The prime suspect in the Madeleine McCann case has claimed he became the focus of the investigation after a former friend alleged he made a chilling comment about the case, according to reports.
German prisoner Christian Brueckner was first named in connection with the unsolved mystery in the summer of 2020, and officially named as a suspect last year.
His yellow and white VW T3 Westfalia campervan was reportedly identified as having been near to the Praia da Luz resort in Portugal where the young girl went missing on May 3, 2007.
Three-year-old Madeleine disappeared from the bed of her holiday apartment while her parents and family friends dined 180 feet away.
The Metropolitan Police took over the investigation, Operation Grange, in 2011 but they hit dead ends. There has not been another significant suspect in the case since 2007 until Brueckner.
Brueckner is in prison in Germany for the rape of a woman in Praia da Luz in 2005, and is suspected of further rapes and child sexual abuse committed in the area between 2000 and 2017.
During his time in prison, he is said to have written several letters in a bid to clear his name and complain about his treatment in prison.
According to a letter seen by the Daily Mail, Brueckner claimed he became a key suspect after his former friend told police he said “yes, she did not scream” when talking about the case around one year after Madeleine disappeared.
According to the newspaper, Brueckner said the claim is "not even worthy of comment”.
He said that he was then hunted by police after his friend made the allegation to police.
The Daily Mail said Brueckner refers to a statement made to the police by Helge Busching - who reportedly contacted police in 2017 saying he had information on the case.
He wrote: “The following sentences from the ‘witness’ Helge B in 2017 were responsible for all the public hunting and hatred against me by the German authorities.”
Then Brueckner relates an alleged conversation at a festival in Spain in 2008, one year after Madeleine disappeared.
He quotes Busching as having said: “(Seyferth another witness) was also there as well and Michael (Tatschl another witness), Manfred, Christian and I then started talking about Portugal.
"It was then Christian made a comment about the missing girl. Christian asked me if I was still going to Portugal, I replied; ‘I’m no longer going to Portugal because there are too many problems there, Portugal has too many police for me on account of the missing child.
"It is indeed strange that she disappeared without a trace. Christian replied:’’Yes, she did not scream.’’
Brueckner’s lawyer Friedrich Fulscher told the newspaper: “It remains to be seen whether this conversation took place at all as we have other witnesses who said it didn’t.”
Brueckner claims that the last time he had a conversation with Busching was in 2007 about a drug deal between them.
Busching was arrested in 2017 while trying to smuggle migrants from Greece to Italy. It is claimed that he gave the statement to the police after his arrest.