After what many consider the bombshell of a judicial decision – setting record damages for a private Portuguese citizen – British supporters of former PJ inspector Gonçalo Amaral are rallying en-masse to a “gofundme” online appeal – started intriguingly by a young British woman who was only 14 when Madeleine McCann went missing. In less than a week, 22-year-old Leanne Baulch’s appeal has raised over £9,200. British media has slated it – suggesting it is powered by “sick online trolls”. The Resident follows this fast-developing story which shows no sign of losing pace.
If anything, the impetus now is to find a “high-profile donor” – someone “prepared to underwrite the legal costs” that Amaral faces as he appeals against the judge’s decision that awarded record damages against him in the long-running civil action for defamation taken out by the McCanns over his book The Truth of the Lie.
Slapping Amaral with a bill that tops €600,000 all told, Express on Sunday suggested at the weekend that Judge Emília Melo e Castro has effectively “ruined and shamed” the man who led the original police investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance.
The Sun was equally scathing, describing 56-year-old Amaral as a “lie cop” in its exposé of what it described as a “sick online campaign”.
But the publicity seems to have “backfired”, Leanne Baulch tells us.
One couldn’t say people are digging “deep” into their pockets, as many donations are for small amounts – but it is certainly a “mass fork out”, with multiple commentaries refuting mainstream media’s slur that these people are “trolls”.
A donor by the name of Emma Mitchell, giving £100, wrote: “Shame on you The Sun… Keep fighting GA, Madeleine deserves justice and so do you.”
Another added her contribution, saying: “From yet another ‘nasty internet troll’ keep on fighting GA, we are behind you all the way.”
Comments on stories posted on our portugalresident.com website also show readers reacting to the insinuation that “anyone who questions the abduction theory” is a troll.
Calling it a “total disgrace”, Jayne Staveley suggests that The Sun’s reporters “are still in primary school”.
But the tragedy behind these comments is that while Madeleine’s parents have always maintained their civil action against Amaral was “never about the money”, it is now becoming more and more clear how important a role money has taken on in this case.
Miss Baulch’s appeal – an extension of the long-running Portuguese “Projecto Justiça Gonçalo Amaral” fund to which she stresses she has “no access whatsoever” – has set out to raise £25,000. As we wrote, donations were steadily flowing in, with over 500 people having raised £9,205 in six days.
Questioned about whether she imagined she would get such a response, the single-mother from Birmingham told us: “I had no idea. I was just desperate to help. I didn’t expect the media to get involved. The Sun and Express reporting shocked me, but it backfired!”
McCann “hate dossier” will “not result in any prosecutions”
As Amaral is thus buoyed by this latest bid to raise money to help him, British media has been carrying 8th anniversary “Madeleine disappearance” stories, including new “revelations” about a string of burglaries on the Praia da Luz resort from which Madeleine went missing.
These burglaries are presented as adding weight to the British police theory that Madeleine may have been abducted as a result of a botched burglary.
But noteworthy when considering mainstream media’s preoccupation with “vile trolls” is the report by Sky news, coming in last week, that the so-called “hate dossier” that hit the headlines eight months ago is not going to result in any prosecutions.
The dossier – which led to the suicide of grandmother Brenda Leyland after she was ‘outed’ as a so-called troll on live television – had been delivered to Leicester Police by what Sky described as an “anonymous source”.
Keenly involved in the story, Sky’s crime expert Martin Brunt claimed that the anonymous source (or sources) have reacted with “absolute dismay” at the decision not to prosecute.
“They say it is tantamount to giving trolls carte blanche to carry on abusing the McCanns,” he wrote.
“Although we haven’t heard directly from the McCanns, I’m sure they too will be astonished because… Gerry McCann said such trolls should be prosecuted.”
As we wrote this story, a new comment appeared on the gofundme site, signed from “MA”: “Dr Amaral, my pledge is to pay an apology fine for every article I see that is biased and un-factual on your behalf. Today’s fine is on behalf of the Express for their use of “troll” “shamed” and “sickening”.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]