German police believe Christian Brueckner, 43, is responsible for the murder of Madeleine McCann (Image: SPIEGEL TV)

Our free email newsletter sends you the biggest headlines from news, sport and showbiz

Sign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Sometimes they’ll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer. OurPrivacy Noticeexplains more about how we use your data, and your rights. You can unsubscribe at any time.Thank you for subscribingWe have more newslettersShow meSee ourprivacy noticeInvalid Email

The German suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann will remain behind bars until 2026 after losing his bid to overturn a rape conviction.

Investigators believe Christian Brueckner, 43, killed Madeleine, then three, after abducting her from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007.

Last year, he was found guilty of the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in the same Portuguese resort and sentenced to seven years in jail, at a court in Brunswick, Lower Saxony.

A federal court in Karlsruhe, a city in south-west Germany, rejected Brueckner's appeal against the conviction and confirmed the sentence on Friday.

Madeleine, then three, vanished from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007
(Image: PA)

The judgment comes weeks before German national Brueckner, who is also serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking, could have been freed.

German prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters, who is leading the McCann investigation, said the one year and seven months Brueckner has already spent in jail will count towards the seven-year jail term.

"Therefore, he should be in custody until spring 2026," he told the PA news agency.

"We are pleased that the judgment is upheld because it shows that the Brunswick judiciary has worked objectively and carefully."

No trace of Madeleine has ever been found since her disappearance
(Image: REAL MADRID TV/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX)

Earlier this week, Brueckner was treated in hospital after suffering two broken ribs in a court incident before returning for a hearing the same day, according to authorities.

Brueckner – referred to as Christian B in Germany due to the country's strict privacy laws – was identified as a murder suspect in the Madeleine McCann investigation in June.

Mr Wolters has previously said investigators have "concrete evidence", but not "forensic evidence", that he killed her, and prosecutors do not have enough evidence to charge him.

The Metropolitan Police maintain their active investigation into Madeleine's disappearance, Operation Grange, is a missing person inquiry as there is no "definitive evidence whether Madeleine is alive or dead".

Brueckner lived in a campervan while in Portugal, according to the authorities
(Image: PA)

Brueckner's rape appeal was previously sent to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in Luxembourg, to decide on a point of law relating to his extradition to Germany from Portugal and later Italy.

According to court documents, he was extradited from Portugal for sexually abusing a minor in June 2017, then travelled to the Netherlands and Italy while still on probation after his release.

He was extradited to Germany from Italy in October 2018 on a warrant for drug trafficking before being tried and convicted of rape and extortion in December last year.

Brueckner is detained at Justizvollzugsanstalt Kiel prison
(Image: REUTERS)

The ECJ case centred on whether the German authorities needed Portugal's consent to bring rape proceedings because of the 2017 extradition.

Italy had agreed that Brueckner, referred to as Christian B in the German media, could be tried for rape and extortion in Germany.

ECJ judges ruled that only the permission of the Italian authorities was needed for the Germans to carry out their proceedings legally before the case was returned to the German court.