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Suspect in Madeleine McCann case linked to missing German girl

Suspect in Madeleine McCann case linked to missing German girl
Three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared in May 2007 while her family was on vacation in Praia da Luz, Portugal. UPI Photo/File

June 5 (UPI) -- Authorities said Friday a new suspect in the mysterious 2007 disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann is now being investigated for a similar case in Germany.

Investigators said this week a German man identified as Christian Bruckner has emerged as a suspect in the Madeleine case. The British girl disappeared while on a family vacation in Portugal.

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Authorities said Bruckner, 43, has a list of criminal convictions that includes child sexual abuse, theft and drug dealing, and was convicted in December for the 2005 rape of a U.S. tourist. He was sentenced to seven years and remains in a German prison.

German authorities said Friday Bruckner is now being looked at for possible involvement in the disappearance of 5-year-old Inga Gehrike, who vanished from a family barbecue in 2015.

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It was believed that Inga, known "the German Maddie" in the German press, wandered off into the forest while looking for fire wood. Officials said Bruckner had owned property within 60 miles of where Inga disappeared and was in Portugal when Madeleine vanished.

Officials said Bruckner has been known to law enforcement for years, but detectives now believe they have enough evidence to advance the Madeleine investigation. Police have asked the public for help in contributing evidence.

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British, German and Portuguese investigators believe it's likely that Madeleine is dead, and they're treating the case as a homicide investigation.

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The McCann family said the Bruckner investigation is "potentially very significant," saying it's the first time since Madeleine disappeared that police have narrowed the case to a single suspect.

"We are talking about a sexual predator who has already been convicted of crimes against little girls and he's already serving a long sentence," prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said.

Madeleine's parents were initially considered suspects when she disappeared in 2007, and cleared by Portuguese police the following year.

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