A former Portuguese detective who worked on the Madeleine McCann case has branded new prime suspect Christian Brueckner a “scapegoat”.
Goncalo Amaral claimed that Brueckner, 43, was an “almost perfect suspect.”
The cop, who was removed from the investigation in 2008 after he criticised British police, first claimed last April a German paedophile who was in prison would be accused over Maddie’s disappearance.
He told a Portuguese TV interviewer last night: “When I spoke last year I was talking about the situation that’s happening now.
“It matters little who the paedophile is.”
He added: “He’s an almost perfect suspect. All that’s missing for him to become the perfect suspect is for him to be dead.”
During his half-hour-long interview with Portuguese broadcaster TVI, he also insinuated the German authorities had altered photos of the two-tone VW camper van Brueckner was using around the time Madeleine disappeared.
The former PJ chief, who was removed as head of the Madeleine McCann inquiry in 2008 after criticising British police officers, showed interviewer Jose Alberto Carvalho photos he said were taken in Portugal of the same vehicle.
One of the photos he produced showed a series of very distinctive Minion-style characters painted on the front and back of the camper van, which in the picture put out by police had no markings on it.
He said: “It’s the same vehicle flagged up in the police appeal.
“I think it’s important to ask why the photo put out by the authorities of the van was altered. Would that vehicle have gone unnoticed in Praia da Luz with those markings on it? I don’t think so.”
Suggesting the van could have looked very different in 2007 to the way it appeared in the photo put out by British police, he added: “Is it that the German authorities reached the conclusion that the van wasn’t like that when it was being driven in Praia da Luz in 2007? Who said that?
He went on to say any appeal focused on the van from the official photos without the distinctive markings would be a waste of time.
Pressed on what Portuguese police knew about Brueckner’s past around the time Madeleine disappeared, he claimed detectives were not aware of his 1994 teenage sexual conviction for molesting a six-year-old girl but admitted: “At the time all we knew was that this man was a paedophile.”
He also came out against German authorities’ plans to re-examine DNA evidence taken from the McCanns’ hire car and holiday apartment.
Rubbishing reports a saliva sample had been found on Madeleine’s bedspread and could prove key to a conviction now Brueckner had been identified as a new suspect, he said it had been proven it belonged to a baby being fed mother’s milk staying in the apartment before the McCanns arrived.
Asked why he thought the German authorities might have interest in coming up with new information which in his opinion had no real value, Amaral claimed: “Because it enables them to have jurisdiction over this case.
“I think the Portuguese police and the authorities can do anything here in laboratories that they can do in Germany. “
Amaral’s interview was his first since Brueckner’s name was made public – and the first time he has spoken about the case since last December when he appeared on Spanish TV.
He went on Spanish TV to rule out speculation Hamburg-born child strangler Martin Ney was being probed over Madeleine’s disappearance, months after claiming on an Australian podcast that a scapegoat was being prepared by police.
He failed to identify Ney by name at the time, describing the suspect only as someone who had been ruled out of the investigation into the missing British youngster in 2008 but later jailed in his home country.
Amaral told the Spanish TV programme: “A paedophile who is German and serving life for killing children has been spoken about.
“What I know is that the suspect is not him, it’s another man.
“He’s also in prison in Germany. He’s also a paedophile.
“Years later, many years later, it appears that in an Internet chatroom there is a conversation between that person and another person where they talk about Madeleine.”