Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner had sex with under age girls by paying them with drugs, a Portuguese witness has claimed.
The woman said that the German paedophile would sell drugs at rave parties held by teenagers – and if the young women could not pay he would have sex with them as payment.
She told a Portuguese TV station that the women were 'minors' and under the legal age of consent.
Although she did not know the man's name at the time she said she recognised his photo from the subsequent publicity after Met Police officers issued an appeal for information.
Brueckner, now 43, who is serving a seven year jail term for the rape of a 72 year old American woman in Praia da Luz, is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann 13 years ago.
The witness, who appeared on the TV station TVi24 with her face obscured, said she knew Brueckner was the man selling drugs as she also recognised the VW camper van that police seized last year and are using as part of their appeal for new information.
'He gave the girls weed and other things they wanted and in exchange they gave him sex because they didn't have money to pay for the drugs,' she told the TV station.
'That was the way they did things.'
She said she remembers Brueckner from the parties held on a farm in Barao de Sao Joa, near to the town of Lagos where he occasionally worked at a bar.
Brueckner would have been 30 years old when he attended the parties around the time McCann went missing from her family's holiday apartment in the coastal resort of Praia da Luz.
The witness said the German spoke 'good English' but had a reserved manner and was often accompanied by another man.
'He gave the girls weed and other things they wanted, and in exchange they gave him sex because they didn't have money to pay for the drugs.
'That was the way they did things.'
Revealing he always spoke English and hung around with a lookalike pal who she also thought was British, she added in the interview with Portuguese TV station TVI: 'I thought the other man was a brother or a friend.
'Both were tall and both were blond-haired.
'One had blue eyes and the other had green eyes. I thought both of them were English until I found out now one of them was German.
'I always assumed they were English because I always heard them speaking in English.
'I immediately knew the new Madeleine McCann suspect was him when I saw the camper van on TV. It was the one he used. The last time I saw him was in 2007 shortly before Madeleine vanished.'
Police have said Brueckner was known to sell drugs to supplement his income from working in bars around Lagos.
Madeleine McCann detectives have received nearly 400 tip-offs since Christian Brueckner was named prime suspect, Scotland Yard reveals
Police have received nearly 400 tip-offs after convicted sexual predator Christian Brueckner was named as the prime suspect in Madeleine McCann's disappearance.
Information continues to pour into Scotland Yard's team of detectives working on the investigation into the disappearance, named Operation Grange.
A force spokesperson said on Saturday: 'We have now received just short of 400 pieces of information. We are pleased with the amount of calls and emails coming in and we are assessing them and prioritising them.'
German prosecutors believe Madeleine is dead and are investigating paedophile Brueckner, 43, on suspicion of her murder.
Prosecutors claim to know how the youngster died but have not revealed further details and British officers are still treating it as a missing persons case.
Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry of Rothley, Leicestershire, 'continue to hope she is alive until they can be shown incontrovertible evidence which proves that she is dead,' family spokesman Clarence Mitchell told MailOnline on Saturday
The news of the massive number of tip-offs comes as it emerged that Brueckner was flagged as a key suspect seven years ago by police but the report was apparently ignored by German authorities.
Mr Mitchell MailOnline on Saturday: 'Kate and Gerry continue to be encouraged by the level of response and nearly 400 fresh pieces of information so far is exactly what the Met wanted from their appeal.'
Phone records show German national Brueckner was in Praia da Luz, Portugal, when three-year-old Maddie was snatched from a holiday apartment in May 2007.
Police were led to Brueckner by a friend of his after he confessed during a drinking session three years ago that he 'knew all about' what had happened to Maddie.
He is currently serving seven years in Kiel jail in northern Germany for raping a 72-year-old American woman in Portugal.
The career criminal is refusing to co-operate with police, causing 'prolonged agony' for her parents.
Police sensationally revealed on Wednesday night that they had a significant new suspect in the 13-year hunt for Maddie's abductor.
Within 24 hours and following an appeal on German TV they had received 270 pieces of information, now steadily increasing.
DCI Mark Cranwell, who is heading Op Grange, said: 'We continue to urge anyone with information to come forward and speak with us.'
It comes after German magazine Spiegel reported that police in Braunschweig sent a report to Germany's Federal Criminal Office (BKA) about Brueckner being a prime suspect in 2013, two years before Inga Gehricke, 'Germany's Maddie McCann', disappeared. It was apparently ignored.
Braunschweig police were monitoring the 43-year-old around the clock at the time.
The report was triggered after an appeal from British police on a German unsolved crime show, on which the news about Brueckner was also broadcast this week.
Spiegel went on: 'One person did submit a tip about Brueckner but the resulting report from police in Braunschweig to the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation was apparently not acted upon, much to the consternation of the local investigators.'
Brueckner was born to a woman named Fischer but given over to youth authorities at an early age. Between 1992 - when he was 16 - and 1994 he lived in a facility for young people with learning difficulties.
A neighbour told German newspaper BILD: 'There were only bad young people there.'
During this time he committed his first burglary and received a suspended jail sentence. He finished his high school education and embarked on an apprenticeship as a car mechanic.
But in September 1993 he sexually abused a girl aged six in a playground.
In May 1994, three days before he was due to answer in court for the offence, he attempted to assault a nine-year-old girl.
He was given a two-year suspended jail term. A woman who lived near his residential home told Bild: 'I moved away because I feared he would attack my child.'
He broke the terms of his suspended sentence in 1995 to flee to Portugal with his then girlfriend.
The two kept themselves afloat with casual jobs and moved into a house in Praia da Luz. The relationship soon broke down and Brueckner then had a string of casual affairs.
He worked as a waiter and handyman but began to break into tourist hotels and guest houses to rob them of valuables.
When he and a friend tried to steal diesel fuel from a marina, he was caught and had to serve 258 days in jail.
In 2005 he raped and robbed an American widow, 72, in her house on the Algarve.
At his trial for the offence in Germany last year it emerged he had taken videos of other sex attacks. A pair of swimming goggles with the lenses painted grey were worn by one victims so she would not be able to identify him.
On 16 June 2013 Brueckner committed another 'sexual abuse of children'. In September of that year, according to Spiegel, he wrote in an online chatroom to an acquaintance that he wanted to 'capture something small and use it for days.'
When his acquaintance pointed out that this was dangerous, Brueckner replied: 'Oh, if the evidence is subsequently destroyed...'
In 2007 he moved back to Germany, living in Dresden, Augsburg and in a caravan in Hanover. Until 2008 he trades drugs on the North Sea island of Sylt.
From December 2012 to 2014 he ran a kiosk in Braunschweig, where German media say he also hosted drug parties.
But the business failed and he began living rough and drinking heavily.
Bild said: 'He constantly collected criminal charges. For theft, bodily injury, drunkenness in traffic, forged papers. The number of procedures is difficult to calculate. A life out of control!'
In early September 2019, police began investigating a missing person case. A girl, little Inga Gehricke, a delicate 5-year-old with blond hair, disappeared in May 2015 in the countryside of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt.
It was a difficult case, but the police discovered a possible connection to the case of another missing girl - also a blonde, the most famous 3-year-old in Europe.
Madeleine McCann disappeared in May 2007 in Portugal. Like Inga, she has never been found.
In the case of Inga, it is thought that Brueckner played a role. His face could also match a police facial composite image in the Madeleine case.
At the time of her disappearance, he was living in the area around Praia da Luz, the resort where the McCanns were spending their holidays.
It was the place where he had raped the American woman two years earlier.
In 1994, he was convicted for the first time for sexually abusing a child. He was convicted a second time in 2016. He also collected child pornography.
Spiegel wrote: 'The person who is believed to have destroyed the lives of the McCanns The person who is believed to have destroyed their lives is named Christian Brueckner, a man with a troubled life behind him.
'He grew up in a home, graduated from a lower secondary school and quit his vocational training. He moved from job to job and place to place, and the only constants in his a muddle of a life have been crimes, trials and convictions.
'Nothing seemed stable in his life – he changed girlfriends, jobs and the crimes he committed on a whim. In 2011, he was handed down a suspended sentence of one year and nine months, a result of having started a drug operation in 2007 to supply marijuana to the German island resort of Sylt.
'As he strayed through life without any fixed abode, social stability or moral inhibitions, the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance picked up again in 2011. This time in England.
'In May 2011, then Prime Minister David Cameron ordered that everything be reviewed again – every page in the file. Madeleine's parents had requested as much in a letter to him.'
The district court of Braunschweig wanted to send Brueckner to prison in early 2016 in a case involving the sexual abuse of a child, but he once again flew to Portugal only to be extradited back to Germany in 2017.
In December 2019, the Braunschweig regional court sentenced him in the case of the rape in 2005 in her home in Portugal.
The judgement in that case has not been finalized yet. A single hair proved the key piece of evidence and he is now being held in a prison in Kiel, Germany. He could soon be facing additional charges.
In December 2017, Germany's BKA received two tips from Scotland Yard in the Madeleine case. One of them directed suspicion to Brueckner.
An informant, likely a former colleague from Portugal, claimed to have recognized him from the police sketches.
Investigators with the BKA's Department SO25 set up a special commission that began its work with the utmost secrecy. The proceedings in the Madeleine case were conducted by the public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig because Brueckner had his last official residence there.
They are investigating him on suspicions of murder, with a spokesman for the public prosecutor's offices saying the assumption is that the girl is dead.
So far, investigators have built the case against him on the basis of circumstantial evidence.
He knew his way around Praia da Luz and apparently specialised in break-ins. He has also abused children in the past. The authorities also believe they know which mobile phone he used on May 3, 2007, 'with a probability bordering on certainty.'
The girl disappeared between 9:10 p.m. and 10 p.m. Calls were made during that period of time on the mobile phone in Praia da Luz. He cancelled his car registration the day after Madeleine's disappearance.
Spiegel added: 'What's lacking is concrete evidence. The BKA has distributed photos of a VW Transporter van that he might have been driving on the day of the crime.
It has also released the number of the mobile phone the suspect used that night to call a stranger from Praia da Luz. They have requested help from possible witnesses to fill in the gap between what is known about Him and what is believed to be true about him.
'Profilers at the BKA describe him in their report as a psychopath who is capable of anything. A man who nevertheless – or precisely because of this – had a charismatic aura and impressed the people around him. Most felt exploited, taken for a ride and cheated afterward.
They paint a picture of a manipulative narcissist who could appear charming, but was only trying to get money he would never pay back or sexual gratification.
'He was very engaging, dominant and sociable, he seemed like a hopeless dreamer who always had big plans,'says one companion. 'I knew he was up to no good. Drugs and such. But I had no idea that he had sexually abused children.'
'The man says it was no secret that the police were always after him. One former girlfriend had regularly called the police because Brueckner had allegedly beaten her.
'It was conspicuous that he had boasted about a sudden financial windfall after he returned from Portugal in 2007. Friends remember him telling them that he had found cash in a pile of clothes, large sums of money, after breaking into a home in the Algarve.
'In addition to a mobile home, he also used the money to buy a derelict factory property in the state of Saxony-Anhalt.
'Apart from money, he was likely interested mostly in sex. Officials found numerous references to his preferences on hard drives – and violence often played a role. The investigators also discovered child porn. Witnesses testifying in the regional court in Braunschweig during his trial there claimed they had seen sex videos with animals and also ones in which he raped women.
'In a chat with an acquaintance in September 2013 he wrote that he wanted to 'capture something small and use it for a few days.' The other replied that this would be dangerous.
And B. countered: 'Oh, if the evidence is destroyed afterwards.' Notes about the chat are in the investigation files of the Stendal police in Saxony-Anhalt, which prosecutors, BKA investigators, lawyers and future police officers studying at the police academy evaluated.
'The random way in which he apparently chose victims for his sex drive and the brutality he apparently subjected them to also occupied investigators in the case of the 5-year-old Inga from Saxony-Anhalt.
'She had visited a facility of the Diakonisches Werk, a Protestant charity organization, in Stendal with her parents and disappeared in May 2015. At the time the suspect was living around 90 kilometers away in an old house in Neuwegersleben.
'In addition to child porn, investigators also found children's clothes for girls in a trailer on the property, although he had no family.
The authorities believe that Christian Brueckner knew an employee of the Diakonie facility near which Inga disappeared. The uncertainty could end for her parents in much the same way as for the parents of Madeleine. There is no comfort, no hope. But there is the prospect of truth, of certainty. That, though, is far more than they have had until now.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.