Madeleine McCann case: what does Christian Brückner arguido status mean?

Portuguese authorities have officially named the German national as a suspect

Prosecutors in Portugal have officially named a German national Christian Brückner as an arguido, or suspect, in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

What is arguido status?

Usually translated as “named suspect”, “formal suspect” or “person of interest”, the status of arguido – or in the case of a woman, arguida – is used in Portugal’s legal system and in other jurisdictions based on the Portuguese system.

Authorities use it to categorise someone who is treated by Portuguese police as more than a witness, but has not been arrested or charged.

Who was the first person to be declared as being an arguido in the Madeline McCann investigation?

Robert Murat, an Anglo-Portuguese property developer who lived 100 yards from where Madeleine disappeared and who helped in the initial search, was made an arguido after detectives took him in for questioning.

Murat was formally cleared of suspicion in 2008 and won damages for defamatory reports of his involvement in the disappearance.

How was it used in relation to Kate and Gerry McCann?

Kate McCann, Madeleine’s mother, was formally declared an arguida on 7 September 2007, after 10 hours of questioning by Portuguese police. Gerry McCann was given arguido status the following day after further police questioning.

It wasn’t until July 2008, after Portuguese police had submitted their final report, that both parents were formally cleared by the Portuguese authorities of involvement in their daughter’s disappearance.

“It is hard to describe how utterly despairing it was to be named arguidos and subsequently portrayed in the media as suspects in our own daughter’s abduction,” said Kate McCann, who added it had been “equally devastating to witness the detrimental effect” it had on the search for her daughter.

What are the circumstances of the latest designation of arguido status?

Brückner, a convicted rapist identified as a murder suspect by German prosecutors in June 2020, has been formally identified as a suspect by Portuguese authorities.

The timing of the move could be related to Portugal’s 15-year statute of limitations for crimes with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more. Madeleine disappeared on 3 May 2007, while on holiday with her parents in Praia da Luz in Portugal.

What are the legal and practical implications of the status?

Someone with the status has legal protection that is not extended to a witness, including the right to remain silent during questioning and the right to legal representation.

Detectives invoke arguido status on someone as a preliminary to an arrest being made or charges brought, according to experts in Portuguese law. Investigators might treat someone as an arguido as soon as they have sufficient evidence but in some circumstances they have been known to hold back to give a suspect a false sense of security.

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In practical terms, a person has to be declared an arguido before they can be arrested and the approach of investigators to interviews typically shifts if someone’s status changes from being a witness.

Once a case file is completed, the police pass it to the public ministry, the equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service, which decides whether an acusaçao or indictment is brought.


Ben Quinn

The GuardianTramp

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