Portuguese police have one month to charge Madeleine McCann suspect

Police in Portugal are running out of time to bring Madeleine McCann suspect to justice because of law preventing prosecutions after 15 years

  • Legal experts say prosecutors in Portugal will be ‘acutely aware’ of time limits
  • On May 3, 15 years will have passed since Maddie disappeared from Praia da Luz
  • Statute of limitations means ‘greatly reduced’ chance of conviction after May 3
  • German investigators said last year they were ‘confident’ they had the right man 
  • But prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said they needed time to build their case
  • Meanwhile, a British probe found suspect Christian Brueckner, 45, had an alibi

Portuguese police are running out of time to prosecute anyone for Madeleine McCann’s disappearance because of a law preventing prosecutions after 15 years.

Madeleine McCann vanished on May 3 2007 – 14 years and 11 months ago – meaning police in Portugal must bring charges in the next month or face a ‘greatly reduced’ chance of getting a conviction, according to legal experts. 

The heat is rising as police continue to investigate accused German national Christian Brueckner, 45, who is currently behind bars in Germany for raping a 72-year-old American tourist in Praia da Luz two years before Madeleine went missing. 

Speaking to The Sun, Spencer Dohner, of MDM Legal in Faro, explained crimes punishable by ten or more years’ jail time ‘cannot generally be prosecuted once 15 years have passed’ due to Portugal’s statute of limitations. 

Mr Dohner continued: ‘If Madeleine is dead and was murdered the cut-off point for prosecution would be the 15th anniversary of her disappearance.

Portuguese police are running out of time to prosecute anyone for Madeleine McCann’s disappearance because of a law preventing prosecutions after 15 years. Pictured: Madeleine McCann

If charges are to be brought against accused Christian Brueckner (pictured), they must be filed before May 3 2022, the 15th anniversary of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance; otherwise, the chances of achieving a conviction will be ‘greatly reduced’, say legal experts

‘If she were found alive and had been the victim of sex crimes as a minor, legal proceedings could take place until she was 23.’ 

If Madeleine McCann were still alive, she would be 18 now.

In October 2021, German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said investigators were ‘confident’ they had the right man and had sufficient evidence to charge over the 2007 disappearance – but that they were trying to amass as much evidence as possible before going to court. 

Mr Wolters said: ‘It is circumstantial evidence – we have no scientific evidence.

‘When we still have questions, it would be nonsense to charge rather than wait for the answers that could strengthen our position.’  

Three-year-old Madeleine vanished from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007. Pictured: Praia da Luz beach 

A separate lawyer, based in Lisbon, told The Sun: ‘Police and prosecutors in Portugal will be acutely aware of the time limits hanging over the case.’    

Although German authorities believe Brueckner killed Madeleine. an investigation led by former Surrey Police detective Mark Williams-Thomas found the convicted rapist had an alibi.

According to the probe’s findings, which were laid out earlier this year in a Channel 5 programme, ‘Madeleine McCann: Investigating the Prime Suspect’, Brueckner was not at the resort in Praia da Luz the night Madeleine disappeared but was actually ’30 minutes away’.

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann disappeared from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007.

She was on holiday with her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann; her two-year-old twin siblings; and a group of family friends and their children.

She and the twins had been left asleep at the apartment, while the McCanns and friends dined in a restaurant 55 metres (180 ft) away.

The parents checked on the children throughout the evening, until Kate discovered she was missing at 10pm.

What followed is widely regarded as one of the most reported on missing person investigations in the world.

Portuguese authorities closed their enquiries in July 2008 but Maddie’s parents continued with private detectives.

Scotland Yard launched their own investigation – Operation Grange – in 2011, which they wound up in September 2021 due to a lack of leads.

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