The new Madeleine McCann suspect unmasked a day ago has been on the police radar for more than 20 years and could be let out of jail on parole within days, it has emerged.
Labelled a "multiple sex offender", 43-year-old German Christian Brueckner had been convicted of a child sex offence when he was just 17.
But the 43-year-old, who reportedly has 17 criminal convictions, was apparently overlooked by Portuguese in the case of McCann's disappearance.
It also emerged yesterday he had been convicted of raping a 72-year-old widow in her Algarve home just 18 months before McCann disappeared.
Yesterday, police said they have "almost enough evidence" to charge the convicted paedophile with McCann's kidnapping and murder.
Scotland Yard appealed for information about two vehicles owned by Brueckner at the time, a van and a Jaguar.
He transferred the Jaguar to someone else's name the day after she vanished.
German police chief Christian Hoppe last night went on the country's TV show XY - his country's version of Crimewatch – and revealed: "The investigation leads us to believe that Maddie McCann was killed."
Police also revealed last night that Brueckner made a 30-minute phone call that located him in Praia da Luz just an hour before the Maddie was last seen on May 3, 2007.
But now more details of his crooked, Jaguar-driving wannabe playboy life have emerged, as well as an alleged admission into McCann's disappearance.
SUSPECT'S BOMBSHELL ADMISSION AND WANNABE PLAYBOY LIFESTYLE
The German drifter spent 12 years pursuing a bohemian lifestyle – but not long after Madeleine McCann vanished in 2007, he left Portugal and returned to his homeland.
But it was in a German bar 10 years later, on the anniversary of the 3-year-old's disappearance, that he made a startling admission.
As McCann's face flashed up on the TV screen, he reportedly turned to his drinking partner and claimed he "knew all about" the case.
According to Sky News, it is alleged he said he knew what had happened to McCann.
It is also claimed in 2005 he showed a companion a video of himself raping an elderly American widow. The friend then contacted police.
The 43-year-old's lifestyle was described as "a bit chaotic", with one former friend telling the Daily Mail "if everything is true then he was indeed a master of illusion".
He had tried to hide his gruesome life of crime, ranging from drug-dealing and rape, by driving Jaguars, living a party wannabe playboy lifestyle.
BRUECKNER'S REIGN OF TERROR
Born in 1976, Brueckner committed his first burglary in his home town of Wuerzburg in Germany at just the age of 15.
Within two years he was convicted of sexually abusing a child.
He then notched up convictions for drug dealing, driving under the influence and driving without a licence.
After turning 18, he left Germany and headed to Algarve with his then-girlfriend.
He eventually settled in Praia da Luz – the picturesque resort where the McCanns took their three children on holiday.
He stayed for 12 years, dealing cannabis, trafficking drugs and burgling holiday homes and hotel rooms.
After a decade on the Algarve, Brueckner burgled a 72-year-old American widow and subjected her to a violent sexual assault, which he recorded on camera.
By this time Brueckner lived in a rented whitewashed villa on a remote hillside – above the beach where the McCanns played during their week's holiday.
He was described as an "angry car dealer", according to German paper Bild.
Brueckner left Portugal after Madeleine disappeared on May 3, 2007. The previous month, he had moved out of the villa and into a VW Westfalia campervan. Police have now linked this vehicle to Maddie's disappearance.
Brueckner also retained his prized 1993 Jaguar XJR6. Scotland Yard has now revealed that the day after Madeleine vanished, Brueckner re-registered the classic British car to someone else, even though he was still driving it.
He eventually moved back to Germany before committing more crimes.
In 2016, he was sentenced to one year and three months' imprisonment for "sexually abusing a child in the act of procuring himself and possessing child pornography".
In September, 2017, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for the sexual abuse of a child.
In October 2018, after his release, he was convicted of dealing drugs and sent to prison in Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein, where he remains to this day.
Prosecutors also had enough evidence to charge him with the horrific sex attack he had filmed 13 years earlier.
Brueckner is behind bars in Germany. But it was claimed that he could walk free within days, as he will become eligible for parole on Sunday.