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German suspect in 'Maddie' case on trial for sex crimes

February 16, 2024

The prime suspect in the long-unsolved disappearance of UK toddler Madeleine McCann is on trial over separate charges in Germany.

A three-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann
The man has never been charged in McCann's disappearanceImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Brainpix/Itspress/Pacoeden

The trial of Madeleine McCann murder suspect, identified as Christian B. in line with Germany's privacy laws, opened in Germany on Friday with the 47-year-old accused of unrelated sex crimes.

However, the trial was almost immediately postponed until next Friday after an allegation of bias against a judge involved in the proceedings.

What we know about the case

While German prosecutors have yet to charge B. over the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine, he was charged in October 2022 with five separate counts of rape and child sex abuse, allegedly committed between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal.

Before the indictment was read out, B.'s defense filed a motion for bias against a female lay judge. 

The defense said there were doubts about the woman's suitability, claiming she previously called for the killing of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in an online post. 

In addition, the lawyers said, the woman works as a child psychotherapist and advocates for the interests of children, creating a "procedural reference" that raised doubts about her neutrality.

It is understood that no witnesses had been summoned for the first day of the trial. Defense lawyer Friedrich Fülscher has asserted his client's innocence, saying he would seek acquittal on the charges.

B. is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence in Germany after being found guilty of committing a rape in Portugal in 2005.

What we know about B. and the McCann case

German investigators announced in 2020 that they suspect B. — who has a string of serious criminal convictions — in the McCann case.

The three-year-old girl vanished from a vacation resort in Praia da Luz in Portugal's Algarve in May 2007. The case received extensive coverage not only in the British press but made headlines around the world.

German police say B. lived more or less permanently in the Algarve between 1995 and 2007, working in several odd jobs, including in the catering industry. 

Police say there is also evidence that he made his living by committing crimes such as burglaries in hotels and holiday apartments and drug trafficking.

rc/dj (AFP, dpa)

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