'Cheerful' Madeleine McCann suspect's trip with hitchhikers before she vanished

The prime suspect in the Madeleine McCann case was filmed behind the wheel of a rusty VW campervan just weeks before she vanished.

In the footage “cheerful” Brueckner poses doing the peace sign and can be seen laughing and joking as he studies a map in the back of the van.

The convicted sex offender had given three young German travellers who were on a “trip of a lifetime” a lift in Spain in his tatty white and yellow T3 Westfalia.

The video was shot on March 30, 2007 – five weeks before Madeleine vanished in Praia da Luz , Portugal.



One of the travellers, known only as Tomas, 35, told MailOnline: “It makes me sick to think that the little girl could have been taken away in the same van a month later.

“He seemed like any other ordinary young man. He was cheerful and joked a lot and happy to give us a ride in his VW.

“He would repeatedly give us the peace sign by making a ‘V’ with his fingers.

“It is almost that he tried too hard to be our friend. He must have known we could never suspect what a terrible man he really was.



'Cheerful' Madeleine McCann suspect's trip with hitchhikers before she vanished


'Cheerful' Madeleine McCann suspect's trip with hitchhikers before she vanished

“It is scary to know now he was a rapist of an elderly woman and targeted children. We could not have known he was such a monster.”

The three pals had been taking part in a challenge to transport a caravan from Faro in the Algarve to Saxony in Germany while surviving on 10 Euros a day, getting truck drivers to tow it.

A pal of Brueckner suggested he could help.

Brueckner drove 300 miles, almost five hours, from Praia da Luz to Malaga, Spain, to pick them up, then drove them for another three hours to Vera, Almeria.



'Cheerful' Madeleine McCann suspect's trip with hitchhikers before she vanished

“He was a stranger and decided to drive us,” Tomas said.

“He told us to call him the ‘Happy Hobby Hippy’ because he liked to hang out with people who were hippies.

“When we got there we all hugged him and thanked him and he said he was going on back to Portugal.”

A few days later he messaged them to say: “Guys, enjoy your remaining days with all your heart, because reality will catch up with you very quickly.”



'Cheerful' Madeleine McCann suspect's trip with hitchhikers before she vanished

In June last year Interpol quizzed the woman in the group about the trip.

Former mechanic Brueckner, 43, is in a German jail for drug offences.

He is still awaiting sentence for the rape of a 72-year-old woman in Portugal.

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