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Rape case reopened after victim makes Maddie suspect link


Hazel Behan

Hazel Behan

Hazel Behan

Police in Portugal have reopened their investigation into the rape of Irish woman Hazel Behan after she came forward to say she believes her attacker may be Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner.

Ms Behan (37), who is originally from Dublin and now lives in Co Westmeath with her family, was working as a holiday representative in Praia da Rocha when she was viciously assaulted in June 2004, two weeks before her 21st birthday.

She told police her attacker was about 6ft 1in tall (1.85m), had "blond eyebrows, piercing blue eyes" and spoke English with a German accent.

The victim believes German Christian Brueckner, a key suspect in the Madeleine McCann case, could be her attacker after she noted similarities between Brueckner's 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz and her own ordeal.

Sky News reported yesterday that Portuguese detectives collected archived files earlier this week to reopen the case.

A local police officer when contacted said "all circumstances are being examined".

Ms Behan made a statement earlier this year to the London Met Police after Brueckner was identified as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case. They said they were taking her case very seriously and would be contacting Portuguese police.

A spokesperson for the Met Police told the Irish Independent: "We would not be able to comment on the rape investigation."

Noeline Blackwell, lawyer and head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said it was "heartening" that police were reopening their investigation.

"One of the things that is going to make progress for us as an Irish and European society, is somebody who is the victim can depend on the co-operation between European states and can depend on a high level of knowledge in the area of sexual violence. I know from reading reports that she was unhappy with the initial investigation, and what we can do now is hope that progress can now be made."

Brueckner is currently serving a 15-month jail term for drugs trafficking and has applied for early release. He has denied any involvement in the Madeleine McCann disappearance.

There is a 15-year statute of limitations in Portugal which may impede any charges being brought in Ms Behan's case if police do find evidence to support her belief.

Ms Behan, who waived her right to anonymity, told 'The Guardian' last month: "My mind was blown when I read how he had attacked a woman in 2005, both the tactics and the methods he used, the tools he had with him, how well he had planned it out."

She added: "I puked, to be honest with you, as reading about it took me right back to my experience.

"This woman was the victim of a horrific crime and she has suffered a lot. It is a matter for police all over Europe to do their best to bring the person who carried out this crime to justice.

"I think if the police had done their job investigating what happened to me, if this is indeed the same man that attacked the American and abducted Madeleine McCann, they might have prevented the attack on her and Madeleine would now be at home with her parents."

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The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre's 24-hour helpline can be contacted on 1800-77-88-88.

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