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Portuguese police reopen Irish rape case amid claims of Maddie suspect link

  • Hazel Behan says attacker resembled German suspect Christian Brueckner

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Hazel Behan was raped while working as a holiday rep in Portugal in 2004

Hazel Behan was raped while working as a holiday rep in Portugal in 2004

A minivan linked to suspect Christian Brueckner

A minivan linked to suspect Christian Brueckner

via REUTERS

Apartments in Praia da Luz from which Madeleine McCann went missing in 2007

Apartments in Praia da Luz from which Madeleine McCann went missing in 2007

AP

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Hazel Behan was raped while working as a holiday rep in Portugal in 2004

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

Dubliner Ms Behan (37), who now lives in Westmeath with her family, was working as a holiday rep in Praia da Rocha when she was raped in June 2004, two weeks before her 21st birthday.

She told police her attacker was about six-foot-one, had "blond eyebrows and piercing blue eyes" and spoke English with a German accent.

She believes 43-year-old German Brueckner, a key suspect in the Madeleine McCann case, could be her attacker after she noted similarities between his 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz and her own ordeal.

Archives

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

Ms Behan made a statement earlier this year to London's Metropolitan 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.

"We would not be able to comment on the rape investigation," a spokesperson for the Met said.

"Likewise, we are not providing a running commentary on the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann."

Lawyer Noeline Blackwell, who is head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said it is "heartening" that police are reopening the investigation.

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Christian B

Christian B

Christian B

"One of the things that is going to make progress for us as an Irish and European society is that 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," she said.

"I know from reading reports that she was unhappy with the initial investigation."

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

Lawyers for Madeleine's parents this week urged prosecutors to make their case soon due to the 15-year statute of limitations in Portugal.

This may also affect any charges being brought in Ms Behan's case if police do find any evidence.

After the attack, Ms Behan was taken to a local hospital where she was examined, but she does not know if forensic evidence was taken.

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Maddie McCann

Maddie McCann

Maddie McCann

She also said she was "not very confident" police examined her room correctly either.

In Portugal, forensic evidence is destroyed on the orders of a judge in cases where no suspect is identified within a certain period, so any valuable clues concerning her case may be lost.

Ms Behan, who waived her right to anonymity, said 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, how well he had planned it out.

"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. It is a matter for police all over Europe to do their best to bring the person who carried out this crime to justice."

Recalling her nightmare ordeal, she added: "I had gone to bed around 1am and was awoken by someone calling my name.

"I turned on to my back and standing there was a masked man dressed in tights and what resembled a leotard, with a machete around 12 inches long."

The man had removed his shoes at the door and set up a video camera in the room.

He took out a bag full of whips and chains before cutting Ms Behan's clothes from her body and gagging her.

"It seemed to me he had worked everything out, he had a plan," she said. "He consistently cleaned his hands, and repeatedly changed condoms. This went on, I guess, for around four or five hours.

"He got angry and ordered me into the bathroom and he picked up the machete.

"I was convinced he was going to kill me and I threatened to scream and said I would not go in there.

"My hands were still tied behind my back and he leaned me over a small bench and put a sheet over my head.

Humiliating

"I thought that was it, my life was over, but underneath the sheet I watched as he backed out of the door, put on his shoes and ran away down the street."

Once her attacker had left, she ran down the corridor to find help and, shortly afterwards, around 30 police officers and officials arrived.

Ms Behan said they took her back to the room "where I was asked to strip off and stand in a star jump-like stance while they took pictures of me. That was one of the most humiliating aspects of the whole ordeal".

"I was told at the time that if I talked about what had happened I would bring bad publicity to the resort," she added.

"Then I read about the poor American woman who was raped in September 2005 - who I would love to talk to - and the possible link that was being made between her attack and the person who abducted Madeleine McCann, and I was so full of anger, I knew in my gut it was the right thing to do to speak out.

"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."

Ms Behan was selected last year as Sinn Fein's candidate for the Kinnegad area in May's local elections.

She is an advocate for domestic and sexual abuse victims and has worked with families living with addiction.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre's 24-hour helpline can be contacted on 1800 77888.