The upcoming trial of the main suspect in Madeleine McCann’s disappearance could “absolutely” lead to the missing child’s case being reopened, a forensic expert has said.
Christian B, in his 40s, is already serving a seven-year prison sentence for rape. He is set to appear in court in Germany on 16 February, accused of five offences allegedly carried out between 2000 and 2017 in Portugal.
The charges include the rape of two women and a girl and the sexual abuse of two children, the BBC reports.
Madeleine, then aged three, was on holiday with her family in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz when she vanished from their holiday accommodation in 2007.
Investigations by UK and Portuguese authorities found circumstantial evidence linking Christian B to the case, but ended up stalling because of a lack of scientific evidence connecting the victim and suspect, Dr Robert Green, professor of forensic science at the University of Kent, told i.
He denies any involvement in the case.
The Metropolitan Police closed Madeleine’s case in 2022, after 11 years and an estimated £13m were poured into the investigation. But the trial beginning next Friday could “absolutely” lead to fresh lines of inquiry into her disappearance, said Dr Green.
What has the suspect been accused of?
In 2022, German authorities named Christian B as an official suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.
He is currently behind bars over the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old woman inside her flat in Praia da Luz, the same town from where Madeleine vanished two years later.
In 1994, the suspect received a two-year prison sentence for a sex attack on a six-year-old girl in Germany when he was 17.
In 2016, he was jailed for a year and three months for “abusing a child in the act of procuring himself and possessing child pornography” and in June 2017 he received a 15-month sentence for the sexual abuse of a child.
The trial, in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, could last for months.
But Christian B’s lawyer told the BBC that his client was unlikely to make “substantive submissions“.
Will the trial have any effect on Madeleine’s case?
Dr Green, who hasn’t been directly involved in Madeleine’s case, said one potential outcome from the trial next week “could be, and I am sure it will be, that things will be revealed during the court process which might lead to other avenues of inquiry”.
He said investigators may be prompted to reexamine specific details of the case if previously undisclosed information emerged at the trial, especially if they could be inspected using technology that wasn’t available back in 2007.
“When I’ve done cold case reviews in the past, I actually started by looking at the crime scene photographs,” Dr Green said. “Was that evidence collected? If collected, was it ever submitted?”
But he added: “Absence of evidence doesn’t mean the evidence of absence, what that means is that because you don’t actually find any evidence, that’s not to say that the person is not guilty.
“There are lots of things that have to be examined and looked at.”
He said the best outcome would be for the McCanns to have some sort of closure after a gruelling 16 years of searching for their daughter.
“God forbid Maddie is dead,” Dr Green said, but the identification of the potential site where her body may have been deposited, for example, “might be an outcome which isn’t the best by all means, but at least it would be some closure to the family”.