Madeleine McCann’s parents LOSE libel case against Portuguese police officer

Madeleine McCann’s parents LOSE libel legal bid against Portuguese police officer at European Court of Human Rights

  • Kate and Gerry McCann lost latest round of legal battle with Goncalo Amaral
  •  Pair had sued Portuguese ex-cop for libel after he published a book suggesting they were involved in the disappearance of daughter Madeleine in 2007
  • Parents won the initial case but ruling was overturned by Portuguese judges in 2017, prompting them to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights 
  • European judges today ruled in Amaral’s favour, opening door to another appeal 

Madeleine McCann’s parents have lost the latest round in a legal battle against a Portuguese ex-police officer who led the probe into their daughter’s disappearance.

Kate and Gerry McCann are attempting to sue Goncalo Amaral for suggesting they were involved in the disappearance – claims he published in a 2008 book and then repeated in media interviews.

They won the initial case but Amaral appealed, and in 2016 Portuguese judges reversed the decision – prompting the McCanns to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

European judges delivered their verdict today and rejected the appeal, giving the McCanns three months to decide whether to appeal again.

Kate and Gerry McCann (file) have lost the latest round of a long-running legal battle with Goncalo Amaral - the Portuguese ex-cop who led the probe into Madeleine's disappearance

Kate and Gerry McCann (file) have lost the latest round of a long-running legal battle with Goncalo Amaral – the Portuguese ex-cop who led the probe into Madeleine’s disappearance 

The former police officer's book hammers out a theory that the McCanns, from Rothley, Leicestershire, were responsible for Madeleine's disappearance

Former Policia Judiciaria detective Goncalo Amaral, pictured holding a copy of his book entitled Maddie: The Truth about the Lie, has been embroiled in a 14-year libel battle against the parents. Kate and Gerry took action against Amaral for his 2008 book

Madeleine (left) went missing from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in 2007, with Amaral (right) suggesting in a book that her parents were involved

Lawyers for Kate and Gerry had been arguing that the Portuguese courts breached their right to respect for a private and family life in the way the case was handled.

They also argued their right to a fair hearing had been damaged by Amaral’s statements alleging their involvement. 

However, European judges rejected that claim – saying the McCanns reputation had actually been damaged by Portuguese police naming them as suspects for a short time, and not Amaral’s comments.

in a lengthy five page judgement issued today, the seven judges wrote: ‘The Court considered that, even assuming that the applicants’ reputation had been damaged, this was not an account of the argument put forward by the book’s author.

‘Rather [their reputation was damaged] as a result of the suspicions expressed against them, which had led to their being placed under investigation in the course of the criminal investigation.’

The judges added: ‘The information had thus been brought to the public’s attention in some detail even before the investigation file was made available to the media and the book in question published.

‘It followed that the national authorities had not failed in their positive obligation to protect the applicants’ right to respect for their private life.’

The Court in Strasbourg also highlighted how Portugal’s Supreme Court in previous rulings had ‘not implied any guilt on the applicants or even suggested suspicions against them’ saying that as a result their ‘complaint concerning their right to be presumed innocent was manifestly ill-founded.’

Rejecting the argument that the book had harmed their right to a private life, the judges noted that the McCann’s themselves had undertaken a tour of media interviews following the book’s publication.

‘In particular they cooperated in a documentary programme about their daughter’s disappearance and continued to give interviews to the media,’ they said.

‘While the Court understood that the book’s publication had undeniably caused anger, anguish and distress to the applicants it did not appear that the book, or the broadcasting of the (Amaral) documentary, had a serious impact on the applicants social relations or on their legitimate and ongoing attempts to find their daughter.’

The panel was headed by president Gabriele Kucsko-Stadimayer from Austria, as well as British judge Tim Eicke and colleagues from Bulgaria, Armenia, Andorra, Netherlands and Portugal.

Madeleine was three years old when she vanished from a holiday apartment where she was staying with her parents, brother and sister in Praia da Luz, Portugal.

Kate and Gerry had been eating in a restaurant near the apartment with a group of friends who were going back periodically to check on the sleeping children.

But when Kate went back to the apartment around 10pm to check on the children, she found that Madeleine was missing.

Despite years of investigations – initially by Portuguese police led by Amaral, and later by British detectives – no trace of the schoolgirl has ever been found.

In 2020, investigators took the extraordinary step of naming the chief suspect as Christian Brueckner – a German man currently in jail in his home country for rape.

Brueckner has previous convictions for child sex offences and drug smuggling, and in 2007 was known to be living out of a camper van near Praia da Luz.

Police say they have phone records that place Brueckner in the vicinity of the apartment where Madeleine was sleeping on the night she vanished, but cannot currently prove he took the girl.

Cops revealed his identity in the hopes of convincing someone with information to come forward, and have said they hope to bring charges this year.

Brueckner’s lawyers have stressed that he has not been formally charged and he has reportedly written a letter to German prosecutors from his jail cell telling them to ‘put up or shut up’. 

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