BERLIN (AP) — Europe’s top court issued a ruling Thursday that should ensure Germany can keep in prison a new suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the British toddler who vanished from a Portuguese resort 13 years ago.
The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice decided that German prosecutors were within their rights to try Christian Brueckner for a separate case, the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal, even though he had been extradited from Italy to be tried for another alleged crime.
Although he is a suspect in the McCann case, he is currently in prison on a separate conviction and prosecutors have said they do not yet have enough evidence to hold him on the McCann case alone.
Brueckner’s attorneys are appealing the 2019 rape conviction and his seven year sentence, arguing that since he was extradited on a warrant related to drug trafficking he should not have been tried for the rape.
Among other things, the European court said Italy had agreed for him to be tried for rape as well as part of the extradition proceedings.
The ruling was widely expected after a legal adviser to the court issued an opinion last month recommending the decision. It now is up to Germany’s top criminal court to review the decision before it is final, but that is usually a formality.
McCann was 3 at the time of her 2007 disappearance from an apartment while her family vacationed in the seaside town of Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region.
German authorities in June said they had identified the 43-year-old German citizen as a suspect in the case and were investigating him on suspicion of murder.