Police, who are looking to charge Madeleine McCann’s prime suspect Christian B in her kidnapping and murder, have been rocked by a legal battle that could derail their case tonight.
Prosecutors from two different regions of Germany have clashed over the 45-year-old sex monster’s alleged links to Madeleine and other child abduction cases.
And the dispute could snatch the probe away from police officers in the northern city of Braunschweig, who made the breakthrough that first identified the fiend.
Sources in Germany revealed tonight that the 16-year investigation into the disappearance of the Brit from their holiday home in Portugal could be shifted to Saxony-Anhalt.
This would shift control of the investigation to the Magdeburg public prosecutor’s office, which is more focused on finding Inga Gehricke – the missing girl nicknamed “Germany’s Maddie”.
Inga disappeared in 2015 during a family picnic near where Christian B was renovating an abandoned factory.
And German sources now fear the move could derail the Madeleine case after a motion to dismiss the case was filed.
Christian B’s lawyer, Friedrich Fulscher, last night denied using loopholes to lure Maddie cops off his client’s back.
He told The Sun tonight: “This is not an attempt to take a case away from the Braunschweig public prosecutor.”
“My job is simply to work towards compliance with the procedural law for the accused. That’s all I do here.”
“According to my investigations (confirmed by the Braunschweig Regional Court), the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office is simply not responsible for the jurisdiction here.”
A source in Germany told The Sun: “Moving the McCann case to Saxony-Anhalt would be a great asset to Christian B’s legal team.”
“Police in Braunschweig, led by German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, have made more headway than anyone and say they have concrete evidence that Christian B. killed Madeleine.
“Wolters remains committed to indicting Christian B and is opposing the dismissal of the case – but it may not be in his hands.”
Prosecutors in Saxony-Anhalt are said to have demanded leadership of the numerous investigations against Christian B because more of his crimes are connected to their “patch”.
The public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig is forced to appeal against the decision of the regional court in Braunschweig to dismiss the Madeleine case.
His fate was in the hands of the Higher Regional Court based in Celle, Lower Saxony, tonight.
Christian B – currently in prison in Germany for the rape of a US pensioner before Maddie’s kidnapping in Praia da Luz in 2007 – has been linked to a string of child abductions going back years.
Inga, from Schönebeck, Saxony-Anhalt, is among the unsolved cases being investigated unsuccessfully – despite a £22,000 reward being offered for information on her whereabouts.
When asked about the possible change to a new place of jurisdiction, Braunschweig public prosecutor Wolters insisted that he still had control over the investigation.
And he downplayed suggestions that his Madeleine investigation might be abandoned altogether.
He told The Sun: “We will continue to investigate the Madeleine case and the accused remains in custody.
“With regard to the jurisdiction decision of the Braunschweig Regional Court, we will first carefully examine the reasons.
“Then you will probably have the decision reviewed by the Braunschweig Higher Regional Court.
“We continue to assume that we are responsible for a decision by the Higher Regional Court so that the investigation into the Maddie case can proceed as planned.”
“From our point of view, there is currently no reason for speculation and a possible termination of the proceedings.”
The legal blow came just days after Madeleine’s parents vowed on Friday, on her 20th birthday, “We love you and are waiting for you — we will never give up.”
Kate, 55, and Gerry, 54, added: “Happy birthday Madeleine. Still missing. Still very much missed. still searching As long as it takes.”
Her message was posted on the Find Madeleine Facebook page, alongside a picture of the smiling three-year-old wearing a pink sun hat, days before she disappeared in May 2007.
The family also released a video and other pictures of their long-lost daughter, including one on a pink bicycle and another in a Disney Princess costume.
She was abducted from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in Portugal’s Algarve region, nine days before her fourth birthday, after being left with her twin siblings when their parents went out for dinner.
Her parents refused to give up hope that she was still alive – despite police claims that she was kidnapped and killed by Christian B.
The tormented couple – doctors from Rothley, Leics – fought tirelessly for years, clamoring for information that could shed light on their daughter’s fate.