Madeleine McCann disappeared 17 years: This is where the investigation stands

Seventeen years after the tragic disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the case continues to attract public attention. In March 2024, Daily Mail has announced that the investigation could once again receive their annual grant.

Maddie McCann disappearance investigation progress missing case story
© Maddie McCann/DR
Maddie McCann disappearance investigation progress missing case story

On May 3, 2007, the disappearance of little Madeleine McCann in Praia da Luz, Portugal, shocked the world. Since her disappearance, investigators have spared no effort to find clues and testimonies that could move the case forward. Seventeen years on, the case remains unsolved, but new developments are arousing interest and raising crucial questions.

Discover our latest podcast

The disappearance

While on holiday with her family in 2007, the three-year-old girl mysteriously disappeared from her hotel room, while her parents were dining with friends in a nearby restaurant. To keep an eye on the sleeping children, the little girl and her two two-year-old brothers, they decided to take turns going into the room every 30 minutes.

At around 10 p.m., Maddie's mother Kate McCann went to visit her children. She noticed that the room was open and that her little daughter was no longer in the room. She immediately alerted the emergency services and the Portuguese police, who arrived at the hotel 40 minutes later.

The parents under investigation

Maddie McCann's disappearance soon spread beyond Portuguese borders. Interpol issued an APB with a photo of the little girl on May 9, 2007. And on May 15, investigators arrested their first suspect. A 32-year-old British man, who at the time lived not far from where the little girl disappeared. He had taken part in the search and was later cleared. He sued eleven newspapers for defamation.

On September 7, the girl's parents were indicted. Traces of blood having been discovered in a car they had rented in Portugal, the mother was suspected of having killed her daughter. As Ouest-France reports, there was also speculation that Maddie's body might have been concealed as a result of negligence. However, this line of inquiry came to a dead end, and on July 21, 2008, the Portuguese Public Prosecutor's Office dismissed the case, lifting the couple's indictment.

A struggling investigation

Over the years, the investigation has been peppered with countless false leads, making the case all the more complex. Contradictory testimony, confusing clues and media speculation have sometimes led investigators astray from the path of truth. In 2011, an AI-generated older image of Maddie McCann was released in the hope of gaining new information.

Despite this, the case remains full of mystery. Maddie has reportedly been sighted all over the world, from Morocco in 2007, to India in 2011, to Cyprus in 2013, as reported by Ouest-France. Each time, these hopes turn out to be false dawns.

Christian Bruekner, the main suspect

In June 2020, German police investigated a new suspect: Christian Bruekner, a multi-recidivist paedophile, and identified him as the main suspect. He will appear in court in Germany from February 16 2024 for three alleged rapes and two sexual abuses committed between 2000 and 2017.

Currently detained in Kiel, he was previously convicted in 2019 for the rape of a 72-year-old American tourist in 2005 in the same village where Maddie McCann disappeared. For the time being, the investigation into his alleged involvement in the disappearance of the three-year-old girl in May 2007 is still ongoing. While in prison, the main suspect is said to have written several letters proclaiming his innocence.

On February 19, 2023, a new twist appeared. Julia Faustyna, a 21-year-old Polish woman, claimed on social networks to be Madeleine McCann. But DNA testing proves that she is not the little girl who disappeared in 2007.

A £100,000 grant to continue the investigation

This grant of £100,000 was revealed by the Daily Mail who says that the 'police are set' to receive it. However, Met police have not yet been confirmed that the grant be allocated but specified that only a request has been made for the funding to be distributed as usual.

A Home Office spokesperson explained:

Funding for 2023-2024 will run until 31st match and decisions on 2024-2025 will be made in the next financial year in line with usual practice.

Daily Mail reports that £110,000 were given last year. Prior to that, specifically between 2018 and 2021, the investigation received £300,000 each year. The publication also explains that since 2011, the detectives working to find Madeleine were given £13 million from the Government.

Read more:

Police say McCanns were 'right all along': Madeleine's abductor had been 'watching' the family

Maddie McCann: 10 key dates to understand one of the most mysterious disappearances of our time

Urgent search launched after young boy Marley goes missing in Wales

Four young men have gone missing in Wales, this is when they were last seen

Missing French toddler: This is why investigators raided Émile's grandparent's house

This article has been translated from Oh!MyMag FR.

Sources used:

Ouest-France, Cnews

Daily Mail: Met Police detectives hunting for Madeleine McCann are set to receive £100k grant to help fund investigation for missing toddler

Madeleine McCann: A woman claims she is the missing child Madeleine McCann: A woman claims she is the missing child