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30th Jun 2023

Key witness in Madeleine McCann case reveals gruesome footage he found in suspect’s home

Steve Hopkins

‘The biggest mistake of my life’

The man who tipped police off about the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has spoken about discovering videos showing him torturing an elderly woman and tormenting a young girl that “ruined my life”.

The German man, identified only as Helge B, said he approached Scotland Yard in 2008, suspecting Christian Brückner’s involvement in the child’s abduction, but heard nothing back. Following publicity around the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance in 2017 he reached out again. This time they acted, he said in an interview with German tabloid, Bild.

Helge, who carried out petty crime with Brückner when they both lived close to Praia da Luz, the resort where Madeleine vanished on 3 May 2007 shortly before her fourth birthday, discovered the horror videos after burgling his home. Brückner was in jail at the time and is currently serving a seven-year jail term in Germany for the horrific rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz in 2005.

Along with a friend, Helge went searching for diesel they knew Brückner had stored, but instead found a gun and a video camera.

Evidence from the video camera was crucial in securing Brückner’s rape conviction.

Helge told Bild that the first videos he saw seemed to involve tourists, then “I cam across the older lady video”.

It showed someone whipping the woman who was tied up, lying on a bed. She was 70 or 80 years old, he estimated.

“She wore painted diving goggles and couldn’t see. She spoke English and was shouting, ‘You fing bastard!,” Helge recalled to the publication.

“At the end of the video he sat down on the bed and pulled down the mask. Then I saw that it was [Christian B].”

On another video, Helge said, showed the pensioner from a different angel, and another showed a girl, aged 13 or 14.

“She was tied naked to a beam. [Christian B] sat behind it on the sofa and made fun of her,” Helge told Bild.

“She said, ‘This borders on rape’ – and he just, ‘Shut up’.

“That’s when I knew what kind of guy he was.”

In the interview, Helge also said Brückner made a confession about Madeleine at a Spanish kite festival in 2008.

“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.

“We came up with Maddie 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 then said: ‘She didn’t scream.’

He continued: “I thought, he knows that – he has something to do with it.

“I knew his background from the video. I got really sick. The others didn’t understand it at all.

“But he also checked that I understood that and then left at night.”

Brückner is said to have packed up his mobile home and fled early the next morning.

In 2018, the German federal police used evidence gleaned from Helge’s viewing of Brückner’s video to help convict the attacker of the pensioner rape.

Brückner was named as a prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance in June 2020.

Helge speculated to Bild about what happened to Madeleine: “My theory is that he was planning a burglary. It went wrong and he found the kids in the apartment and then he took Maddie with him. It probably wasn’t planned at all.

“From what I know about him, I definitely believe him capable of something like that. I think he kidnapped her. I don’t know if he ended up killing her.

“I wish there would finally be peace. It is clear to me that Maddie is no longer alive.

“As sad as that is, it would be better if her body was found. I’m worried that he will get away with it.”

Helge told Bild that taking the videos with him was “the biggest mistake of my life”.

“I would have preferred not to know anything about it. I’m also not proud that I started this investigation.

“I’m not doing well. I’ve gained weight, I have phases when I go crazy, I don’t sleep at night – it ruined my life.”

Last month police searched a reservoir in Portugal, 30 miles from where Madeleine went missing. It was known as Brückner’s “little paradise”.

Related links:

Christian Brueckner told friend Madeleine McCann ‘didn’t scream’

Madeleine McCann: Police receive tip to search ‘two more spots linked to main suspect’

Madeleine McCann main suspect went to reservoir days after she disappeared