In an interview staged only a short walk from the regional PJ police headquarters in Faro over the weekend, Gonçalo Amaral, the former leading detective in the case involving the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, has an open and frank conversation with The Portugal News. Lambasted by the British media, and ignored by much of the Portuguese written press since the launch of his controversial book last week (which the Correia da Manhã newspaper has assisted in promoting), Gonçalo Amaral explains his reasoning behind certain methods of investigation, and stresses his actions to date have not been to accuse anyone, rather, he argues, his focus has been about the pursuit of truth.
The Portugal News: Did you leak information about the investigation to the media?
Gonçalo Amaral: I never had anything to do with leaks. We have to look at from where these leaks could have originated. A number of entities worked with us during the investigations and we cannot rule out the possibility that some of these leaks originated in Britain. As a matter of fact, when the FSS handed over their report to Portuguese police, we kept it under wraps, but a British daily was the first to appear with extracts of the FSS’s findings.
TPN: But how does that explain that some sections of the Portuguese press have printed confidential information that later proved to be accurate?
GA: Perhaps they had good sources of information, but we cannot conclude that they were given information by police in the Algarve.
TPN: The report leaked last week says that Gerry and Kate were made arguidos on the “merest possibility” that they were involved in the disappearance of their child. Is that accurate?
GA: They were made arguidos on suspicion of two crimes: concealing a body and simulating an abduction and potentially the crime of abandonment. But saying they were made arguidos on the merest possibility that they were involved in the disappearance of their child is not true. The conclusions reached by the team investigating the crime, including colleagues in Britain, are the same as the five points I mention at the end of my book. Perhaps the conclusions reached in this latest report were made to facilitate the archiving of the case and findings were put across in a mild manner. Once you gain access to the case files, you will find that it was not due to a mere possibility.
TPN: What do we know about Madeleine’s disappearance?
GA: She was here on holiday. There is obviously no doubt that Madeleine existed. There is also no doubt that she went missing. The scheme employed to visit the children does, to a large extent, not correspond with the truth, it was probably used to safeguard the view that the children were safe [in the apartments on their own as their parents dined at the Tapas restaurant].
TPN: How often were the children checked upon?
GA: One of the first lines of the investigation was to interview the party that was on holiday with the McCanns to establish this.
TPN: What did you find at the apartment?
GA: No signs of forced entry. There were no signs of glove marks on the window. We compiled a report of the evidence we collected, but we are not here to accuse anyone.
TPN: Do you think more could have been done before archiving or closing the case?
GA: In my opinion, a number of things are still lacking: We should have continued investigating the parents in order to either charge them or rule them out as suspects. If I represented this couple, I would have insisted that police investigations continue. Not everything we do is to incriminate a suspect. Often a phone will be tapped in order to obtain information that will clear a suspect.
We worked long hours discussing a number of potential explanations for Madeleine’s disappearance; we did not insist solely that she had been abducted.
TPN: You say that politics prevented you from doing certain things during the investigation. What were those actions you would like to have taken?
GA: I found the intervention of the [then] British Ambassador strange, as besides the British Consul in Portimão already being involved in the case from the first morning of Madeleine’s disappearance, all diplomatic channels had been opened and were functional. With the arrival of the Ambassador, my colleagues and I thought it was odd, and to a certain extent made us feel limited in our investigations.
TPN: Did you ever receive orders to investigate in a certain manner?
GA: No we did not receive any orders. I don’t like talking about orders. But we felt limited.
TPN: Did the police offer a plea bargain to Kate McCann?
TPN: But did you not suggest she consider a plea bargain?
GA: We only explained the nature of certain crimes. Her lawyer was there, you can ask him.
TPN: Did Kate and Gerry McCann answer all the questions that you posed to them as fully as possible?
GA: Up until being declared an arguido, Kate, at the request of her lawyer, co-operated. When questions became of a nature that could incriminate her, she was made an arguido, her rights and duties were read out to her in English and thereafter she opted for the right to remain silent.
TPN: And Gerry McCann?
GA: He answered all questions, before and after being made an arguido.
TPN: When did the police first learn of the intention of the McCanns to leave Portugal?
GA: With the arrival of the sniffer dogs, I think back in August, the couple started showing a keenness to leave the country. As for these dogs, I have not seen or heard any scepticism in Britain, contrary to Portugal.
TPN: How can you explain the theory that Kate and Gerry used their hire car in the disappearance of their daughter when it was hired 25 days after she vanished?
GA: I don’t know. I was not the one who hired the car.
A bodily fluid was detected in the trunk of the car which was similar to that of Madeleine McCann in 15 of the 19 indicators of her profile.
TPN: Has this evidence been investigated further?
TPN: Why not?
GA: You will have to ask my former colleagues that question.
TPN: What evidence was there that someone had been watching apartment 5A prior to Madeleine’s disappearance?
GA: We spoke to a number of people who came forward.
TPN: Anyone suspicious mentioned in these statements?
GA: No. Perhaps just a British musician we later tracked down.
But in a reconstruction, witness testimonies, such as that of Jane Tanner and others, including restaurant workers, could be clarified further.
TPN: At what stage did you become suspicious of the McCanns and why?
GA: There were a number of inconsistencies detected during the first interrogations.
TPN: Such as?
GA: We were initially told by the parents that when they checked on the children they would use the front door. But Kate later said they used the other door. Because had they used the front door, they would have detected someone had forced their way into the room [where Madeleine and the twins had been sleeping].
But during these initial rounds of questioning, my team and I believed these inconsistencies were due to the McCanns and their friends trying to cover the fact they had left their children unattended, along with their possible lack of trust in the Portuguese police. This had a lot of weight for me in the beginning, especially as the law in Britain is far tougher concerning the abandoning of children.
TPN: Did you look into sex offenders, and what was the outcome?
GA: It is very difficult that a paedophile pre-selected Madeleine. It had to be very well planned. But all known sexual predators were investigated.
TPN: Did you have any evidence that Robert Murat and the McCanns or their friends knew each other previous to Madeleine’s disappearance?
GA: We tried to confirm this, but along with the assistance of the British police, we were unable to establish any connection. But we looked into all possibilities. Robert Murat purchased a last-minute ticket to come to Portugal a couple of days before Madeleine went missing, perhaps as it was cheaper to do so. But we had to investigate whether or not his visit coincided with Madeleine’s disappearance a couple of days later and whether he had been contacted to come here.
TPN: How do you see the lawsuit that you might face over your book?
GA: My book is based on facts. It could be a good occasion to take all the case files to court and compare what I wrote with that which is contained in the files.
TPN: What next lies ahead for you?
GA: I have had a number of proposals, but in October I am intending on starting my practical training as a lawyer, as I already have a law degree, but never practised.
Brendan de Beer
Source: The Portugal News