DNA evidence in the case of a woman who may have been raped by the Madeleine McCann prime suspect was destroyed on a judge’s orders.
Hazel Behan, 37, said she believes her attacker was Christian Brueckner, named last month in connection with Madeleine’s disappearance in May 2007.
He was convicted of a similar rape just a year after Ms Behan was attacked in 2004 and two years before Madeleine, nearly four, vanished from Praia da Luz.
Earlier this week detectives collected their own case files from a court on the Algarve to investigate if they can now build a case against Brueckner.
One problem they now face is vital DNA evidence was destroyed on the orders of a judge, which is usual in Portugal when no suspect is identified.
A source said: “Detectives are looking again for new evidence and the investigation is reopened.”
Maddie’s disappearance was thrown back into the spotlight last month when police said they had proof Brueckner was in Praia da Luz on the night she went missing. Ms Behan read about his conviction for raping an American woman – and contacted Scotland Yard.
As a 20-year-old holiday rep in nearby Praia da Rocha Ms Behan was raped repeatedly by a masked man who broke into her apartment held a knife to her throat, tied her up and gagged her.
She says he was slim, with blond hair, blue eyes and possibly German.
Met Police detectives interviewed her and contacted Portuguese counterparts who reopened their inquiry.
Ms Behan told a newspaper: “My mind was blown when I read how he attacked a woman in 2005, the methods he used, the tools he had, how well he planned it. I puked, as it took me back to my experience.”
She has said she was badly treated by Portuguese police, who abandoned their investigation into her case after eight months.
Ms Behan added: “I read about the poor American woman and the possible link between her attack and the person who abducted Madeleine McCann, and I was full of anger.
“If police had done their job, if this is the man that attacked the poor American woman and abducted Madeleine, they might have prevented the attack on her and Madeleine would be home.”
Even if evidence is found, Brueckner, who is in a German jail for drug dealing, is unlikely to face charges due to Portugal’s 15-year limit on rape investigations.
An ex-detective who advised Portuguese officers on Maddie’s case has told an ITV documentary he fears similar crimes may go unsolved as police “have not learned lessons”.
On Madeleine McCann: The Hunt For The Prime Suspect, which airs tonight on ITV, Graham Hill said: “If a child went missing on a beach in Europe this summer, what would be done differently?”