17 - MAI 03 - art. Saunokonoko
By Mark Saunokonoko - May 3, 2017
How the discrediting of former top cop helps shut down damning Madeleine McCann theories
Goncalo Amaral, former Policia Judiciaria inspector and leading investigator on the disappearance of British child Madeleine McCann. Source: AFP
Crusading hero to many and vindictive villain to others, the figure of Goncalo Amaral is almost as much a part of the Madeleine McCann story as her parents, Kate and Gerry.
Amaral was the original supervising detective in the Maddie McCann case, an unsolved mystery which has captivated the world since Portuguese police were called at 10.41pm on May 3, 2007.
That first phone call, made some 41 minutes after Kate McCann claimed to have discovered Maddie was missing, sparked a 15-month police investigation that came under the most extraordinary media and political pressures.
Five months into the investigation, and following the naming of Kate and Gerry as suspects in the disappearance of their four-year-old daughter, Amaral found himself removed from the case.
However, Amaral sensationally reappeared just days after the Portuguese police investigation was eventually shelved in July 2008, with an explosive book that was hugely damaging to the McCanns.
His 22-chapter account, titled Truth of the Lie, concluded Maddie had probably died in some kind of accident inside holiday apartment 5A, that an abduction was staged and her tiny body had been disposed of by Kate and Gerry.
The McCanns launched an expensive and protracted legal battle, using money from the millions of dollars donated to the Find Madeleine Fund, to have Amaral's personal account of the investigation banned.
Initially the McCanns succeeded, before a 2016 court tossed that decision out and ruled that the injunction had violated Amaral's freedom of expression.
Throughout the investigation, and continuing to the present day, Amaral, now aged 57, has been continuously and methodically mauled by the British tabloids and to a lesser extent various UK broadsheets.
Amaral's supporters believe the ongoing assassination of his character and policing methods helps shape the perception that his theories must be wild and fanciful.
A man named Clarence Mitchell, a former British government media mastermind, has been the key strategist in the McCann's meticulous public relations campaign for each of the 10 years since Maddie vanished.
Over the past week, as the milestone tenth anniversary of Madeleine's approached, maneuverings to discredit Amaral were once again evident in the pages of the powerful and wide-reaching UK red tops.
Two high profile stories which ran this week in The Sun and The Mirror both painted Amaral as a kind of crackpot.
The first attributed quotes to Amaral about Maddie being secretly placed inside a coffin with a dead body which was later cremated; the second pushed Amaral's supposed belief that British spy agency MI5 had helped hide Maddie's body.
Amaral, in both instances, was selectively edited and his comments were twisted out of context.
The former cop has previously spoken about the cremated coffin and related police information about three figures seen entering a church in Praia da Luz carrying a bag.
In a 2016 interview on CMTV, he confirmed the McCanns were given keys to the local church, close to where the family was staying. Inside there was a coffin of an adult woman that was later incinerated.
During the TV appearance Amaral explained that all possible angles of a missing persons case should be explored by detectives.
"No one is saying that the parents did that [put Madeleine's body in the coffin]," he said.
The startling claim that spooks from MI5 helped hide Madeleine's body is another disturbing manipulation of the truth.
The facts are in the days following Maddie's disappearance the UK government made the remarkably unusual step of becoming closely involved in another sovereign nation's police investigation.
British police were sent to Portugal to assist, while the British ambassador to Portugal and other officials also arrived in Praia Da Luz within 48 hours of Madeleine being reported missing.
A former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and ex Foreign Office civil servant, Craig Murray, publicly questioned "the exceptional treatment from British authorities" for the McCanns.
"British diplomatic staff were under direct instruction to support the McCanns far beyond the usual and to put pressure on the Portuguese authorities over the case," Murray wrote in an April, 2016 blog post.
"I have direct information that more than one of those diplomatic staff found the McCanns less than convincing and their stories inconsistent.
"Embassy staff were perturbed to be ordered that British authorities were to be present at every contact between the McCanns and Portuguese police."
There were criticisms that the Policia Judiciaria were leaking rumours and unsubstantiated facts of the case to Portuguese journalists, while starving the hungry British press corp.
Ian Woods, a Sky News reporter on the ground in Praia Da Luz, explained how that dynamic divided the British and Portuguese journalists, creating an 'us' and 'them' agenda.
"For the first few weeks or months the British media were largely pro-McCann and the Portuguese media seemed largely anti-McCann," Woods wrote in a 2009 study examining media coverage of the case.
As the days ticked over into weeks, and with no sign of Maddie's return, the British press began to attack the way the investigation was handled.
On reflection, Amaral has admitted the Portuguese investigation, inevitably, made mistakes.
One of his biggest regrets, he said, was not immediately putting surveillance traces on Kate and Gerry's phones.
Amaral also lamented the failure of police to immediately obtain the clothes Maddie had worn at the resort crèche on the day she disappeared.
The McCanns have not ruled out trying to again ban The Truth of the Lie by taking the legal fight with Amaral all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Meanwhile, rumours have circulated that Amaral is planning a second book.
Ten years on, Madeleine Beth McCann remains missing.