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Madeleine McCann’s parents have lost the latest round in a legal battle against a Portuguese ex-police officer who led the investigation into their daughter’s disappearance.
Kate and Gerry McCann are trying 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 first 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 today delivered their verdicts and dismissed 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-police officer who led the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance
Madeleine (left) disappeared 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 alleged that the Portuguese courts had 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 harmed by Amaral’s statements about their involvement.
However, European judges rejected that claim — saying McCanns’ reputation had actually been damaged by Portuguese police who briefly named them as suspects, not Amaral’s comments.
In a lengthy five-page judgment issued today, the seven judges wrote: ‘The Court held that, even assuming that the reputation of the applicants had been damaged, this did not reflect the argument of the author of the book.
‘Rather [their reputation was damaged] as a result of the suspicions expressed against them, which led to them being investigated during the criminal investigation.’
The judges added: ‘Thus, the information had 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 was published.
“It follows that the national authorities have not failed in their positive obligation to protect the applicants’ right to respect for their private life.”
The Strasbourg Court also stressed that in previous rulings the Portuguese Supreme Court had “not suggested guilt to the applicants or even suggested suspicions against them”, saying that as a result their “complaint about their right to be presumed innocent was manifestly unfounded.” used to be. ‘
The judges rejected the argument that the book had infringed on their right to private life, noting that the McCanns themselves had embarked on a tour of media interviews after the book’s publication.
“They mainly worked on a documentary program about their daughter’s disappearance and continued to give interviews to the media,” they said.
‘Although the court understood that the publication of the book had unmistakably caused anger, fear and distress among the applicants, the book or the broadcast of the (Amaral) documentary did not appear to have had a serious impact on the applicants’ social relationships or on their legitimate and ongoing efforts to find their daughter.”
The panel was led by President Gabriele Kucsko-Stadimayer of Austria, as well as British judge Tim Eicke and colleagues from Bulgaria, Armenia, Andorra, the Netherlands and Portugal.
Madeleine was three years old when she disappeared from a holiday apartment where she was staying with her parents, brother and sister in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
Kate and Gerry had eaten at a restaurant near the apartment with a group of friends who returned regularly to check on the sleeping children.
But when Kate went back to the apartment around 10pm to check on the kids, she found Madeleine missing.
Despite years of investigation – initially by the 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 in prison in his home country for rape.
Brueckner has previous convictions for child crimes and drug smuggling, and in 2007 he was known to live from a motor home near Praia da Luz.
Police say they have phone records placing Brueckner near the apartment where Madeleine slept the night she disappeared, but can’t prove at this time that he took the girl.
Police have revealed his identity in hopes of convincing someone with information to come forward, and have said they hope to press charges this year.
Brueckner’s lawyers have emphasized that he has not been formally charged and he has reportedly written a letter to German prosecutors from his cell telling them to “stop or shut up.”