A VAN Madeleine McCann suspect Christian Brueckner was using before the three-year-old vanished was sold for scrap, it has emerged.

The never-before-mentioned vehicle ended up in an Algarve breaker’s yard after reportedly being seized by Portuguese authorities following the youngster’s May 2007 disappearance.

Brueckner used the Portugueseplated blue Bedford van with an Austrian friend in April 2006 to steal diesel from two lorries, court files dating from the time of his conviction show.

The files say the vehicle was dismantled after being valued at just £90 by a court seeking payment of a fine linked to the German’s theft conviction.

It ended up being crushed in 2009 according to respected Portuguese daily Expresso, which said it was seized seven months after Madeleine vanished in May 2007, although court papers point to it being confiscated before her disappearance and state it was never returned to Brueckner.

Brueckner’s diesel theft accomplice has been identified as an Austrian drifter called Michael Tatschl.

The two men were arrested on April 8, 2006, by officers from Portugal’s PSP force after being caught stealing fuel from lorries in Portimao – a half-hour drive from the Praia da Luz resort where Madeleine vanished.

They were freed in December 2006 after eight months in prison.

Brueckner vanished from a house he was living at in nearby Barrocal, close to the place where he sold a two-tone VW camper van that has been at the centre of the police appeal, without paying a fine linked to his theft conviction.

Portuguese GNR police officers found the abandoned Bedford van at the property in November 2008, according to Expresso, after going to the address because it was the one Brueckner had given court officials.

The newspaper reported, despite court files identifying the van seizure date as April 2006: “At the Barrocal home, which belonged to another German, material used to steal diesel and the Bedford van was discovered.” It added: “It will never be known if the vehicle could have contained any clues about the missing British youngster.”

The van is understood to have been taken apart at an unidentified breaker’s yard in May 2009 after the £90 valuation by a court-appointed expert.

There was no suggestion yesterday that the battered van had ever been swept by forensic experts before being dismantled as Bruecker was not a suspect in the initial Madeleine McCann investigation or known to Portuguese police as a sex offender.

His only other conviction in Portugal is for disobedience.

Court files show the 1997-made Bedford van was still officially registered to a Portuguese national based in the town of Monchique, in the Algarve. 

But its owners in practice were Brueckner and jobless former carpenter Tatschl, who told officials after their diesel theft arrests that they had purchased the vehicle two weeks earlier from migrant garage owners.

The revelation about the new vehicle comes after Brueckner was linked to another vehicle not flagged up in the new police appeal sparked by German prosecutors’ insistence that Madeleine is dead and the convicted rapist is their prime suspect.

It emerged earlier this week that children’s clothing, including several girls’ swimsuits, had been found in a 30ft Tiffin Allegro motor home Brueckner is said to have driven between Portugal and Germany.

It was not one of the two vehicles – the two-tone camper van and a Jaguar car – British police flagged up in their new appeal just over a fortnight ago. German prosecutors say they have evidence Madeleine is dead and are conducting their case as a murder inquiry.

British authorities say their probe is a missing persons’ inquiry.

A former ambulance driver identified only as Dieter F, whose daughter Nicole knew Brueckner when he lived in Portugal, claimed last weekend the Madeleine McCann suspect had boasted to him in early 2007 he could transport “drugs and children” in his 30ft-long American-style van. He told the Mail on Sunday that Bruecker said to him as he showed off the vehicle: “I can transport children, kids, in this space.”