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Kate and Gerry McCann lose legal battle against detective who blamed them for Madeleine's disappearance

Poppy Bilderbeck

Published 
| Last updated 

Kate and Gerry McCann lose legal battle against detective who blamed them for Madeleine's disappearance

Featured Image Credit: Jeff Moore / REUTERS / Alamy

The parents of Madeleine McCann have lost a legal battle against a retired Portuguese detective who claimed they were involved in the child's disappearance.

On 3 May 2007, three-year-old Madeleine McCann went missing from Praia da Luz while on holiday with her siblings, parents and other family friends.

In a newspaper interview, book and television documentary, former PJ police coordinator Goncalo Amaral accused the McCanns of being involved in their daughter's disappearance.

Lawyers for the McCann family launched a libel case against Amaral, arguing the detective had damaged their reputation, intruded on their privacy and caused disruption to their family.

However, on Tuesday, 20 September, the European Court of Human Rights ruled it wasn't Amaral's comments which had damaged the McCann parents' reputation but the fact that - for a short period of time - Gerry and Kate had been made official suspects in the case.

Madeleine McCann's parents have had their libel case against a former detective overturned by the European Court of Human Rights. Credit: PA
Madeleine McCann's parents have had their libel case against a former detective overturned by the European Court of Human Rights. Credit: PA

The McCanns had gone to the European Court of Human Rights after three other court hearings.

The first took place at a Lisbon court in 2015. Amaral was ordered by the courts to pay the McCann parents a sum of €500,000 (£440,000) in compensation.

However, in 2016, the decision was overturned by an appeal court.

In 2017, Portugal's Supreme Court also threw out the libel case against the former detective.

Madeleine was three years old when she went missing. Credit: PA Images/ Alamy Stock photo
Madeleine was three years old when she went missing. Credit: PA Images/ Alamy Stock photo

Just three days after Madeleine's case was closed by a Portuguese attorney general in 2008, Amaral released his book titled, The Truth of the Lie.

Later, as part of a Portuguese documentary, the former detective claimed Madeleine had not been abducted but was, in fact, dead - alleging her body was concealed by her parents.

Madeleine's parents were officially identified as suspects in the child's disappearance in 2007. However, they were cleared of suspicion in 2008.

Former PJ police coordinator Goncalo Amaral took part in a newspaper interview, television documentary and released a book about the McCann's. Credit: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo
Former PJ police coordinator Goncalo Amaral took part in a newspaper interview, television documentary and released a book about the McCann's. Credit: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Since then, German authorities have revealed that a formal suspect in the three-year-old's disappearance is a man who is known as Christian Brueckner. The revelation was first made in 2020.

Brueckner is a convicted sex offender, currently serving a seven-year sentence in Germany for raping a 72-year-old American woman in the Algarve in 2005.

He is also suspected of abusing children in São Bartolomeu de Messines, Algarve, in 2017 and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Portugal in 2007 - two of three cases involving Brueckner which continue to be investigated.

However, Brueckner has 'denied any involvement' in Madeleine's disappearance, according to his lawyer, Friedrich Fulscher.

The McCann parents now have three months to appeal the court's decision. Credit: REUTERS/ Alamy Stock Photo
The McCann parents now have three months to appeal the court's decision. Credit: REUTERS/ Alamy Stock Photo

Kate and Gerry McCann will now have three months to appeal the European Court of Human Rights' decision.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact The Survivor’s Trust for free on 08088 010 818, or through their website thesurvivorstrust.org 

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, 8am–10pm Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm weekends. If you are a child seeking advice and support, call Childline for free on 0800 1111 

Topics: News

Poppy Bilderbeck
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