12 Sep 2013

Kate McCann’s £1m libel case against ex-police chief begins

Kate McCann attends a Portuguese court for the start of the family’s £1m libel case against a former local police chief – six years after her daughter Madeleine went missing.

Kate McCann was accompanied by her mother Susan Healy as she arrived for the first hearing of the case against Goncalo Amaral, the former detective who published a book making accusations about three-year-old Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007.

Lawyers for Mr Amaral, 56, delayed the start of proceedings on Thursday however, with a petition to hold the hearing behind closed doors. According to the Daily Telegraph, the petition was dismissed.

The little girl vanished from a holiday flat in Praia da Luz shortly before her fourth birthday in May, 2007. Mr Amaral, who led the initial investigation, subsequently published a book, Maddie: The Truth of The Lie, which alleges that Madeleine died accidentally and her parents faked a cover-up.

Kate and Gerry McCann remain very confident that they will winfamily spokesperson Clarence Mitchell

The McCanns have always denied the accusations and say the former police chief’s “poisonous lies” have damaged the search for Madeleine and helped to almost destroy the family.

The original investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, headed by Mr Amaral, led to Mr and Mrs McCann being named as suspects.

The McCann’s lawyer Isabel Duarte is due to set out the current libel case on behalf of the couple and their eight-year-old twins Sean and Amelie. Neither Mrs McCann nor her husband Gerry, from Rothley, Leicestershire, are due to give evidence in the trial.

Instead, a number of family associates will reportedly appear as witnesses. Among them, are Dave Edgar, a private investigator hired by the family to search for Madeleine and Michael Wright, husband of Mrs McCann’s cousin Anne-Marie, who will tell the hearing how the book turned public opinion against the family and allegedly deterred people from hunting for Madeleine.

The family stands to make around £1m in damages if they win the case.

Spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “Kate and Gerry McCann remain very confident that they will win.

“They have a strong case against Mr Amaral. The matter is now in the hands of their lawyer as it goes through court.”

Media circus

Mrs McCann’s attendance in court is understood to be against the advice of Scotland Yard who are trying to launch their own investigation in Portugal’s Algarve region to try to solve the mystery.

It is said that Kate McCann’s presence could trigger a media storm and frustrate Portuguese authorities as the Scotland Yard team seek their support to conduct new inquiries.

Mr and Mrs McCann, both 45, were eventually cleared of involvement in their daughter’s disappearance in July 2008, when the Portuguese police investigation was terminated over lack of evidence.

But the following month, Mr Amaral who was dismissed from the investigation and has since left the police force, published his book accusing them of staging their daughter’s kidnap to cover up her death in the apartment. In 2010, the McCann’s won a court case in Lisbon to ban sales of the book but the judgement was overturned later that year.

Mr McCann, a heart specialist and Mrs McCann, a former GP, are now seeking compensation for their family and for the harm caused to the hunt for Madeleine.

In July, Scotland Yard announced a major inquiry into the girl’s disappearance after identifying 38 potential new suspects and said they had requested cooperation from Portugal’s Policia Judiciaria.

A team of investigators has spent the last two years trawling through reams of evidence as part of a government-funded review of the case which was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron.