‘I saw Christian Brueckner in home-made rape videos' witness tells court

FILE - This image distributed on June 8, 2020, by Carabinieri (Italian paramilitary police), shows a man identified as Christian Brueckner, at the time of his arrest in 2018, under an international warrant for drug trafficking and on charges of other crimes. German prosecutors on Tuesday Oct. 11, 2022 charged a 45-year-old German man, who is also a suspect in the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann, with several sexual offenses he is alleged to have committed in Portugal between 2000 and 2017. (Carabinieri via AP, File)
Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner. Credit: AP

Written by Jon Clarke

A former acquaintance of Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner has told a court in Germany how he saw the sex offender in two home-made rape videos.

Helge Busching was speaking at Braunschweig court during Brueckner's trial where he is accused of multiple sex crimes, separate from the McCann case.

He claims he saw two victims - a pensioner and a teenager - both being tied down and beaten before being sexually assaulted in a recording he found in a camera stolen from Brueckner's home.

German Busching, 53, recalled his shock when he saw Brueckner takes off a mask at the end of the filmed attack of the older woman who was in her 70s.

He added that it was clearly not consensual, with the woman calling out in English as well as being restrained and blindfolded.

In the second video he said he saw a "young girl with long black hair" tied to a post at Brueckner's rented farmhouse just outside Praia da Luz, in Portugal.

Christian Brueckner sits in the courtroom during his trial at Braunschweig Regional Court. Credit: AP

He said she was "about 14 or 15" and naked. He explained how he recognised Brueckner's home due to the post and decor, having visited the home on various occasions.

Busching, a petty thief who lived for many years in Spain and Italy, said: “She was shouting at Christian: ‘you know what this is? This is rape’.

“But he just sat on the end of the bed laughing,” he continued.

"I couldn't believe what I was watching.”

Busching has been in witness protection for four years over this case.

He revealed he had later shown the films to his friend, fellow German, Manfred Seyferth and to a British bar owner in Santa Clara in Portugal.

The witness added the videos had both been filmed on the Algarve in 2005 - two years before Maddie went missing - as he remembered seeing the date at the top of the picture.

He and his friend Manfred had found the films along with a Sony video camera and about 20 more cassettes when they had visited Brueckner's home in April 2006.

It came after they heard how Brueckner and his friend Michael Tatschl had been put in prison for diesel theft that month.

Christian Brueckner sits in the courtroom during his trial at Braunschweig Regional Court. Credit: AP

When they got to the home - less than a kilometer from the Ocean Club where Maddie vanished in May 2007 - they found the door open.

He revealed it had already been ransacked but there were still plenty of items around that were "worth stealing".

Busching explained they didn't take laptops, as they could be identified, but they stole a camera, some fuel and a gun.

The pistol had later been thrown into Santa Clara reservoir, some 45 minutes inland from Praia da Luz, he said.

When they returned to his caravan parked up in Santa Clara later that night he decided to look at the films on the camera, which he later sold for 50 euros (£43).

"They were in a shoe box with a lot of videos in it... Not large VHS videos but small ones. Many were tourist videos from people in Spain and Portugal.

"I took the video recorder as I wanted to sell it, but I kept the videos in a caravan in Santa Clara. I ended up leaving it there as I had to return to Spain quickly."

Christian Brueckner in the courtroom during his trial at Braunschweig Regional Court. Credit: AP

In his six hour testimony, he described Bruecker as "dangerous" and then added his "biggest regret" was not going to police sooner with the evidence.

He claimed he had first tried to give evidence to the McCann family in the UK in 2008, via a detective agency run by Dave Edgar.

He said he had seen the appeal by Edgar, who had been hired by the family, on television in Valencia, Spain, where he was living at the time.

But they had ignored him and it was not until a decade later that he had first given his evidence to two Scotland Yard detectives in Athens in 2017.

The following year he backed it up to the German federal police in Wiesbaden.

Later, in cross-examination, Busching denied he had been paid by Scotland Yard for the information he had given them.

He also told the court how his life had turned upside down after it emerged he was a key witness in the trial.

He quit his "good job" in Corsica and in June 2020 he had to go into witness protection.

“I lost my job, my friends and my family because of all this,” he said.

Madeleine McCann Credit: Family handout

He recalled how he first met Brueckner in Portugal in 2006 through his friends Seyferth and Tatschl, who called him the "head waiter" (oberkellner) as he always dressed smartly.

Busching has previously revealed to German media Brueckner was an expert lock picker and told German newspaper Bild, Brueckner boasted he had a ‘burglary toolkit’ which he would use to 'break into hotels and holiday homes to steal from tourists'.

Later in the afternoon, Brueckner's lawyer, Friedrich Fulscher, grilled Busching, firstly on money he was allegedly paid by the media to give evidence and then exactly what he had found at Brueckner's rental home.

The trial became heated when Busching accused Brueckner’s lawyer of hacking into Manfred Seyferth's Facebook account to track him down in Corsica.

His lawyer claimed Fulscher had broken Article 138A of the German criminal code and logged an official complaint with the judge.

It centered around how the lawyer had teamed up with a German crime journalist Baston Schluter to firstly track down and interview Seyferth.

The pair then acquired his private Facebook account, via stealth, and masqueraded as Seyferth to speak to Busching.

Busching’s lawyer handed out copies of all the Facebook Messenger conversations to the judge and lawyers as proof, leading to red faces from the defence and a look of alarm on suspect Brueckner’s face.

As he has done before Fulscher claimed his client was unable to get a fair trial due to all the negative media reports in the run up.

He also slammed prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters (who was in the audience watching) for claiming that he was ‘100% sure’ Brueckner was guilty of killing Madeleine McCann.

Busching will be required to come back to field further questions from the defence in June.

Brueckner is currently serving a seven year prison sentence for the rape of an American pensioner, Diana Menkes, then 72, in Praia da Luz, in 2005.

The trial continues this Friday with evidence from Brueckner's former cellmate Michael Tatschl.

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