true crime

René Hasee vanished 11 years before Maddie McCann. 8 years after, so did Inga Gehricke.

Eleven years before the disappearance of British child Madeleine McCann gained worldwide attention, another little blonde boy went missing from a nearby Portuguese village.

His name is René Hasee, and he was last seen in 1996.

The then-six-year-old from Elsdorf, Germany, was holidaying in Portugal with his mum and her new partner. Like the McCanns, they were staying in a small seaside town in the Algarve region, where Europeans flock in the summer to lay on white beaches and party at the many resorts and bars.

It was there, in Aljezur, just 40km from the Praia da Luz Ocean Club where Maddie’s parents were dining the night she disappeared, that René ran ahead of his family and towards the ocean during a walk along the beach.

The last they of saw René on June 21, 1996, were his clothes found at the shoreline. He was never seen again.

WATCH: A news snippet reporting on the new suspect in the Madeleine McCann case. Post continues after video.

Video via BBC News

Now, almost 25 years after the boy’s disappearance, René’s family have been contacted by German authorities about a possible connection between his case and that of Madeleine McCann, following investigations into a new suspect in her disappearance.

Why? Because that suspect, named by German prosecutors only as Christian B, is believed to have been living and working along the Algarve coast that same year.

The 43-year-old German man, described as white with short-blond hair, was already a convicted paedophile at the time. In 1994, aged just 17, he’d been found guilty of child sex offences in his homeland. The Guardian UK reports the man then fled to Portugal the following year and remained in the area until he returned to Germany in 1999 to serve out his two-year sentence.

It’s believed Christian B then returned to Portugal, where he lived in a house between Lagos and Praia da Luz “more or less permanently” between 1997 and 2007. He would have been 19 at the time René disappeared.

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René's clothes were found at the shoreline on the day he went missing in 1996. Image: Metropolitan Police.

According to The Sun, René's father, Andreas Hasee, said his recent conversation with an investigator from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) about his son's case was the first he's had in 20 years.

“There could be a connection," he said, despite having accepted his son had simply drowned that day.

"He was actually also a very careful child, he would not have easily climbed into the Atlantic alone. Of course, you start thinking, yes. I don't imagine that René is still alive."

*****

On May 2, 2015, Inga Gehricke was on a family trip to a forest near the town of Stendalin in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.

The Gehricke family was enjoying the spring day, having drinks and a barbecue with a group of friends, who had several small children between them. The children wanted to go look for firewood for their campsite.

Inga's parents had no idea that would be the last time they saw their blonde-haired five-year-old, who has been dubbed by local authorities as the 'German Maddie [McCann]'.

Inga is known as 'German Maddie'. Image: Metropolitan Police.
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Much like Maddie eight years before, Inga disappeared without a trace. Despite a thorough search and investigation, police were unable to determine what happened to her. And much like René too, authorities believe Christian B may have also been in the area at the time of her disappearance.

The suspect owned an abandoned property in Neuwegersleben, around 100km from where Inga went missing, The Volksstimme newspaper reports. The home was reportedly searched as part of a child abuse investigation in 2016, with officers finding a USB stick containing indecent images.

German prosecutors are investigating a possible link between the disappearances of Madeleine McCann and Inga Gehricke, but say they lack decisive evidence to charge a murder suspect at this time.

"It is not yet enough for an arrest warrant or an indictment," said Hans Christian Wolters of the Braunschweig public prosecutor, which is leading the investigation.

*****

Last month marked the 13th anniversary of the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann on May 3, 2007.

Since the night Kate McCann discovered her daughter missing from their Praia da Luz holiday apartment, there has been no sign of the little girl, despite it being the most publicised missing-person case in modern history.

Finally, more than a decade after Maddie’s disappearance, the news of this new suspect might be the breakthrough needed to solve the cases of not one but three missing children.

Currently, Christian B is behind bars for a sex crime and drug trafficking. He was also sentenced to another seven years in prison in 2019 for the rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Praia da Luz in 2005.

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Before that, he was convicted of sexually abusing a child in Germany in 2017 and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

News.com.au reports these fresh details have led to more than 270 calls in 24 hours to UK police and claims that a blond man had been seen in the area at least four times around the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.

This van believed to have belonged to Christian B was spotted in the area around the same time Maddie went missing. Image: Metropolitan Police.

We now know a half-hour phone call was made to Christin B’s Portuguese mobile phone around an hour before Madeleine is believed to have gone missing. He has also been linked to a white and yellow VW T3 Westfalia campervan that was pictured driving around the tourist region in 2007.

Scotland Yard says the suspect, who would have been 30 at the time, was driving the vehicle in the Praia da Luz area in the days before Madeleine’s disappearance. They also confirmed Christian B was one of 600 names initially considered in relation to the crime.

Christian B is reported to have come to police attention after allegedly confessing to Madeleine’s abduction while talking to a friend in a bar on the 10th anniversary of her disappearance.

As for the McCanns, this new information about their daughter's case is hopefully another step closer to finding out what really happened on that terrible day.

“All we have ever wanted is to find her, uncover the truth and bring those responsible to justice," they said.

Feature image: Metropolitan Police.

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