hae the culprit of the kidnapping and possible murder of the most famous case of a missing person ever, Madeleine McCann - who was just three years old when she disappeared in a Portuguese family holiday resort in 2007.
A convicted paedophile, Christian Brueckner, who has a history of sex offender's charges, drug dealing, theft and rape and is reported to be linked to a number of missing children across Europe, looks like the perfect culprit. But as from the very beginning of the case, governments are not being honest about what they know and what they are covering up in a depraved game of international politics, which protects inept or corrupt police officers and only fuels speculation for years ahead - ensuring that the case becomes fiction, like a conspiracy theory, rather than a real, up and running missing person's case.
Indeed, until now, the case has been polarised by two distinct theories. One is abduction, from an assailant who entered the holiday flat probably looking to burgle; the other is simply that no such abduction took place because the McCanns themselves covered up the accidental death of their own daughter.
The Portuguese, since the beginning, have stuck fervently to the former, in support of their leading investigator, while a growing number of journalists and conspiracy theorists lean towards the McCann culpability - especially given the opaque facts about Madeleine's whereabouts in her last hours, the inconsistency of witness statements and the proximity of the McCann's to former UK prime minister Gordon Brown.
But now the Germans have a new lead, which breathes new life into the former theory of abduction.
They are being very cagey about giving details, just stating that they believe Brueckner is guilty and that they also believe Maddie is dead. It's a curious way to proceed and has set many speculating why they should choose such a strategy - rather than opt to cooperate with the Portuguese or British police. Holding back info and continuing with forensics, gives them the legal basis to work in Portugal, it might be argued, rather than sharing evidence which would then give new impetus to the Portuguese case.
Indeed, even more confusing is the stoic statement from the Germans that they are sure Madeleine is dead - which is then accompanied by an appeal with a reward offered to those who can come forward with information leading to her whereabouts. Or indeed, that their accusation against Brueckner is followed by statements in the German press that he is shortly due to be released from prison.
Accompanying the reports in the German press are others which focus on a key witness who was a friend of Brueckner, who stayed with him in Portugal and was recently interviewed in Austria by authorities there. This, in turn, has thrown a spotlight for journalists back on the original bumbling Portuguese policeman, who admitted that Brueckner was not pulled in for questioning, although colleagues made a half-hearted attempt to knock on his door to find him. It's a startling revelation of incompetence given that Goncalo Amaral, also admits that Brueckner was known to them for a previous sex office against a teenager. Amaral, who was ultimately taken off the case, believed fervently that there was no abduction and that Madeleine's parents had covered up her accidental death. He was ultimately sued for defamation by the McCann's but still clings on to this notion even today and struggles to contain his loathing for them as irresponsible parents. Curiously though, while Brueckner seems the perfect fit for the Madeleine abduction, Amaral seems to be the apt choice for an incompetent police officer to mess up a case. If corruption in Portugal is the heart of the Maddie case, then it fits perfectly that those with power would choose a fool to run to investigation. It's pretty standard procedure. In the UK, the Lord Lucan enquiry in 1974 was headed by an apparently stupid detective, who was never expected to gather evidence against the upper-class freemason but more bungle the case from day one, which he managed to do, admirably.
Amaral even alludes to corruption on both a Portuguese and German level, now in retirement which throws up more questions. In an interview he hints that there is a bigger game of international corruption going on as he doesn't believe that Brueckner is really guilty of Maddie's disappearance. He calls him the perfect a "perfect suspect. All that's lacking for him to become the perfect suspect is for him to be dead.". Focus is put again on a VW camper van owned by Brueckner and believed to have been critical to finding evidence. Astonishingly, Amaral accuses the Portuguese authorities themselves of deliberately photoshopping out distinctive markings on the VW van, which would have certainly led witnesses to contact the police immediately after the abduction in May 2007 when the photo was circulated.
Amazingly, recent reports have also surfaced of satellite photos showing the van, the day after the abduction, being parked at Brueckner's previous home, which he left months earlier. The police were believed at the time to have done a cursory search of the property but it is believed that well shafts were not checked. Why did Amaral return to the property which he has left in a hurry previously, presumably after not paying rent after a six month spell in prison had led him penniless and a stash of stolen passports were also taken by a friend who found them hidden their while Brueckner was inside? Could it have been to dump a body or to place Maddie in the house, locked in a room?
Neither investigators nor journalists looked at such evidence at the time, but focused on the histrionics of the Portuguese investigation, the accusations levelled against the McCanns, the wrongful arrests, the red herrings and the international politics of how Portugal and the UK could not work together.
Was corruption a factor on the Portuguese side? Did its government want the whole thing covered up and buried so as to not disrupt the EU's Lisbon Treaty being agreed by EU governments, including Britain? And the fact that it took a media campaign in Britain in 2011 to force David Cameron to investigate the Portuguese police findings?
Long road trip
How did Brueckner escape detection in such a small place? There is no evidence to suggest that he fled, indeed, a short while after the abduction - around three weeks - his friend at that time tells Austrian police that Brueckner drives an American camper van to a location in Southern Spain.
Michael Tatschl, a carpenter and a former convict who went to jail in Portugal with Brueckner, tells Austrian police that he moved to a villa near Andalusia and that Brueckner arrived with the huge camper, just a matter of days after the Maddie abduction. Tatschl's testimony should not be taken as the whole truth as, now that Brueckner has a media spotlight on him for Madeleine, it would be normal that the Austrian carpenter would want to point the finger for the first time. And Tatschl does that certainly, accusing Brueckner straight out of being a paedophile who was easily capable of stealing a little girl with further claims that Brueckner dreamt of making a million dollars by selling children to criminal gangs in Morocco.
Was Tatschl an accomplice? Has he moved quickly to accuse Brueckner to provide a ring of respectability around himself of someone who claims to have not realised that he was sharing a house with a maniac paedophile? Or is it that he assumed that Brueckner travelling to Spain to visit Tatschl would be unearthed sooner or later?
Indeed, British journalists and even police, who completely missed Brueckner in their investigations, are still not putting the pieces together. As with all witnesses, especially criminals, there is always some truth buried in the labyrinth of lies. A number of key elements to Tatschl's claims need to be examined.
- Why did Brueckner acquire a massive American RV camper van and drive to Tatschl in Spain?
- Why did Brueckner on the day after Maddie's abduction, change the registration details in Germany of a Jaguar car he owned?
- Why did Portuguese police not do a thorough search of Brueckner's house, even if he wasn't there when they came?
- Why did it take until now for a satellite image of Brueckner's van to emerge as evidence?
- The Morocco angle - just a distraction?
- And perhaps crucially, were British police told about Brueckner in the days after?
This last point is a bombshell, which none of the UK dailies want to tackle as it risks putting their own relationships in peril with cops, if it turns out that British police knew. In 2007, there was no British police investigation but we can assume there was some contingent of communications between Portugal and Britain on the case - as British cops were allowed to propose questions to suspects via the Portuguese. If Brueckner's arrest in Portugal was registered on an EU database, then there was nothing stopping British police in the UK searching for known child sex offenders in the area.
What sticks out is, in fact, British police did know about Brueckner. In fact, in 2007 and later in 2018, they were aware of Brueckner. In 2007 if British cops knew of Brueckner, then why did a number of astonishing events which followed Maddie's death, not raise alarm bells?
The circumstances, for example, of why and how Brueckner travels to visit his friend near Andalusia, where he stays with him for a number of days. Why drive the ridiculously large RV van when the four-hour journey could have been done in more comfort with the Jag, unless of course he was hiding something in the RV?
The Morocco file
According to the Daily Mail, Tatschl himself unwittingly provides the answers. He says that Brueckner needed him as his friend who "had connections" in the criminal underworld. Tatschl also speaks about Brueckner talking of selling children to gangs in Morocco. The Morocco element is important as Tatschl may well have been Brueckner's link to the criminal world to sell all of his stolen loot, everything from passports to expensive watches which he robbed from holiday homes in the region. Did Tatschl pay Brueckner with hashish which he himself acquired off criminal gangs in Spain? When talking about criminal gangs in Spain, we are, of course talking about the Morocco network which has been installed in Marbella for decades and has expanded its business from merely hashish to trafficking and even gun running. All roads lead to Marbella and Moroccan gangs.
The Moroccan side to this investigation is both a scapegoat to corrupt police officers like Amaral, but also perhaps part of its truth. In November 2007, I was living in Morocco and was called by a UK tabloid editor to tell me that the newspaper - along with others - had gone alone with the "Maddie kidnapped by child sex ring in Morocco" lead, which was based on a very dubious testimony of an unemployed single Moroccan mother who claimed she saw Maddie in Northern Morocco and a very dodgy photo acquired by El Mundo.
Where did this Moroccan lady live? Marbella. Was she paid to go to Morocco and contact the press with this story as a smoke screen to divert the attention away from Iberia? Or was it a Moroccan gang which was jealous of another one and wanted to incriminate their competitors?
I tried in vain to convince the editor and subsequently the journalist that the blond baby story was false and offered my services as a researcher or translator. They were flatly rejected as the story had already been written in London before the journalist arrived. All he had to do search for people to corroborate it. Of course, he failed as, although Morocco has sex rings, has even sex trafficking by criminal gangs, any evidence to support that Moroccan gangs trafficked European kids back into Morocco, was unheard of; most of the "sex trafficking" was with young Moroccan girls being forced into being maids, where they were sexually abused. The UN, the State Dept and others have pointed out in various reports however that there is some evidence of young girls being forced into sex slavery for rich clients in Gulf Arab countries.
But the tabloid went even further with its ludicrous claims and suggested that Maddie had been sold to penniless peasants for a few coins to live her early days on the back of a woman working in the fields. You couldn't make it up and I'm only glad that the journalist turned down my offer, as the tabloid man made it all up, actually. My protestations to the editor was backed up months later by the McCann's own investigator who came on the wild goose chase here in Morocco only to discover hundreds of blond kids on the backs of women. And so the Morocco lead was buried.
But perhaps it shouldn't have been so quickly dismissed.
Since Tatschl's evidence which spoke of Brueckner's wishes to work with gangs in Morocco, police and journalists should pause and ponder the Maghreb. It is almost certain that Tatschl was working with Moroccans in Spain and where he was living was only 1.5-hours drive to Marbella, their epicentre of criminality and debauchery. Is Tatschl panicking and worried that German police will discover that in fact, Brueckner, delivered Maddie to him in return for a large quantity of hashish, for which he would sell on as part of his regular occupation in Praia da Luz? Is this why Brueckner made the long journey and in the absurdly huge RV? If we are to assume that Maddie is still alive and not dead as Brueckner insists, then it is far from far-fetched to assume she could have been sold to a Moroccan gang in Marbella who would sell her on to a contact in the Middle East. She would have almost certainly been drugged. It is my own research into such gangs I discovered they had a prolific competence and understanding of a myriad of modern day drugs, even using some which wipe the victim's memory clean, leaving him unable to testify against others.
The Morocco angle is viable and should be examined by UK police. Or was it already and deemed too sensitive? Unbeknown to tabloid journalists from the UK who come here on awaydays, British secret service officers have excellent relations with Moroccan gangs running hashish shipments between Morocco's Mediterranean coast and Spain's - due largely to the worry in London that the same channels will be exploited for narcotics from south America, arms, explosives and people trafficking. It really wouldn't take anything for UK security services to use their connections with gangs in Marbella to find out if a three year-old was sold to the Gulf States in 2007. And why hasn't Tatschl been interviewed by UK police? The real story of Madeleine McCann is that British media doesn't have the journalists with the requisite skills to investigate on the ground, and both UK and Portuguese police forces seem determined not to find her abductor.