Legal battle looms over Madeleine claims

The family of missing British toddler Madeleine McCann and the former lead detective appointed to investigate her disappearance have this week drawn the battle lines and are set to have their day in court in what will most certainly be the most watched courtroom battle this decade. While Kate and Gerry McCann will seek to clear their name, Gonçalo Amaral says he is raring to have the opportunity to further substantiate his claims that Madeleine died in the apartment where she and her parents were holidaying more than two years ago.

According to sources close to Kate and Gerry McCann, their anger has been simmering for some time, and while the family has been reluctant to seek legal recourse, recent visits by Gonçalo Amaral, most notably to France, where he explained his theory, have spurred the McCann family into taking legal action.

In a statement sent to the press, Kate and Gerry McCann said: “We - together with our three children Madeleine, Sean and Amelie - are taking this legal action against Gonçalo Amaral over his entirely unfounded and grossly defamatory claims - made in all types of media, both within Portugal and beyond - that Madeleine is not only dead, but that we, her parents, were somehow involved in concealing her body.”

The former detective, who was taken off the case in 2007 by his superiors before retiring from the force a few months later, has insisted that Madeleine died in apartment 5A and has alleged that her parents were involved in concealing, then disposing, of their three-year old daughter’s body.

“This decision has been taken to prevent any further publication of Gonçalo Amaral’s deeply offensive book ‘The Truth Of The Lie’, his so-called television ‘documentary’ and any repetition of his disgraceful thesis that we are somehow involved in the disappearance of our much loved daughter, Madeleine”, the statement continued.

The Portugal News understands that Mrs McCann was also extremely angered at a news report last month claiming that one of the so-called Tapas 7, who had reportedly been accused of child abuse in the past, was most eager to assist her in bathing her children.

The family was also particularly angered at a TVI documentary, which was also distributed by a Portuguese national newspaper as a DVD at the beginning of the month, which showed Amaral talking to viewers through the broadcast, repeating opinions stated in his book.

The Truth of the Lie, which was published in 2007, has not yet been printed in English.

Meanwhile, in their statement circulated this week, Kate and Gerry explained: “The primary reason for our legal action is simple: to stop any negative effect that these absurd and deeply hurtful claims may be having on the ongoing search for Madeleine. We can no longer stand back and watch as Mr Amaral tries to convince the entire world that Madeleine is dead. Nor can we allow this blatant injustice to Madeleine, with its obvious risk of hindering our attempts to find her, to continue.

“Mr. Amaral’s entirely unjustified claims have not only brought indescribable devastation and suffering to our lives, they have hugely compounded the already immense pain and anxiety we have endured since Madeleine’s abduction.

“Our three children are joint complainants in this action because of the detrimental effect Mr Amaral’s continued assertions will undoubtedly have on their future lives. Sean and Amelie require protection as they prepare to start school this autumn. Madeleine requires protection from those who are obstructing the possibility of her being found.”

In the first ever interview granted in English, Gonçalo Amaral told The Portugal News following the publication of his book that he would welcome any attempts for his views and opinions to be challenged in a courtroom.

“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.”

He backed up these claims earlier this week when he was quoted as saying: “My lawyers are working on the case and we will take the McCann couple to court and perhaps other people for defamation, slanderous denunciations and false statements,” he said, adding: “We will see who has spoken the truth in this case.”

Earlier this month it emerged that an agent acting on behalf of Gonçalo Amaral demanded “80,000 euros plus VAT”, after an e-mail request by Channel Five to appear on British television, a proposition which was refused.

The channel had apparently also asked that no derogatory comments be made against Kate or Gerry McCann in their request.

In the meantime, the McCann family can expect further litigation as sacked staff at the Ocean Club resort in Praia da Luz from where Madeleine disappeared, have announced they intend suing the couple for the “lies they told” and which have destroyed the resort and as a direct consequence, resulted in their jobs being lost.

This news comes as Thomas Cook, Europe’s second largest travel company, revealed yesterday that package holiday bookings to Portugal are down by 30 per cent for this summer, admitting that this drop is partly due to Madeleine’s disappearance.

“It is such a strong family destination,” said Thomas Cook group chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa.

He added that the Portuguese tourist board had done what it could to boost visitor numbers, but that “Anything more would be insensitive,” he said.

Questioned further by reporters whether the drop in Portugal numbers was down to the ‘Maddie effect’ he agreed that it was, adding that bookings to Portugal had been “decimated”.

Should the staff at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz be successful in their claim against the McCanns, it could set a precedent for other tourist-orientated business in Portugal to seek damages from the family, perhaps using Thomas Cook, among others, as witnesses to substantiate their argument for compensation.

Source: Portugal News Online: Edition: 1011

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