Madeleine McCann's parents lose court case relating to former detective's claims

Kate and Gerry McCann went to the European Court of Human Rights after a Portuguese judge had ruled against the couple

Kate and Gerry McCann have lost the latest stage of their legal battle over comments made by retired Portuguese detective Goncalo Amaral. PA
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Madeleine McCann’s parents have lost their latest legal challenge to a decision to dismiss their libel case against a former detective who implicated them in their daughter’s disappearance.

Kate and Gerry McCann sued Goncalo Amaral, who led the initial hunt for the 3-year-old after she went missing in 2007, after he claimed they were involved in their daughter's disappearance.

A court in Lisbon ordered Mr Amaral to pay €500,000 ($500,240) in compensation to Madeleine’s parents, a decision which was overturned the following year.

Two years later, in 2017, the supreme court also found against the couple.

They took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that their right to a fair trial, to private family life and freedom of expression had not been upheld by Portugal.

But on Tuesday the court found against them, saying Portugal had given them a fair hearing.

The ECHR ruling said the Portuguese judiciary had not failed in its duty to protect the rights of the couple and that their arguments concerning presumption of innocence were ill-founded.

“Even assuming that the applicants’ reputation had been damaged, this was not on account of the argument put forward by the book’s author but rather as a result of the suspicions expressed against them,” said the ECHR ruling.

The McCanns have three months to appeal the decision.

Madeleine disappeared from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, 15 years ago.

Kate and Gerry McCann pose with a missing poster depicting an age-progression, computer-generated image of their missing daughter in 2012. AP

Early investigations by Portuguese police produced no major leads and for a while detectives focused attention on the parents.

The couple were questioned by police as formal suspects that autumn.

But the following July, Portuguese police dropped their investigation, citing a lack of evidence, and cleared the McCanns of any involvement.

They have since campaigned tirelessly to draw attention to their daughter's disappearance.

The Metropolitan Police, which continues to treat Madeleine’s disappearance as a missing person's inquiry, has said it is “committed” to finding the truth.

In July 2013, Scotland Yard launched its own investigation, Operation Grange, into her disappearance.

DCI Mark Cranwell of the Met Police, who is leading the operation, said: “Fifteen years on from Madeleine’s disappearance in Praia da Luz, our thoughts, as always, are with her family.

“Officers continue to investigate the case and our dedicated team are still working closely with law enforcement colleagues from the Portuguese Policia Judiciaria, as well as the German Bundeskriminalamt.

“At this time, the case remains a missing person’s inquiry and all involved are committed to doing what we can to find answers.”

Christian Brueckner, 44, was declared an official suspect by Portuguese authorities in April, in a development that was welcomed by the couple.

Prosecutors in the Algarve city of Faro released a statement that said a person had been named an “arguido” — a Portuguese legal designation which elevates a witness to the status of a named or formal suspect.

The statement did not name Mr Brueckner but said the person was made an “arguido” by German authorities at the request of Portugal’s prosecutors service.

Mr Brueckner, who was identified as a murder suspect by German prosecutors in June 2020, has reportedly denied any involvement in the case and has not been charged.

Updated: September 20, 2022, 11:29 AM