Madeleine detective kicked off case after blasting British police

Madeleine detective kicked off case after blasting British police
3 October 2007
The Daily Express
David Pilditch and Martin Evans in Praia da Luz

THE Portuguese detective leading the Madeleine McCann case was sacked last night.

Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral was booted off the inquiry hours after launching an astonishing public attack on British police – claiming they had been duped by Kate and Gerry McCann.

Disgraced Amaral has been removed from the case, demoted to the rank of inspector, and stripped of his role as regional head of the Policia Judiciaria.

He was ordered to clear his desk at police headquarters in Portimao and will begin work in a new role at nearby Faro.

A Portuguese police spokesman said last night: "We cannot make any comment on the reasons for his dismissal.

"But we can confirm that he did not resign. He was removed from his post. The decision was taken by the national leadership of the Judicial Police." Amaral, who turned 48 yesterday, was taken off the case by his boss Alipio Ribeiro.

Last night a friend of the McCanns said: "The most important thing is that the inquiry is headed by someone who can do a professional job and help them find Madeleine." The couple's spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "We are aware of what has happened and we simply cannot comment.

"However, Kate and Gerry have constantly said they are very willing to co-operate fully with the Portuguese authorities.

They will continue to do so regardless of who is in charge of the hunt for Madeleine." The bombshell came after Amaral accused British police of shielding the McCanns.

He claimed they were only pursuing leads that could help clear the couple, and were hampering his investigation into the four-year-old's disappearance from her family's holiday apartment in the the Algarve.

The explosive outburst led to the first intervention by the Portuguese government, in a very public reprimand by the Justice Minister Alberto Costa.

Last night a Portuguese police source described Amaral's remarks as "the straw that broke the camel's back".

He had breached Portuguese law and broken his silence over the Madeleine case, claiming:

"The British police have only been working on what the McCann couple want them to and what suits them most." The McCanns have been warned they face jail if they speak about the case – but Amaral appeared unconcerned by the secrecy laws as he sneered at a line of inquiry being followed by Leicestershire Police.

Amaral said a tip-off sent to Prince Charles's website that Madeleine may have been snatched by a former employee at the Ocean Club complex had "no credibility whatsoever".

He told Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias: "The Ocean Club is in Praia da Luz, not in London.

"That means that anything in respect to the complex and the employees – current or ex – has been or is being investigated by the Policia Judiciaria.

"It won't be an email, and an anonymous one at that, which will distract our line of investigation." He even claimed the tipoff was created by the McCanns.

The family live in Rothley, Leicestershire, and local officers have liaised with Portuguese police since their daughter disappeared on May 3. The force organised the DNA tests and brought in the sniffer dogs that allegedly identified the scent of a dead body – which was ironically the moment suspicion turned on Kate and Gerry.

But last week it was reported that the force's role in the inquiry was "hanging by a thread''. It is not known how the sacking will influence or change police thinking in Portimao.

Under Amaral – who was in charge of running the case on a day-to-day basis – Portuguese police believed that the McCanns hid, then disposed of Madeleine's body after she died in an accident the night they said she had been abducted.

The latest theory leaked by police is that Madeleine fell down a flight of 10 steps leading from the patio to the street after being given sleeping pills.

She is said to have woken to find her parents missing, then stumbled when she went to find them – in a muddled state from the effects of the drugs.

The couple were dining with seven friends at a nearby tapas restaurant, although members of the group say they made regular checks on Madeleine and the two-year-old twins, Sean and Amelie.

Police apparently believe that despite the McCanns being under weeks of intense media scrutiny as the Find Madeleine campaign took off, they somehow moved her body in the Renault Scenic hire car they rented 25 days after her disappearance.

Forensic evidence allegedly showed Madeleine's DNA was found in the boot of the car after tests at a lab in Birmingham.

The McCanns deny having anything to do with their daughter's disappearance and have told friends they believe they are being framed by Portuguese police who have bungled the investigation.

Two days after being named as official suspects the McCanns flew back to their home leaving Portuguese police to rely on British officers to pursue inquiries in the UK.

Amaral, who headed the police force in Portimao for six years, has been at the centre of a series of controversies.

Just days ago it was revealed he has been spending as little as four-and-a-half hours a day on the case – while up to 250 potential leads have still not been checked out.

He regularly spends hours enjoying boozy lunches. Last week, while the eyes of the world were on an apparent sighting in Morocco, he spent two hours knocking back wine in his favourite fish restaurant.

Astonishingly, he was put in charge despite being an arguido [suspect] himself – after being accused of helping to cover-up an alleged assault on the mother of another missing girl.

Amaral is to face a criminal hearing for allegedly concealing evidence that three of his colleagues tortured Leonor Cipriano to extract a confession that she murdered her eightyear-old daughter Joana who went missing in September 2004.


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