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Gloating Portuguese cop says the McCanns ‘are still suspects’ in the disappearance of Madeleine

The former Portuguese police chief who investigated Madeleine McCann’s disappearance said her parents are ‘still suspects’ as he welcomed his legal victory today.

Goncalo Amaral laid into Gerry and Kate in a radio interview in his home country after learning they had lost the latest round of their libel battle against his 2008 book.

The couple had taken him to the European Court of Human Rights after years of trials in his home country over Truth of the Lie, which accused them of covering up Madeleine’s ‘accidental’ death at their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in May 2007.

The McCanns responded to their court defeat by admitting they were “naturally disappointed” by the decision, but insisted they had no regrets about their long and arduous legal battle.

They said it meant the focus was now ‘rightly’ on the search for Madeleine and her abductors.

Hours later, Amaral was on Portuguese radio insisting: ‘Today the court once again referred to an important issue.

– The couple are suspects, were suspects and are still suspects. Nothing else happened to the contrary’.

The former Portuguese police chief who investigated Madeleine McCann's disappearance says her parents are 'still suspects' (file image)

The former Portuguese police chief who investigated Madeleine McCann’s disappearance says her parents are ‘still suspects’ (file image)

Goncalo Amaral laid into Gerry and Kate in a radio interview in his home country after learning they had lost the latest round of their libel battle against his 2008 book

Goncalo Amaral laid into Gerry and Kate in a radio interview in his home country after learning they had lost the latest round of their libel battle against his 2008 book

Goncalo Amaral laid into Gerry and Kate in a radio interview in his home country after learning they had lost the latest round of their libel battle against his 2008 book

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine disappeared from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz where she lived with her parents in 2007 and no trace of her has ever been found.

Referring to prime suspect Christian Brueckner, whom Amaral has previously claimed is a scapegoat, he added in an interview on Radio Renascenca: ‘Thousands even millions of euros have been invested in recent years to create a false suspect.’

Amaral’s comments came despite the McCann family having their “arguido” status revoked by Portuguese authorities in July 2008.

Portugal’s Supreme Court said in 2017, in a previous ruling on the Amaral book, that it did not mean they had been purged and did not amount to “proof of innocence.”

But all new lines of inquiry in recent years, both in Portugal and Britain as well as in Germany, where Brueckner is serving a seven-year sentence for raping an American pensioner, have ruled out parental responsibility.

The German was recently made an ‘arguido’ or suspect in Portugal.

Amaral, who was removed as head of the initial Policia Judiciaria investigation which led to the finger being pointed at the McCanns, crowed after learning the latest court ruling over his book had gone against the couple: ‘This is a victory for Portuguese justice against those who do. not wanting the discovery of the truth about the realization of justice.

“So many times Portugal has been defeated in the ECHR and today it won.”

The McCanns won their initial defamation case against Amaral, but he appealed and Portuguese judges overturned 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. A source close to the couple told MailOnline they are “disappointed” and are reviewing their legal options.

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

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

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

In a statement posted on the official ‘Find Madeleine McCann’ Facebook page, the McCanns said: ‘We are obviously disappointed by the decision of the European Court of Human Rights published today.

But much has changed since we began legal proceedings 13 years ago against Mr Amaral, his publisher and broadcaster.

‘We took action for one reason and one reason only: Mr Amaral’s unsubstantiated allegations had a detrimental effect on the search for Madeleine.

‘If the public believed we were involved in her disappearance, then people would not be aware of possible leads and might not report relevant information to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

‘The focus is now rightly on the search for Madeleine and her abductor(s). We are grateful for the ongoing work of the UK, German and Portuguese police.

‘We hope that with the public’s help, hard work and diligence we can eventually find those responsible for Madeleine’s disappearance and bring them to justice.’

Lawyers for Kate and Gerry had argued that the Portuguese courts violated their right to respect for private and family life in the way the case was handled.

They also argued that their right to a fair trial had been prejudiced by Amaral’s statements about their involvement.

However, the European judges rejected this claim – saying that the McCanns’ reputation had actually been damaged by Portuguese police, who briefly named them as suspects and not Amaral’s comments.

They also rejected claims that the Portuguese authorities had violated their right to privacy, noting that the parents had given their own media interviews and participated in a documentary.

Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese police officer who led the initial investigation, later claimed in a book that the McCanns were involved in Maddie's disappearance

Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese police officer who led the initial investigation, later claimed in a book that the McCanns were involved in Maddie's disappearance

Goncalo Amaral, the Portuguese police officer who led the initial investigation, later claimed in a book that the McCanns were involved in Maddie’s disappearance

In a five-page judgment handed down today, the seven judges wrote: ‘The court held that, even assuming that the applicants’ reputations had been damaged, this did not account for the argument advanced 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 connection with the criminal investigation.’

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

“It follows that the national authorities had not breached their positive obligation to protect the applicants’ right to respect for their private life.”

The Strasbourg court also highlighted how Portugal’s Supreme Court had in previous rulings “not suggested any guilt on the part of the applicants or even hinted at suspicion against them” and said their “complaint regarding their right to be presumed innocent was manifestly unfounded”. ‘

The judges rejected the argument that the book had harmed their right to privacy, noting that the McCanns themselves had conducted a tour of media interviews after the book’s publication.

“Notably, they collaborated on a documentary program about their daughter’s disappearance and continued to give interviews to the media,” they said.

“While the Court understood that the publication of the book had undeniably caused anger, anxiety and distress to the applicants, it did not appear that the book or the broadcast of the (Amaral) documentary had a serious impact on the applicant’s social relationships or on their legitimate and ongoing try to find their daughter.’

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

The German Prosecutor's Office has named Christian Brueckner, who is currently in prison for rape, as the main suspect in Madeleine's disappearance

The German Prosecutor's Office has named Christian Brueckner, who is currently in prison for rape, as the main suspect in Madeleine's disappearance

The German Prosecutor’s Office has named Christian Brueckner, who is currently in prison for rape, as the main suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance

A source close to the family said: “They felt very strongly about the case, otherwise they would not have brought it to the European Court of Human Rights.

“Goncalo Amaral’s comments were clearly, in their eyes, completely unjustified, and they felt compelled to take the case against the Portuguese Supreme Court’s judgment to Strasbourg. They will now examine the judgment and decide what to do.

‘The most important thing for them is to find out what happened to their daughter, and that has always been the most important thing for them.’

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

Kate and Gerry had eaten at a restaurant near the flat with a group of friends who periodically went back to check on the sleeping children.

But when Kate went back to the flat around 22.00 to check on the children, she found that Madeleine was missing.

Despite years of investigation – first 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 prime suspect as Christian Brueckner – a German man currently imprisoned in his home country for rape.

Brueckner has previous convictions for child sexual abuse and drug trafficking, and in 2007 he was known to be living in a motorhome near Praia da Luz.

Police say they have phone records that place Brueckner near the apartment where Madeleine slept the night she disappeared, but currently cannot prove he took the girl.

Police released his identity in the hope of persuading anyone with information to come forward, and have said they hope to press charges this year.

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