By DAVID RISING Associated Press
BERLIN (AP) — German prosecutors have opened an investigation into whether a 43-year-old who has emerged as a possible suspect in the disappearance of British girl Madeleine McCann in Portugal may have been involved in a similar crime in Germany.
Prosecutors in the northern town of Stendal, 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Berlin, told the dpa news agency Friday they had opened a preliminary investigation to determine whether there was anything to link the suspect to the 2015 disappearance of a 5-year-old girl from a nearby forest.
Authorities have not released the suspect’s name, but he has been widely identified by the German media as Christian B. He reportedly had a property 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Stendal in the town of Neuwegersleben when the girl disappeared.
McCann was 3 at the time of her 2007 disappearance from an apartment while her family vacationed in the seaside town of Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region.
German authorities this week said they had identified the 43-year-old German citizen as a suspect in the McCann case and are investigating him on suspicion of murder.
The suspect, who is currently in prison in Germany, spent many years in Portugal, including in Praia da Luz around the time of McCann’s disappearance, and has two previous convictions for “sexual contact with girls,” authorities said.
The suspect’s description fits that of a 43-year-old man who was convicted in December in the city of Braunschweig of the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in her apartment in Portugal, based largely on DNA evidence.
The suspect denied the charges during his trial and has appealed his conviction.
According to a copy of the rape verdict — which has all names redacted — sent by the Braunschweig court in response to a question by The Associated Press about the McCann suspect’s December conviction, the German man was a career criminal who was in and out of jail.
His crimes included the sexual abuse of a child in 1994 when he would have been around 17 and was tried in youth court, as well as a 2016 case in which he was convicted abusing another child and of possession of child pornography. Other convictions include drug trafficking, burglary and weapons violations.