Christian Brueckner was working at Ocean Club restaurant where Madeleine ... trends now

Christian Brueckner was working at Ocean Club restaurant where Madeleine ... trends now
Christian Brueckner was working at Ocean Club restaurant where Madeleine ... trends now

Christian Brueckner was working at Ocean Club restaurant where Madeleine ... trends now

The chief suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann worked at the same Algarve resort that she vanished from in 2007, it has been claimed to MailOnline.

According to British expat Ken Ralphs - who knew Christian Brueckner at the time through acquaintances - the German criminal, 47, was working cash-in-hand at the Ocean Club tapas bar frequented by Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine's parents.

Mr Ralphs maintains that Brueckner plotted with another man to abduct a young girl to then sell her to a couple unable to have children of their own.

The 59-year-old believes the pair went through with their plan and kidnapped Madeleine from her family's hotel room on that fateful night in May 2007, while Kate and Gerry were in the Ocean Club restaurant with their group of friends who later became known in the press as 'The Tapas Seven'.

However, speaking to MailOnline, Mr Ralphs said he suspects Brueckner and his co-conspirators lost their nerve when they saw the extensive media coverage of the case, which highlighted her distinctive eyes - making her impossible to sell.

The Brit - who left the UK in 2004, returning intermittently - says he went to police in both the UK and in Portugal in the immediate aftermath of Madeleine's disappearance, and again when Brueckner was officially named a suspect in 2020. 

In both countries, he says he told police about Brueckner's alleged plot, and that the drifter had been working at the Ocean Club restaurant - something that was also reported in the past by a German documentary in 2020.

Since then, Mr Ralphs says, he has received conflicting accounts from police in both countries over whether the information he provided was passed on or investigated.

The chief suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann - Christian Brueckner - worked at the same Algarve resort that she vanished from in 2007, it has been claimed to MailOnline by someone who knew him when he lived in Portugal's Algarve region at the time

The chief suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann - Christian Brueckner - worked at the same Algarve resort that she vanished from in 2007, it has been claimed to MailOnline by someone who knew him when he lived in Portugal's Algarve region at the time

Madeleine McCann (pictured) went missing on May 3, 2007 at the age of just three. She has never been found. German criminal Christian Brueckner has been named by German prosecutors as their chief suspect in her disappearance

Madeleine McCann (pictured) went missing on May 3, 2007 at the age of just three. She has never been found. German criminal Christian Brueckner has been named by German prosecutors as their chief suspect in her disappearance

Madeleine McCann (pictured) went missing on May 3, 2007 at the age of just three. She has never been found. German criminal Christian Brueckner has been named by German prosecutors as their chief suspect in her disappearance 

According to British expat Ken Ralphs (pictured speaking to Sky News earlier this month) - who knew Christian Brueckner at the time through acquaintances - the German criminal was working cash-in-hand at the Ocean Club restaurant frequented by Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine's parents. They were at the bar on the night Madeleine vanished

According to British expat Ken Ralphs (pictured speaking to Sky News earlier this month) - who knew Christian Brueckner at the time through acquaintances - the German criminal was working cash-in-hand at the Ocean Club restaurant frequented by Kate and Gerry McCann, Madeleine's parents. They were at the bar on the night Madeleine vanished

After 13 years of fruitless investigations, Brueckner was named by German prosecutors in 2020 as the chief suspect in the notorious case of the missing girl.

Although he has been convicted and charged with a string of other sex crimes, the 47-year-old has never been charged in connection with Madeleine's case and has denied having any involvement in her disappearance.

Brueckner is known to have lived in southern Portugal's Algarve region, near Praia da Luz, where Madeleine vanished on May 3, 2007 - aged just three.

He was part of the region's drifter community, and spent 12 years pursuing a bohemian lifestyle in and around Praia da Luz at two houses, one in the small town and one two miles away between the neighbouring town of Lagos.

It has also since come to light that he was a drug dealer, and was convicted on unrelated counts of sexual abuse and drug trafficking. He is currently in a German prison for the rape of a 72-year-old woman in her Praia da Luz home in 2005.

Mr Ralphs - a former community champion in Greater Manchester - himself fled from the UK Portugal with his wife in 2004 when a police blunder led to his name being handed to suspected criminals.

This was after Mr Ralphs had given police information on a gangland murder in which the suspects were cleared, resulting in death threats made against him and putting his family in danger.

After spending time in witness protection, Mr Ralphs and his wife decided to leave their life in the UK behind - where he had previously been an elected representative of a local political party. He had also worked in partnership with Manchester Police to fight crime under the Crime and Disorder Act.

After being awarded over £130,000 in compensation over the police blunder, the couple hid out in the Algarve in a campervan, moving from place to place, and - like Brueckner - temporarily became part of the drifter community in the region.

It was during Brueckner's time in the Algarve that Mr Ralphs said he met the German through another man, who MailOnline is choosing not to name for legal reasons.

For the purposes of this article, the man will be referred to as John.

According to Mr Ralphs, Brueckner and John set up a hidden encampment in Carrapateira - 10 miles from Praia da Luz - where John stayed with his wife and two young children in a tee-pee tent.

John was struggling, Mr Ralphs said, and so he and his wife Hazel would often take food to their camp so they and their young children could eat.

While Mr Ralphs said he had seen Brueckner at other locations in the region since he had arrived in 2004 - at car boot sales, in town centres, or in other camping spots on the region's beaches - he met him properly for the first time through John.

One night in April 2007, around a week before Madeleine vanished, Mr Ralphs said he and John were sitting around a campfire drinking some beers together having spent the evening with their families and, earlier in the night, Brueckner.

After Brueckner left the site, and after others had turned in, Mr Ralphs said John revealed to him that Brueckner had spoken about his plan to kidnap a young girl and sell her to a family - suggesting it as a way to make some quick money.

'We sat by the fire until the early hours of the morning,' Mr Ralphs recalled to MailOnline, 'and that's when [John] started to cry and confess.'

The ex pat said he initially tried to comfort an 'obviously depressed' John, before John asked Mr Ralphs if he could tell him a 'secret'.

Madeleine McCann vanished from her family's hotel room on that fateful night in May 2007, while her parents Kate and Gerry were in the Ocean Club restaurant (pictured) with their group of friends who later became known in the press as 'The Tapas Seven'

Madeleine McCann vanished from her family's hotel room on that fateful night in May 2007, while her parents Kate and Gerry were in the Ocean Club restaurant (pictured) with their group of friends who later became known in the press as 'The Tapas Seven'

Pictured: The holiday complex where the McCanns were staying in Portugal's Algarve region in May 2007, when their three-year-old daughter vanished without a trace

Pictured: The holiday complex where the McCanns were staying in Portugal's Algarve region in May 2007, when their three-year-old daughter vanished without a trace

Madeleine parents Kate and Gerry McCann are seen during an interview in 2017

Madeleine parents Kate and Gerry McCann are seen during an interview in 2017

'[John] told me Christian was planning to take a child from Praia da Luz,' Mr Ralphs said. 'He then clarified it was not ransom, but that it was to take a child to sell to a German couple who could not have children of their own.

'He assured me the child would not be harmed,' Mr Ralphs said, adding that John 'told me Christian knew many people who will pay good money for a child who cannot give birth, and that the child would be taken from a rich family with more than one child [of their own] so the parents would not grieve as badly.'

After this shocking revelation, Mr Ralphs said he pressed John for more information.

He said John explained Brueckner 'worked at the [Ocean Club] restaurant, and that he had been planning events for months.

'He said Christian Knows the place inside out and was very clever and he knows what he is doing,' Mr Ralphs added.

Recalling that night, Mr Ralphs told MailOnline that he set about trying to dissuade John from going through with the plot with Brueckner, warning him to not fall in with criminals.

At the time, Mr Ralphs was earning money by fixing satellites on the caravans belonging to other people in the off-grid Algarve community, and offered to train John so that they could work together and help him out of the dire situation.

However, Mr Ralphs said he is not sure if he got through to John. Despite his best efforts to get more information out of him about Brueckner's alleged plot, he said John eventually went to bed, and they didn't speak about it again.

A week later, Mr Ralphs was back in the UK briefly visiting his father in Stockport when the news of Madeleine's disappearance broke on the news.

'I was sat in my dad's house having a cup of tea when it came on the news - the breaking news when the new came out,' an emotional Mr Ralphs recalled. 'First thing I said was "oh for f*** sake". My dad asked what's the matter, and I told my dad.'

Mr Ralphs said the news left him in tears, and that his father persuaded him to go to the police - despite his past experiences.

Choosing not to return to police in Manchester after his experience in 2004 that caused him to flee to Portugal, he acted on his father's advice and travelled up to Workington Police station and delivered a statement to Cumbria Police.

Mr Ralphs said he handed officers there a hand-drawn map of where the tee-pee camp was hidden in Portugal and requested they send it to Portuguese officials involved in the search for Madeleine. He also told officers that John had told him Brueckner was working at Ocean Club, he said.

On his return to Portugal days later, Mr Ralphs went straight to the site of the tee-pee camp - only to find that it had been destroyed by fire - all but a bamboo cage.

An aerial image shows where the McCanns were staying, relative to the Ocean Bar they ate at on the night Madeleine vanished in May 3, 2007

An aerial image shows where the McCanns were staying, relative to the Ocean Bar they ate at on the night Madeleine vanished in May 3, 2007

'What I got back I wanted to see whether [John and his family] were still at the camp, to try and establish whether he had been involved. If he was still about, I could have questioned him, but he wasn't there,' Mr Ralphs said.

'It had all been destroyed by a fire - everything had been gutted, totally burnt-out. All that remained was a four-or-five-foot cage, which I found unusual, because the cage wasn't there before when [John] gave his confession.'

After finding the destroyed camp site, Mr Ralphs searched the other Algarve beaches John was known to frequent.

He eventually found another mutual acquaintance, a Frenchman who was also part of the drifter community and who MailOnline is not naming, at Amado beach - a popular spot around 10 miles from Praia da Luz.

The Frenchman told Mr Ralphs that John had left him with his pet dog after leaving for Africa. This was surprising, Mr Ralphs

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