Special Report by CHRIS GRAEME at Lisbon Civil Court
The former police detective and author of a book promoting the hypothesis that Madeleine McCann died as a result of a tragic accident in Praia da Luz in May 2007, said on Thursday (January 14) that if a Lisbon court issued a permanent injunction against his work he would fight his case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Gonçalo Amaral, who led the investigation into the disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann from a holiday apartment before being removed from the case, said he would also appeal against any injunction through Portugal’s Supreme Court.
At the end of the three-day Lisbon hearing, in which Gerry and Kate McCann are seeking the permanent injunction on the book Maddie – The Truth of the Lie and a TV documentary based on the book, the civil court heard a number of witnesses directly involved in the controversial film.
It was once again repeated in court that Gonçalo Amaral had stated that in the course of the documentary he would “prove that Madeleine McCann had died in the McCann’s holiday apartment” rather than been kidnapped on that night of May 3.
Carlos Coelho da Silva, a TV director for Valentim Carvalho Films, said that in his opinion the documentary did “not provide the last word on the case” and that its conclusion “called for further investigation”.
The court also heard how the McCanns had deliberately blocked the airing of a Channel 4 documentary on TVI which cast the couple in a favourable light compared with allegations made about them by Gonçalo Amaral in a previous TVI Portuguese documentary aired in April 2009.
Witness Ana Margarida Teixeira, International Programming Director for TVI, stated that the television company wanted to air the Channel 4 documentary which would have given a different view to Gonçalo Amaral’s thesis that the child died in the apartment and that the parents covered it up with a fake kidnap story, but was blocked from doing so by the McCanns, even though it included their participation and would have put across their version of events.
“The distribution company couldn’t send it because the McCanns had prevented them from doing so. For me the contract was closed and now we could not show it from the expressed desire of the McCanns that TVI should not be able to transmit the documentary (even though) we said we wanted to give the other side of the story. It didn’t make sense given that we had the largest audience share but we couldn’t do anything,” she said.
TVI Executive Paulo Soares said that showing the Channel 4 documentary would have been of “justified interest” since there had been “no in-depth analysis of the case”. “Suddenly the production company couldn’t sell it because the McCanns didn’t want it shown on our channel,” he said.
In the morning, the court heard from António Paulo dos Santos, the Director-General of Videograma, which represents the video and cinema in industry in Portugal and a one-time colleague of Mr Amaral, who denied the TVI documentary was an adaptation of the book but rather a commentary.
When asked if he thought if the TVI documentary had increased the suffering of the parents, particularly given that it was shown close to Madeleine’s birthday, he said that it “might have increased the suffering or not” but that “nothing could increase the pain felt from loss of a child”.
He also dismissed arguments that the documentary, by putting across the thesis that Madeleine was dead, would somehow have hampered the search for the child.
“No, I don’t think it would make things difficult at all, it could help people to remember. For me its folklore, it did not contribute in anyway to not finding the girl, to the contrary,” he said, adding that he “too was a father”.
Inside the court Kate McCann was seated next to her friend Fiona Payne, one of the so-called Tapas 7, who joined the McCanns on their Algarve holiday.
She told reporters that she was in Lisbon to “support my friend” after Kate McCann maintained she was “pleased we took action because it’s been shown again that there is no evidence that Madeleine came to any harm and that we were involved”.
“The bottom line is that Mr. Amaral’s book is based on opinion but not on fact and as it is a child’s life we need facts and evidence,” she added.
The McCanns’ lawyer, Isobel Duarte, has maintained throughout the three days that it was as though the McCanns were being “tried in a civil court” because they “could not be judged in a criminal court”.
“I am sorry my clients had to be submitted to this pain and distress. It is terrible but we knew that Pandora’s Box would be opened,” she added.
The injunction hearing has been adjourned until February 10 to allow statements from two more witnesses. A final decision on the injunction could follow later in February or March.
The McCanns are also seeking 1.2m euros (£1.08m) in separate defamation proceedings in Portugal against Mr Amaral. No date has been set for that case.