The Portuguese detective leading the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann was sacked tonight after he accused British police of helping her parents cover up their role in their daughter’s death.
Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who has been the driving force behind briefings that the couple were responsible for the death of their daughter, was dismissed from his position as director of the Polícia Judiciária (PJ) in Portimão and demoted to the rank of Inspector.
The detective was summoned to a meeting with Alipio Ribeiro, the national director of the PJ, in Faro, after telling a Portuguese newspaper that British police were helping Kate and Gerry McCann.
Mr Ribiero had earlier criticised officers who spoke to the press. "The police should be discreet and keep quiet, but there is always someone who talks,” he said in a rare interview in August. “Sometimes it is someone who knows nothing and just wants to be a protagonist.
Mr Amaral’s extraordinary attack came after two weeks of new claims that have cast doubt on the Portuguese police case that Mrs McCann accidentally killed Madeleine at their holiday apartment on May 3.
He told Diário de Notícias: “British police have only worked on what the McCann couple want them to work on. They have only investigated tips and information developed and worked on for the McCanns, forgetting that the couple are suspects in the death of their daughter Madeleine.”
The comments were seen as highly embarrassing for the Portuguese authorities, and led the country’s Justice Minister, Alberto Costa, to insist there was “fruitful cooperation” between the police forces of both nations.
Mr Costa, asked about the row as he attended a public event near Lisbon, said he wanted officers “to concentrate on the job and not on the comments” made by Mr Amaral.
A spokeswoman for the PJ said: “We can confirm that Mr Amaral is no longer working for the Judicial Police in Portimao. The decision was taken by the national leadership of the Judicial Police on Tuesday. We cannot make any comment on the reasons for his dismissal. But we can confirm that he did not resign, he was removed from the post.”
Mr Amaral’s dismissal was seen in Portugal as a hugely significant development in the case against Mr and Mrs McCann. The 47-year-old detective has made little secret of the fact that he believes the couple are behind the death of Madeleine.
Despite Portugal’s strict judicial secrecy laws there has been a constant trickle of information from inside the police investigation. It is thought that Mr Amaral believed he was talking to Diário de Notícias on an off-the-record basis when he made the comments that led to his downfall.
Mr Amaral was particularly critical of reports that British police were taking seriously an e-mail sent to the official website of the Prince of Wales last week. The tip-off claimed that Madeleine had been abducted by a maid in revenge for being sacked from the Ocean Club complex, where the McCanns were staying.
He told the Diário de Notícias newspaper that the lead has “no credibility” for the Portuguese police. “This story about abduction for revenge is another lead being worked on for the McCanns. The Ocean Club is in Praia da Luz, not London, which means everything said by employees, current or former, has already been investigated by the Polícia Judiciária. No e-mail is going to distract our line of investigation.”
An unnamed senior police source said: “After the war with the British media, we now have another with the English police.”
Leicestershire Constabulary, which is leading the British side of the investigation, refused to respond to the criticism. A spokeswoman said: “Leicestershire Constabulary is one of a number of UK law enforcement agencies who continue to support the Portuguese authorities in their investigations.”
Friends of the McCanns said that Mr Amaral’s comments were “completely wrong”. One friend said: “Leicestershire Police are not investigating things purely because the McCanns ask them. There’s no way that would be entertained.
“It’s amazing that he’s talking about lines of inquiry in the case when Gerry and Kate have been told that they can’t. Now he’s painting them as somehow acting with some sort of Machiavellian policy. It’s completely bizarre.”
Clarence Mitchell, the couple’s spokesman, refused to comment on Mr Amaral’s claims or his dismissal.
The timing of Mr Amaral’s outburst and sacking will concern the Portuguese prosecutors, who are formally preparing to ask for British detectives to reinterview the McCanns. They want the couple to be asked 40 questions that they refused to answer before being made official suspects last month.
There had been criticism of the decision to place Mr Amaral in charge of the Madeleine case after the disclosure that he is facing a criminal hearing for allegedly covering up the torture of another mother accused of murdering her daughter.
The portly detective had also been mocked by British newspapers for enjoying lunch breaks that were somewhat longer than those enjoyed by British detectives, and working days that seemed somewhat shorter.
Leonor Cipriano, 36, is currently serving a 16-year jail sentence for the murder of her eight-year-old daughter, Joana, about ten miles from where Madeleine disappeared. Joana’s body has never been found and her mother has since retracted her confession which she claims was obtained by torture.
A spokeswoman for Leicestershire Constabulary, which is leading the British end of the investigation, refused to respond to the criticism.
“Leicestershire Constabulary is one of a number of UK law enforcement agencies who continue to support the Portuguese authorities into their investigations into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann,” she said.
Friends of the McCanns said that Mr Amaral’s comments were “completely wrong”. “Leicestershire Police are not investigating things purely because the McCanns ask them,” a friend said.
“There’s no way that would be entertained.
“It’s amazing that he’s talking about lines of inquiry in the case when Gerry and Kate have been told that they can’t. Now he’s painting them as somehow acting with some sort of Machiavellian policy for dropping new facts into the ether. It’s completely bizarre.”
Clarence Mitchell, the couple’s spokesman, refused to comment on Mr Amaral’s outburst. He said that the couple were “consistently co-operating fully” with the inquiry.
Mr Amaral attack came as it emerged that Mr and Mrs McCann’s legal team have commissioned an independent investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance which has included interviews with witnesses to the events of May 3. Those interviewed include the seven British friends who had travelled to Praia da Luz with the McCanns and have been accused by Portuguese police of having a “pact of silence”.
The defence dossier will be passed directly to the chief Portuguese prosecutor, Luis Bilro Verao, who will be asked to compare the evidence with that of the Policia Judiciaria and dismiss the case.
A source close to the McCann’s legal team said: “The idea of carrying out an independent investigation is that if the Portuguese police claim one piece of evidence points one way, we can immediately use the same evidence to prove a different point.”
The McCanns have become increasingly concerned at a series of leaks from within the Policia Judiciaria about the alleged evidence against them while they are forbidden by Portuguese judicial secrecy laws from talking abut the case.
The couple is seeking legal advice on the possibility of giving interviews to the Portuguese and Spanish media next week to coincide with the start of a new publicity drive in the search for Madeleine, targeting the Iberian peninsula and Morocco.
Carlos Anjos, the director of the Judicial Police Inspectors Union, also today accused Mr and Mrs McCann of running a campaign to discredit Portuguese police.
“The McCanns started a campaign to discredit Portuguese police when they [the police] first proposed the idea that the girl was dead, in place of the abduction theory which suited them so well,” he said.
“When things moved on to the death theory, the McCanns’ position changed radically.”
David Brown and Patrick Foster - From Times Online - October 2, 2007
'Madeleine McCann police tortured me', says mother behind bars
The senior detective leading the Madeleine McCann investigation is facing calls to step down after a woman jailed for the murder of her daughter claimed that his officers tortured her into confessing.
Leonor Cipriano, 36, told for the first time how she was forced to kneel on glass ashtrays with a bag over her head as police repeatedly hit her during almost 48 hours of nonstop questioning.
She is now serving a 16-year sentence for the murder of her eight-year-old daughter Joana, even though the body has never been found and she has since retracted her statement.
Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who is jointly leading the Madeleine case, is to face a criminal hearing for allegedly concealing evidence that three of his colleagues tortured Cipriano. The hearing could be as early as next month.
Joana Cipriano disappeared from her home in Figuera, near Portimao on the Algarve, in September 2004, not far from where four-year-old Madeleine disappeared in Praia da Luz 143 days ago. Leonor Cipriano was arrested at 8am on October 14 and confessed after almost 48 hours of continuous questioning.
She retracted her statement a day later when she had access to a lawyer but was still charged and convicted of murdering her daughter.
Speaking from Odemira prison in west Portugal, she told a relative: “The police put a bag on my head, but I didn’t see what I was hit with. It was something like a baton. They made me kneel on two glass ashtrays and then they hit me. I couldn’t see who hit me because of the bag.
“It’s not true I fell down the stairs – the police hit me. I said it [the confession] because they beat me.”
A friend saw Cipriano shortly after the alleged attack. She said: “Her head was swollen, while she had huge bruises under the breasts, on the thighs and the legs.”
Amaral is accused of concealing evidence supporting allegations that three of his colleagues tortured Cipriano. The four detectives and a fifth, who is accused of fabricating evidence, deny the allegations and say Cipriano was injured when she threw herself down a flight of stairs.
Roy Ramm, a former Scotland Yard commander, said: “It is extraordinary that a man accused of an unresolved, serious complaint like this is still handling a high-profile inquiry. You would expect him at best to be in a desk job.”
Carlos Garcia, vice-president of the trade union for Portuguese police, which is defending Amaral and his colleagues, said: “They utterly reject the allegations.”
Cipriano’s boyfriend Leandro Silva, 41, a car mechanic, claims that he, too, was beaten when he was taken in for questioning in Faro in October 2004. “One officer grabbed me from behind, spun me round, then hit me in the stomach with a closed fist,” he said. “They also hit me from behind with a phone book. When they questioned me, a senior officer said, ‘You ate Joana’s body’. I couldn’t believe it. Then he said, ‘You cooked her and you ate her’. I thought they must be crazy – it was like something out of a horror movie.”
Silva is considering making a formal complaint.
John Follain Portimao