McCann family begins libel action against Portuguese police chief

Thursday 12 September 2013 22.20
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Kate and Gerry McCann sit beneath a projection of an artist's impression of how their daughter might look now
Kate and Gerry McCann sit beneath a projection of an artist's impression of how their daughter might look now
Madeleine McCann disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in 2007
Madeleine McCann disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in 2007

The mother of missing Madeleine McCann has said she is in Portugal to "stop the damage" she believes is being caused to the search for her daughter by a former local police chief.

Kate McCann was speaking after the first hearing of the family's libel action against Goncalo Amaral, who published a book making allegations about the three-year-old's disappearance.

The McCanns have strongly denied the accusations and say the former detective's claims have damaged the hunt for Madeleine and exacerbated the anguish suffered by her relatives.

Speaking to the press, Mrs McCann said: "I'm here today for Madeleine and obviously I strongly hope for justice.

"I'm here to stop the damage that has been caused and is still being caused, both directly and indirectly, to the search for our daughter."

Mrs McCann said she want to stop the suffering the theories in the book have caused to her family.

Mrs McCann, who travelled to Portugal for the hearing, could have been called as a witness but is not expected to give evidence.

Instead, a number of relatives will appear in the witness box.

They will give evidence relating to the "damage" caused by Mr Amaral's book which, they claim, poisoned public opinion in Portugal against the family and allegedly deterred people from hunting for Madeleine.

The family stands to gain around £1m in damages if their legal action succeeds.

Before the case began, spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "Kate and Gerry McCann remain very confident that they will win the case.

"They have a strong case against Mr Amaral. The matter is now in the hands of their lawyer as it goes through court."

It is understood Mr McCann will stay at the family home in Rothley, Leicestershire, to look after the children.

The doctor is believed to have work commitments which have prevented him from travelling to Portugal.

It is unclear which family members will give evidence but Mrs McCann's cousin, Michael Wright, will appear in court at some point during the legal fight.

Private investigator Dave Edgar, who assisted with the search for the missing girl, is also part of proceedings.

Mr Amaral, the detective who initially led the inquiry into Madeleine's disappearance, is expected to argue that, under Portuguese law, he is entitled to make the claims published in The Truth Of The Lie.

The former officer was removed from the Portuguese investigation in October 2007 after criticising the British police.

His book is still on sale in Portugal.

Madeleine, who was then nearly four, disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, on 3 May 2007, as her parents dined at a nearby tapas restaurant with friends.

British detectives launched a fresh investigation into her disappearance in July - two years into a review of the case - and believe she could still be alive.

The Portuguese investigation into Madeline's disappearance is officially closed.

The libel case will be heard again tomorrow.

It will then be adjourned until next Thursday when the court will sit again for two days.

A final hearing is expected on Friday 27 September.

The judgment is expected to be deferred.