The Portuguese police and their public image

AFTER SALAZAR was removed from power, certain safeguards were put in place to protect the victims of crime, the witnesses and also the accused from conjecture and misjudgement.

Laws were passed to prevent leakage of information relevant to a crime under investigation and these remain in place to this day: which is why various branches of the police in Portugal are playing their cards close to their chests during the ongoing search for Madeleine.

Frustrated by the lack of information which the expatriate British community might have received in their own country, there have been angry comments and assumptions made about the lack of know-how and dedication of local forces. Their hands are tied: but this is of little comfort to either the distraught parents or Madeleine’s extended family. No information leads to rumour and misinformation and the Algarve grapevine is buzzing.


Some days ago, a bright and observant young girl living close to the McCanns’ rented apartment told her mother she had seen a man loitering outside that place before the abduction, not once but twice. They reported this and were interviewed without delay by a detective on the case. Questioning continued for seven hours, during which a photofit expert came down from Lisbon.

Mother and child were treated with the utmost courtesy, consideration and respect. Whatever they needed for their comfort and wellbeing was seen to at once, and the young witness felt immediately to be among friends.

We who live in Portugal through choice have no right to criticise ways that are different from ours and arrogance does not become us. May the dignity and restraint shown by Gerry and Kate McCann be an example to us all.

By Margaret Brown