Special Report by CHRIS GRAEME at Lisbon Civil Court
The President of Santarem Câmara, Francisco Moita Flores, has attacked the decision by Gerry and Kate McCann to seek a permanent injunction over the publication of an explosive book by a former police chief as “pathetic”.
On the second day of the hearing at the Tribunal Civel de Lisboa on Wednesday (January 13), respected professor and one-time policeman for over 20 years lashed out at what he called an attack on “liberty and freedom of expression” in attempts to permanently ban a book by ex-police chief Gonçalo Amaral in which various hypotheses were put forward as to what happened to Madeleine McCann on the night of May 3rd, 2007, at an apartment complex at Praia da Luz in the Algarve.
In the book, the court heard, Gonçalo Amaral had put forward a number of hypotheses as to what might have happened to Madeleine McCann.
These included suggestions that she died tragically in the apartment in an accident and that the parents had concealed her body and faked her abduction, or that she had indeed been kidnapped.
“This case is pathetic. A citizen is being prevented from freely expressing his opinions in a responsible way” he said.
“The book is a thesis and not an absolute truth,” Francisco Moita Flores added.
Stating that Gonçalo Amaral, in his opinion a “good technical professional”, was the victim of “character assassination” he told the court that Gonçalo Amaral wasn’t “a bandit” and that it was “a scandal to see such a nasty picture portrayed by the British media of the Portuguese investigators”.
When asked if he understood or considered that Mr Amaral’s thesis in some way could have prejudiced finding Madeleine, he said: “in no way”.
“One can’t throw out any possibilities in the disappearance of a child.”
He added that in no part of the judicial process had the police or Gonçalo Amaral ever affirmed that the parents had been somehow involved in the death of the child.
“But you know that the parents were made legal suspects. During the inquiry was the hypothesis put that the child was dead?” said the McCann family lawyer Isobel Duarte.
“Yes, I was outside Portugal in Athens at the time and spoke to some colleagues about it,” he admitted.
“But in the book, Gonçalo Amaral puts forward the various hypotheses that Madeleine either died in the apartment, or that there was a kidnapping, that they were involved in the disappearance of the body, and that they had neglected the care of their children and that the death was an accident. Do you not think that the insinuations in the book were injurious or ruinous to the good name, honour and dignity of the family?” she asked.
Francisco Moita Flores replied that he did not and that the good name of the McCann family had “not been attacked” by Mr. Amaral’s book which was “autobiographical” and “about the investigation”.
When put to him that the case had been archived, Francisco Moita Flores said that no judge should be “able to order people not to think about a case just because the police investigation (had) ceased.”
He also ruled out as improbable the hypothesis that Madeleine McCann could have been spirited out of the apartment through the window on the night of her disappearance.
When asked by Isobel Duarte, if he had visited the site and seen the window, he said he had, and although he could not give details of its height because he was sat down, Francisco Moita Flores said that in his opinion “it would have been almost impossible for someone at the time to leave through the window with a sleeping child”.
Francisco Moita Flores said that Gonçalo Amaral had written the book, Madeleine – the Truth of the Lie, to protect his honour and set the record straight”.
He said that the case was a question of “freedom of speech” that “our constitutional rights, rights that were hard fought to win, cannot be attacked”.
The court also heard the testaments of a former police forensic scientist, José Manuel Enes, who insisted that the Madeleine investigation had fallen victim to “friendly fire” from the press which had had “a negative effect” on the investigation.
“The immense media interest in the Madeleine Case was unhelpful to investigators trying to solve it,” he said, while criticising what he called “contamination of the site” which had “compromised” the investigation in the initial stages and which he compared it to the O.J. Simpson Case in terms of media coverage.
José Manuel Enes also spoke up for Gonçalo Amaral saying that he “strongly respected the convictions and (his) work.”
On leaving the court Gonçalo Amaral told journalists that he was “pleased with Francisco Moita Flores testimony because for “the first time it has been explained why I wrote the book”.
Gerry McCann, addressing journalists outside the court house, maintained that the book and its insinuations had “damaged the search” for Madeleine.
“I’d like to remind everyone that it’s the book that is on trial and not Kate and I,” he said, adding that there was “absolutely no evidence to support Mr. Amaral’s thesis, which as a thesis without evidence is meaningless”.
However, Gerry McCann has admitted that “we made a mistake by leaving Madeleine alone in the apartment” and “we have to live with that, we can’t change it”.
He also rubbished declarations made on Tuesday by Inspector Ricardo Paiva that police investigators began to think the McCanns had something to do with the disappearance of their daughter after Kate McCann had told the police that she had had a dream about Madeleine lying buried somewhere.
“That never happened,” he said.
The case continues.