A court blunder over the Madeleine McCann suspect’s sex crime history let him slip through the next after she vanished, it is claimed.
Christian B, as he is known under judicial privacy laws, should have been questioned as a sex offender living in the area where Madeleine went missing – but the Portuguese authorities hadn’t recorded his previous conviction, even though they had been told about it a year earlier.
Madeleine was three when she disappeared after being left sleeping in her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in May 2007.
A year earlier Christian B, a German drifter, was convicted of stealing diesel fuel from trucks and told a judge of his previous convictions in Germany for theft and a sex attack on a girl in Germany when he was 17.
But the previous sex conviction was not recorded and so, a year later, his name was not added to a list of known sex offenders who were among the first potential suspects questioned by Portuguese police searching for Madeleine.
At the time of his court appearance, Christian B, then 30 years old, had been living a mile or so from Praia da Luz.
Serafim Vieira, the Portuguese lawyer who defended him in court at Portimao, told the local RTP news channel: “Christian B confessed he had a criminal record in Germany from the age of 17, for theft and sexual abuse.”
The lawyer also said the suspect told the judge he was living in his van and did not reveal he had a rented home close to Praia da Luz.
He said: “He never mentioned ‘this is my home’ he always referred ‘this is the home of some friends’, where he had, in particular, kept or parked the car he had at the time, one of them, which was the Jaguar.”
The lawyer also said that at the time of his 2006 court appearance the suspect was driving a van – a Ford Transit or a Bedford – not the VW camper van that Scotland Yard and the German prosecutor have featured in recent appeals for information from anyone who knew Christian B and his vehicles.
Neighbours of the suspect’s rented home told Sky News the garden and surrounding scrub land were often littered with what appeared to be abandoned vehicles.
The suspect never returned to the property after his arrest in 2006, but police believed he stayed in the area and lived in the camper van. He had been living on the Algarve since 1995 and returned to Germany in 2007.
The van was taken to Germany for forensic tests last year after being recovered from a scrapyard near Silves, a 30-minute drive from Praia da Luz, where the suspect had sold it in 2015.
German police, who are investigating Christian B over Madeleine’s disappearance, have found no evidence of her in the van, nor in the suspect’s Jaguar car.
German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters says he has evidence Madeleine is dead, though hasn’t revealed what it is, and says he is investigating her murder.
Sky News has contacted the court for comment.
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