Quiet since the country’s highest court absolved him – for the second time in eight years – of having to pay huge sums in damages to the parents of Madeleine McCann, Gonçalo Amaral, author of the book “Maddie: the Truth of the Lie” spectacularly broke his silence this week to journalists of the Cofina group.
In perfect synchronicity first Sábado weekly magazine set the scene with “The Return of the Inspector to the Scene of the Crime”. Then daily paper Correio da Manhã ran a Sunday special on “The dead end hiding Maddie McCann”, and finally daily news channel CMTV ran “Maddie the Enigma” – a bombshell by any other name, going on air at midnight on May 1, and ending with merciless analysis an hour later on May 2.
Merciless, that is for the ‘politically correct’ British version of how a three year old girl became the world’s most famous missing person on the night of May 3, 2007.
If anyone thought former PJ coordinator Gonçalo Amaral would be measuring his words after an eight year legal fight with Kate and Gerry McCann that saw him “financially asphyxiated” as the couple attempted to sue him for €1.2 million, they will be now be thinking again.
The 57-year-old is every bit as convinced of his thesis – that Madeleine died in a tragic accident in apartment 5a of Luz Ocean Club in Praia da Luz – as he ever was.
Admitting nonetheless that the Portuguese police made some key mistakes at the outset, Amaral took Cofina group journalists round the former Ocean Club complex, explaining minutely why statements and accounts given by “the British group” of friends accompanying the McCanns did not, in his opinion, stack up.
It was an hour of ‘no mercy’. No inconvenient detail excluded. The “servility to the British” and to “political pressures”, the almost instant arrival on the scene of the British ambassador and press hordes, the allusion to children sedated by Calpol, the presence of “the investigation’s most enigmatic figure”, McCann friend and fellow doctor David Payne – whose “fetish”, said Amaral, was to bathe the children of other friends – and the spine-chilling reactions of blood and cadaver dogs Eddie and Keela.
CMTV returned time and again to footage of Eddie howling the presence of cadaver odour in the McCann apartment and car – and even featured a clip of him honing in on clothes laid out in unassociated surroundings.
Amaral talked of the possibility of Madeleine’s body having been kept in the freezer of an apartment, and then transferred to the boot of the McCann’s hire car months later.
“We had information that they (the McCanns) went to an apartment near the cemetery on many nights,” he told his interviewers. “We tried to find out which apartment it was”, but by this time – almost six months into the investigation – PJ superiors were getting ready to remove Amaral from the case, to concentrate instead on the abduction theory. This rapidly led to the case being archived, due to the complete absence of any conclusive evidence.
Since then, criminal analysts Moita Flores and Carlos Anjos accept “millions have been spent perpetuating a lie”.
“From the very outset, the investigation was politically conditioned”, former PJ inspector Moita Flores told CMTV’s late-night crime analysis Rua Segura (Safe Street).
If any Britons were watching, this was the moment where the differences in opinion between England and Portugal hit home.
This is not simply the story of one former PJ inspector’s theory versus the protestations of two parents, backed by the might of the Met. This is the story of a nation that does not accept that children are plucked from their tourist beds in the middle of the night by child traffickers, pedophiles, or even ‘bungling burglars’.
As PJ deputy head Pedro do Carmo told the BBC this week: “We have never had any case like this, either before or since”.
His response to the question, “do you think in your heart it will ever be solved” was telling nonetheless. He said: “If it depended on my heart, the case would already be solved. But it doesn’t depend on my heart. It depends, very much, on our minds”.
Moita Flores and Carlos Anjos were adamant that Scotland Yard is “protecting criminals”, while Amaral simply returned to his mantra for resolution: a proper investigation, that follows all lines until they are exhausted – not one that allows only one way forwards at the expense of everything else.
Mistakes? They may not be the sort people were expecting.
“I should not have allowed us to be put under so much pressure”, Amaral told Correio da Manhã’s Sunday magazine, explaining that when the McCann family finally left Praia da Luz in September 2007, the British police who had come over to assist the Portuguese investigation also left – leaving the “sensation that they were only here to protect the couple”.
“We were naive and too diplomatic”, he added. The desire to please the British led investigators to send trace evidence for testing to a UK-based laboratory “so that we would not be accused of manipulation in the final result”.
But while Amaral ‘returned to Praia da Luz’ to give his view of the 10 year old mystery, the missing girl’s parents gave an interview to the BBC in which they insisted they will be appealing the Supreme Court decision that should have handed back the former police coordinator his assets and police pension after eight years in which he struggled to survive.
Gerry McCann explained that what he called “the last judgement” – the ruling that upheld Amaral’s right to freedom of expression, and refused to accept the McCann’s insistence that they had been proved innocent in their daughter’s disappearance – is, in his opinion, “terrible”.
“We will be appealing”, he told the national news service.
The Daily Express suggests the couple plan to appeal “all the way to the European Court of Human Rights”, though there is still no certainty that this can be done – particularly as Supreme Court judges Roque Nogueira, Alexandre Reis and Pedro Lima Gonçalves released their 75-page ruling making references to tenets set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
In other words, Amaral’s ‘win’ relied heavily on three judges’ interpretation of laws that the ECHR was set up to protect.
As for the former PJ coordinator, he sees the Supreme court decision as redemption: the sign that his thesis is a “credible lead”, and that the police force he once served will finally take it as the incentive to “once and for all start investigating”.
By coincidence, as we wrote this article, the Daily Mail released an account quoting detective Colin Sutton, once tipped to “head up the Madeleine McCann probe” initiated by the Met in 2011, and which has reportedly so far cost in excess of €14 million.
Sutton told Martin Brunt of Sky News that he was “warned” by a high ranking source not to take the job as he would be “tasked” with proving Kate and Gerry McCann “were innocent, and (into) ignoring any alternatives to the abduction theory”.