Madeleine libel hearing is adjourned as lawyer has swine flu

Special Report by CHRIS GRAEME at Lisbon Central Court

Kate and Gerry McCann insisted today (Friday) that the adjournment of a hearing at a Lisbon courthouse to permanently ban a book which they say is “fabrication, lies and slander” has not proved “a disappointment”.

The hearing has been postponed for one month because book author, Gonçalo Amaral’s lawyer has been quarantined with the A (H1N1) virus or Swine Flu.

The McCanns flew into Lisbon late on Thursday evening to attend the first day of a scheduled three-day hearing at Lisbon’s city centre Palace of Justice Civil Court (Pálacio da Justiça Tribunal Cível de Lisboa).

It was the second time that Kate McCann had returned to Portugal since leaving the Algarve over a year ago. The first time was to meet with lawyers and advisors in Lisbon in October.  

“Freedom of Speech does not mean spreading fabrications, lies and slander,” she said outside the courthouse.

The couple entered the court building via a side entrance shortly after 9am this morning, avoiding the pack of photographers and television crews waiting outside the main entrance.

Gonçalo Amaral, the author of the contested book, ‘Maddie – The Truth of the Lie’ (Maddie – A Verdade da Mentira’), arrived at the court building’s main entrance at 9.20am and made brief declarations to the press that “Portugal is a country with freedom of expression”.

Sources inside the court – journalists were kept out – said that the former police chief, who led much of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann at Praia da Luz in 2007, until his removal from the case, “swept past the McCanns – who were waiting outside the court room in the corridor – “without acknowledging them”.

It was the first time that Gonçalo Amaral had seen the British couple since being taken off the Algarve-based investigation, which lasted 15 months.

When they arrived at Lisbon’s Portela Airport at around 10.30 pm on Thursday evening, the McCanns made it quite clear in a statement that they were “not (in Lisbon) to meet Mr Amaral”.

“We are here to make sure that Freedom of Speech doesn’t allow you to distort the truth. We believe it has damaged the search. If people believe that Madeleine is dead then it’s damaged,” said Gerry McCann.

When asked about how he felt about meeting Gonçalo Amaral again, he said: “I haven’t thought about it. We are here for the trial. We’re not here to meet Mr. Amaral,” he said. He added: “We believe that the law will do justice.”

Mr. Amaral’s book challenges the McCanns’ version of what happened to Madeleine on the night of May 3, 2007 at a Praia da Luz holiday complex in the Algarve.

Because of libel laws in both the United Kingdom and Portugal, the Algarve Resident cannot repeat any of the suggestions made in that book.

The McCanns succeeded in being awarded a temporary injunction on the sale of the book in September.  

Kate and Gerry McCann are seeking a permanent publication ban on the book and around one million pounds (1.2 million euros) in damages, which they say would help them continue the search for their missing daughter.