‘It’s not him’: doubts over chief Madeleine McCann suspect
A key Madeleine McCann witness who may have seen the youngster being snatched in her pyjamas does not recognise new chief suspect Christian Brueckner.
Former business executive Martin Smith and his family made a statement to cops saying they saw a man carrying a young pyjama-clad girl the night the toddler vanished in 2007.
Martin, his wife and two kids were holidaying in Portugal at the same time as the McCanns and claim they saw a man aged around 35 to 40 with a youngster in pink and white PJs down a quiet street around 150m from the beach near the complex where Maddie was staying.
Irishman Martin, made a statement along with his wife Mary, daughter Aoife and son Peter saying the man they saw was Caucasian and around 5ft 7in to 5ft 9in in height.
He helped compiled an e-fit of the man in 2008 but the image was not made public until 2013.
But when asked if Brueckner fitted the man he saw, Martin told The Sun: "I cannot add to the statement I gave police six years ago. This all happened 13 years ago.
"I have seen the pictures and coverage this week (of Christian B) but everything I could say I said in my statement to police. I don't recognise this man."
Martin added he has not heard from German investigators and officers from the Met had not been touch.
The reported sighting by the Smiths was at around 10pm on May 3, 2007 and was later labelled 'The Smith Sighting'.
It was less than 300 metres from the resort where the McCanns were staying and the man was heading to the beach 150 metres away.
Martin and family members who were interviewed stated that they went to bar before leaving at around 10pm.
As the group made their way back to their apartment, several noticed a man walking down the middle of the street, Rua 25 de Abril, carrying a girl, about three or four years old.
The child seen had blonde hair, according to descriptions given, and her skin was very fair.
At the time, the family thought little about it, and headed home the following day.
At the time, local officers were focused on another sighting of a man near Kate and Gerry McCann's holiday apartment .
Martin and his family's e-fit was compiled by private detectives in September 2008.
In 2012 Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood from the Met said for years the Smiths' sighting had been seen as "wrong place, wrong time" by investigators and was deemed unimportant.
But now Brueckner has been identified as a prime suspect in Maddie's disappearance, it is likely Martin may be interviewed again by authorities.
It has now emerged Brueckner left Portugal days after Madeleine McCann vanished on May 3, 2007, to set up an illegal drugs network.
A European Arrest Warrant revealed he fled back to Germany to sell cannabis bought with cash and gems stolen on the Algarve.
He was known to be driving a vehicle matching the description of his Tiffin Allegro motorhome when Madeleine disappeared.
Brueckner is serving time for drugs charges but has applied to be released early after completing two-thirds of his sentence.
He was separately found guilty of raping a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz in 2005 and jailed for seven years but has appealed against the sentence.
CHIEF SUSPECT 'MAY NOT BE CHARGED'
Meanwhile, it has been revealed Brueckner may evade criminal charges despite prosecutors being "convinced of his guilt".
German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said they had "concrete evidence" that Madeleine has `been killed.
He also said they had phone data that put Brueckner near the apartment in Praia da Luz on Portugal's Algarve coast, from where the three-year-old was snatched in May 2007 and appealed for any information which might help convict him.
But in a mind-boggling about-face, Mr Wolters said: "You also have to be realistic enough that the investigation may not lead to a charge for the murder of Madeleine McCann. It could be stopped if we fail to find the missing evidence.
"I am currently unable to predict the outcome of our investigation but we are still convinced of the guilt of the accused and hope for further promising investigative approaches."
German investigators say they are sifting through 400 calls they received to the country's equivalent of Crimewatch after an appeal was broadcast three weeks ago and an insider revealed much of it was of ''little use''.
Mr Wolters, who is based in Braunschweig, where Brueckner ran a bar, said he was "hopeful of finding other victims, who have been sexually assaulted by the suspect'' even if it meant they could not pin a murder charge on him.
The dramatic development will bring new anxiety to Maddie's parents Kate and Gerry.
Mr Wolters said dealing with Portuguese counterparts was ''cumbersome'' before adding that police in Praia were obsessed with the ridiculous theory that Kate and Gerry were involved in their daughter's abduction.
Then it emerged one of two letters informing the McCann family of the investigation had failed to arrive after being sent from Germany to Scotland Yard further adding to confusion and suggestions of disjointed handling.
Brueckner is in Kiel prison serving 21 months for drug trafficking but is eligible for parole and could be out as early as next week if an appeal to Germany's Federal Court succeeds.
The suspect, 43, is believed to have been leading a "transient lifestyle" at the time of Madeleine's disappearance, as he travelled between Portugal and Germany.
He had been living near Praia da Luz when Madeleine vanished from her room in May 2007.
In December he was convicted at Braunschweig court of the brutal 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman not far from Praia da Luz and given seven years but the sentence is not definitive as his legal team has appealed.
They are arguing Germany breached the regulations of the European Arrest Warrant used to bring him back from Italy to Braunschweig in September 2018 as it was for the drugs conviction and he was then subsequently put on trial for rape.
HIs claim is before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and is being fast tracked with a decision expected by July 17 which could see him cleared of the accusation or put on trial once again.
Originally published as 'It's not him': doubts over chief Madeleine McCann suspect