Christian B isn’t the first arguido – official Portuguese suspect – in the Madeleine McCann case, but he may well be the last.
Robert Murat, who lived near the McCanns rented holiday apartment, was the first within days of Madeleine‘s disappearance in May, 2007.
Her parents Kate and Gerry were made official suspects after being called in for questioning four months later.
Arguido status means you are under suspicion, but not arrested, and gives you some legal protection – the right of silence and the right to have a lawyer with you.
The move on Christian B is probably to head off the Statute of Limitations which in Portuguese law rules out a prosecution for serious crimes after 15 years. On May 3 it will be 15 years since Madeleine vanished.
It’s an insurance policy too for the Portuguese to pursue their own prosecution if the Germans decide eventually to rule out Christian B – whose surname has not been given because of German privacy laws.
At the moment, the German authorities are effectively in charge of the investigation, with the Portuguese and Scotland Yard detectives as bit-part players.
The imposition of arguido status is sometimes the prelude to arrest, but that’s hardly likely in this case as Christian B isn’t going anywhere – he is still serving a seven-year rape sentence in a German prison and he’s being investigated over three other sex allegations in Portugal.
His lawyer Friedrich Fulscher played down the development, telling Sky News: “It shouldn’t be exaggerated and I assume it’s to block the statute of limitations.
“It’s not a charge and it can be revoked. And it doesn’t affect the German investigation.”
When I spoke to Mr Murat the day after his questioning he was distraught and fiercely denied any involvement. He wanted to say more, but the arguido status also carries a ban on media interviews.
The McCanns were so upset to be made suspects that they fled Portugal for their UK home the next day after vowing to stay until their daughter was found.
Read more: A timeline of how events unfolded in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Both they and Mr Murat were eventually released from their arguido status and cleared of any suspicion when the Portuguese authorities closed their investigation after 15 months.
I knew at that point how serious it is to be made an arguido, because when the Portuguese police investigation files were posted online for public consumption, I was a bit shocked to read full transcripts of my telephone conversations with Mr Murat. The cops had bugged his mobile phone.
Christian B has been much maligned by the German prosecutor, but he hasn’t even been questioned yet by any of his official pursuers.
And he, too, says it wasn’t him.