Portuguese police accuse McCanns of cover-up

Jan 13, 2010
Sophie Taylor

Officers support the sacked police chief Amaral, saying Madeleine's parents lied

In a court in Lisbon, the parents of Madeleine McCann heard from Portuguese detectives yesterday why their account of their daughter Madeleine being abducted during a holiday on the Algarve in 2007 was never believed by local police officers and why they were declared formal suspects - arguidos - in the investigation.

"She [Madeleine] died in the apartment as a result of a tragic accident and the parents simulated an abduction after failing to care for their children," Tavares de Almeida, a former chief inspector told the court. "These were the conclusions of a police report signed by me on September 10 2007."  

Kate and Gerry McCann are in court to challenge the publication of a book, The Truth of The Lie, written by another Algarve detective, Goncalo Amaral, after he was sacked from the Madeleine investigation. Amaral also believes the couple covered up their daughter's death, knowing that they should never have left her alone while they dined with friends.

The book became a bestseller in Portugal when it was published in July 2008 but has been banned temporarily in Britain under a previous court order obtained by the McCanns. The couple are suing Amaral for £1m and seeking a permanent ban, not least because, they say, the claim that Madeleine is dead harms the chances of the public helping to find her.

The McCanns contiunue to insist that their daughter was abducted and are convinced that she is alive - somewhere - and that one day the family will be reunited.

But yesterday's hearing made it clear that many of the local police involved in the initial search for Madeleine disbelieved their story from early on.

Tavares de Almeida said: "We have always spoken of a tragic accidental death - ­ not homicide. The McCanns did not kill her but they concealed the body."

De Almeida worked under Goncalo Amaral, who was initially in charge of the case. Like Amaral, he was removed form the investigation in September 2007. He told the court that the theory that the McCanns had covered up their daughter's death "wasn't something invented by Amaral... It was a conclusion reached by the team of Portuguese investigators as well as British police."

As the McCanns sat in court, holding hands and occasionally whispering to one another, another police officer explained that a turning point in the investigation came in July 2007, two months after Madeleine's disappearance, when Kate McCann phoned to say she had had a dream and knew where the police should search for Madeleine.

Inspector Ricardo Paiva said: "Kate called me, she was alone as Gerry was away and she was crying. She said she had dreamt that Madeleine was on a hill and that we should search for her there.

"She gave the impression that she thought she was dead - ­ it was a turning point for us."

Paiva admitted that he and other officers had been suspicious of the McCanns from the start. "They disobeyed our request to keep quiet about the details of their daughter's disappearance while we conducted our investigation. Instead they turned it into a media circus and that gave rise to some suspicions."

Like Goncalo Amaral, Paiva believes the McCanns should have been prosecuted for leaving their children alone. "They should have been pursued for neglect. People have been arrested for far less ­ even in the UK."

The hearing is expected to last another two days.

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