EXCLUSIVE: Christian Brueckner lived in a hut on an allotment being searched by police in connection with Madeleine’s disappearance, a local in Hanover, Germany, has claimed
The prime suspect in the Madeleine McCann case tried to hide away from society in a hut with a secret cellar, a former neighbour claimed yesterday.
Police yesterday found Christian Brueckner’s den as they continued searching the foundations of a shack he rented on an allotment.
Police also visited a nearby garage workshop complex amid fears the rapist modified his camper van to make it “big enough to hide a child”.
Wolfgang said of Brueckner’s hut on the allotment: “Given all I know now, it was possible he was trying to cut himself off and hide from society.
“He was living there. The allotment plot with the cellar beneath it was something he wanted to insulate.
“It was a sort of cellar. It was two square metres wide and one and a half deep. Nobody else had one, he inherited it from a previous resident who used to plant vegetables there straight after the war.”
Wolfgang claimed Brueckner, 43, hoarded polystyrene foam boards in the hut. The buildings are not meant to be lived in but owners can stay in them on summer nights.
He added: “He stored loads of the styrofoam in his shack. It was about 15 square metres in size and was quite manky wood and painted dark grey.
“You can’t stay in these properties in the winter and only for the odd night in the summer.
“At some time he didn’t come back here any more and the hut was torn down and the garden left in ruins.
“Only the foundations and the cellar was left. He was unpopular. He was always letting his dogs loose and they would leave their piles.
“But he managed to stay because he was good at fixing things. Good at repair work. He would fill in holes in walls and clean up the greenery. I only spoke to him a little and usually it was to tell him off because of his dogs running round.”
“In the end the authorities kicked him off and tore down the hut but the foundations and cellar were still there. The whole thing is gruesome.
“The owner of the allotment let him stay there after meeting him at a festival in Hanover and finding out he was homeless.”
It is understood the two-day search of the allotment finished tonight. Divers had also been spotted looking in a nearby canal on Tuesday.
Dein Ghafoury, who owned a garage complex in the Linden district of Hanover – where Brueckner had a home – told how he was today visited by police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine, nearly four, from her family’s Algarve holiday apartment in 2007.
The suspect rented out a unit and would spend hours working on his old white VW panel van at the garage for “months and months” until 2012.
Brueckner had once allegedly told an ambulance driver his motor home, an Allegro Bay which he’d bought in Germany in 2010, was “big enough to hide a child”.
Dein said: “Two police officers came to speak to me today and asked the same questions you are. I told them he had been working on a Volkswagen Camper here and he would lift the roof up and then make it smaller again.
“He was always cutting the roof, raising it and then lowering it. He came and went here.”
Brueckner regularly travelled between Portugal and Germany in his campervan, which could have easily been used to transport children without attracting attention.
Dein previously claimed the suspect vanished after he rented his complex and he “hasn’t seen him since”.
He added: “To be honest with you when I read that stuff about what he was really like it is two different pairs of shoes.
“We really didn’t notice, we didn’t realise he was a complete criminal. If we had known he was like that we would not let him come and go so often. He said he had lived in Portugal at some point but I was not interested and did not ask him any more.”
Residents near another of Brueckner’s former homes, in Braunschweig, an hour’s drive away from the allotment, today told how they expected police to search there next.
His former landlord at a private gardens, Jurgen Kruimstoh, 70, said: “I’m of the opinion that they will also come here because from 2013 to 2016 he had a garden here and it was at the time the girl disappeared in 2015.”
He was referring to five-year-old Inga Gehricke, who has been called “Germany’s Madeleine” after vanishing from a forest during a family barbecue.
She had gone to collect wood for a campfire with other children in the forest but failed to return.
“He had a Mercedes Sprinter and two dogs. He was actually really friendly. I don’t think they will find anything here, well I hope they don’t.”
Another former neighbour, Andrea Unger, 58, said: “I think they should come here too, so it can be cleared up.”
Residents today told how they first noticed activity at the allotment in Hanover when a helicopter was seen overhead on Monday night.
At 7am on Tuesday dozens of police arrived with diggers, a sniffer dog and a communication van in the “large-scale” operation spending several hours at the site.
They searched through the night under floodlights after removing a cherry tree and cutting down blackberry bushes.
The sniffer dog returned yesterday and ground-penetrating radar later arrived. Locals told how at first thought police had found “another bomb” from the war when they arrived at the site on Tuesday morning but when police reassured them they joked: “Did someone bury their mother-in-law?”
Brueckner is currently in a Kiel jail for selling drugs and for the 2015 rape of a 72-year-old woman in Praia da Luz, where Madeleine vanished while her parents Kate and Gerry dined out nearby with friends. He is also under investigation for murder.
The pervert has dropped his bid for an early release from prison for drug offences. But he is appealing against the rape conviction.
He was once arrested on child abuse charges and police later discovered several girls’ swimming costumes in the vehicle.
Brueckner was also convicted of forgery of documents in 2010, while in Hanover. He was quizzed over the murder of a sex worker in the same year but never charged.
Brueckner was named as prime suspect in the case by prosecutors last month after mobile phone records proved he was in Praia da Luz on the night she vanished.
But prosecutor Hans Christian Wolter told her parents Kate and Gerry: “We can’t say why she is dead. It is more important that we are successful and we are able to get the culprit, as opposed to just putting our cards on the table and tell them why we think she might be.”
Kate and Gerry, of Rothley, Leics, refuse to give up hope of finding their daughter alive.
But after the latest police appeal in the case, they said: “Whatever the outcome may be, we need to know as we need to find peace.”
News – Madeleine McCann suspect’s grim ‘hiding child’ remark as ‘secret cellar’ found