Lying in the Sun

McCanns Eat Everything

McCanns Eat Everything

15 May 2015

Nova Gente: Interview With Gonçalo Amaral

15 May 2015
Nova Gente: Interview With Gonçalo Amaral
15th May 2015

For the first time, Gonçalo Amaral speaks about the case that destroyed his career,
 his family and his health...

“My life is gone, I’m only alive due to my heart”
Condemned to pay 500 thousand euro to the parents of Maddie, the little English
three-year-old girl that disappeared in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve, on the 3rd of May of
2007, the former inspector will fight until the last legal instance, because he is “a free man
and citizen” with “the right to express opinions”.

What was your reaction when you found out that the verdict from the court was 
unfavourable to you in the defamation suit that the McCanns filed against you?

I found out about the verdict through a friend who called me telling me about the news
on the radio. I immediately called my lawyer, but he hadn’t been notified and the verdict
was not in the process. It’s sad, but my lawyer could only access the sentence, that
afternoon, because a British journalist sent it to him by e-mail. There is no doubt that the
couple’s lawyer has good connections at the court. My reaction was one of calm and a
wish to read the full contents of the verdict as soon as it was available on the Citius
 website, which only happened the next day, but with the date of the previous day.
 Mysteries which the webs of justice weave.

Were you surprised?
I wasn’t surprised, it was one of the open possibilities, but after the decision about the
matter of fact, which was favourable to me, I trusted that the verdict would come in the
same direction.

Do you think there are errors in the process? Do you feel wronged?
Those are not mistakes, but value judgements and understandings that are contrary to
mine and to that of many other jurists. As for feeling wronged… What do you think?
I can only ask if those who, for more than five nights, left their three children, aged
three and two, to their own devices in a house within an unknown space, subjecting

them to a thousand dangers, while they were partying with friends – not to mention the
 amounts of alcohol that was ingested on those occasions -, still has the right to be
compensated. They practiced a crime of exposing and abandoning defenceless children
 and they weren’t even accused of that fact. Looking at our criminal legislation, at the
English child protection legislation and at cases that recently happened with British
 subjects in the Algarve, after drunken nights, all that I can say is that the McCann couple
 is primarily responsible for their daughter’s disappearance. She only disappeared
 because they neglected her guard and, as parents, they were obliged to it. It is a fact
that they lost their daughter, but that doesn’t give them the right to sue anyon or to be
compensated. They can’t escape their guilt, which is enough to rob them of their sleep,
 to provoke a lack of appetite and even rage, but against themselves and not against
someone who only wrote down what happened during the first five months of the
investigation, according to what is in the case files. If compensation takes place, all that
 I can do is warn you: be careful, there’s people who may turn this into a new business!

Don’t you feel revolted by this verdict?
I don’t feel revolt, but I do not conform to it, I still trust our country’s justice system, for
which I have worked for over 25 years, and I still am a free citizen with all my rights.
On the other hand, even the question that Maddie’s siblings, then aged two, may
someday read my book and become traumatized doesn’t concern me. Those two
children were also abandoned for over five nights in a row and surely they will
understand that what is written there is the result of a criminal investigation.

There is a question that those two children will certainly ask when they grow up but that
 question will be directed at the parents: why were they abandoned, left to their own
devices? Those children are free to think and to conclude that whatever happened to
their daughter could have happened to one of them. The parents can only fear that their
 two children who did not disappear on that tragic night revolt against them.

The court says that you caused Maddie’s parents and siblings moral damages…
In my understanding, there are no damages that, objectively and factually, may have
resulted from my writing. Which is to say, there is no causal nexus between the book
or the documentary and any damages. On the other hand, what is spoken about, like
the feelings of rage, it can hardly be considered a damage.

The couple demanded one million two hundred thousand euro. The court has
 you to pay 500 thousand euro – including interest since 2010 – over damages
that were caused by the publication of the book Maddie: A Verdade da Mentira.
Aren’t both the request and the damages awarded by the court exaggerated?

There is no defamation crime, I haven’t been tried over any crime, if at all I am being tried
over an offence of opinion, something unthinkable 40 years after the revolution of April of
1974, which ended the [fascist] Estado Novo, censorship and all the means that
oppressed Portuguese citizens from thinking, speaking and writing freely. On the other
hand, what is in the book is in the process, those are not lies, that can be verified by
comparing the case files with the book and this court has not put that truth at stake.
Nonetheless, a compensation of that amount only clarifies that the McCann couple is
worth more than any Portuguese citizen, dead or alive, and that they are above any god
or divinity, which, according to politicians, Portuguese intellectuals and others from the
 so-called democratic world can be criticized, ridiculed and satirized. Look at the
 discussions about the terrorist attacks against French newspaper Charlie Hebdo…
With my book I did not defame, nor did I have the intention to defame anyone, but merely
 to report what happened during the first five months of the investigation, thus replying to
the attacks against my good name and my professional dignity. There is no, no can there
 be any, reserve duty that superimposes our right to react and to defend ourselves from
defamation and injustice, putting the truth back when our fundamental rights are violated,
 even when the authors of such attacks are subjects of a powerful country, to which
Portugal has always bowed, with a short interregnum when the Portuguese Republic was
founded, largely a result of the English ultimatum.

Apart from the payment, the court decreed the prohibition of the sale of new

editions of the book Maddie: A Verdade da Mentira. Nevertheless, the Appellate
Court had decided to annul this prohibition back in 2010…

This court has not undone what had been decided by Lisbon’s Appellate Court within the
 injunction that was filed by the complainants. It should be clarified that the only decision
that has, so far, become effective is that of Lisbon’s Appellate Court. That is the only one
 that is in force, the rest is still subject to appeal and it will take a few years to come into
 force, while I hope that our superior courts will see this differently from the lower court.
This is just the judicial system working, therefore we need to remain calm.

In a more practical manner, I can say that the claimants, the McCanns, haven’t won
anything yet, they only lost, namely with the decision from Lisbon’s Appellate Court,
which is very clear in stating that the rights that have been violated were mine, that I,
within the exercise of freedom of speech, could write the book and practiced no illicit

With this prohibition, are you forbidden from emitting an opinion about the case
 or about the McCann couple?

I am a free man, and like any other citizen in this country, I have the right to express my
opinions. I was a Criminal Investigation coordinator, a policeman, and there is no reserve
duty, a functional or merely instrumental thing, from the exercise of a profession, that
superimposes a fundamental right and freedom of expression. To state that the duty of
reserve limits freedom of expression for life, or even during the exercise of the profession
 of policeman, is to elevate that duty, which is merely administrative, above freedom of
expression and fundamental rights, consecrated in the Constitution of the Portuguese
Republic, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on the European Convention
 of Human Rights.

When you wrote the book, did it ever occur to you that you could be committing
an offence?

I wrote the book because I, those who worked with me and the institution of the Judiciary
Police were being put at stake. My good name and professional honour were severely
attacked. In a first phase, I started by writing to the Judiciary Police’s national director,
 asking him to allow me to defend myself publicly or to come out to defend us, and I
obtained no reply. Today, after all these years, I know that Dr. Alípio Ribeiro never
received my letter, which was simply set aside by someone hierarchically below him.

Faced with the inertia and the silence from the institution that I belonged to, which, in my
opinion, had the duty and the obligation to come out and defend the men and women
who, with their work and great sacrifice, tried to protect it by performing an investigation
at the level of any minimally developed country, I decided to ask for my retirement, and
 to report the criminal investigation that had been carried out and the conclusions that
were reached up to the moment that I coordinated said investigation. At that time we
already knew that the case was going to be shelved and the investigation abruptly
 ended. Everything was being prepared in that sense with the agreement, at least tacit,
 from the parents of the missing child, with the case files being delivered to journalists by
 the Public Ministry, which in itself question the duty of reserve to which, according to
some experts, the policemen were subject to.

The book was a way to reply to the humiliation and the offences that I have been targeted
 with. Deep down, that was it: they say we are incompetent, they say we are a third world
police force, drunkards, fat, lazy, etc., etc., and the Judiciary Police does not set out to
defend us. Therefore I turned to writing, reporting the investigation that had been carried
out, so people could draw their own conclusions. What happened next is known.

Do you feel abandoned by the intellectuals and the writers of this country?
Since I left the Judiciary Police, I am part of no institution, I have no political party, nor am I
a member of any sports, recreational, cultural or social association, I do not belong to any
 congregation or obedience. I wrote three books (Maddie: A Verdade da Mentira;
A Mordaça Inglesa; Vidas Sem Defesa), but I do not consider myself a writer. I’m an

Is freedom of expression not compromised by this type of verdict?
What is happening to me, since 2009, is an attack against freedom of expression and a
 trial over an offence of opinion. The intellectuals of this country, in general, have reacted
 with indifference. I am not part of their group, and to make things worse I’m an
ex-policeman, something that is reproved by many. As far as I remember, only
Dr. Francisco Teixeira da Mota, when the Appeals Court’s decision came out, wrote
about the matter, saying that the decision had been correct, as the Portuguese State
risked being condemned by the European Court for Human Rights… Someone asked
me why the Portuguese Authors’ Society had not come out to defend freedom of
expression and to denounce the attack that is underway. I replied I was not a member,
 which may explain the silence.

Are you still dedicated to writing?
I continue to write, but I have yet to decide when to publish. At the moment, I am writing
my memoirs about the profession of criminal investigator.

Why are you economically suffocated? Your house in Tavira went to the bank,
your consultancy firm had to close, one third of your pension is arrested…

To all of those questions I only reply that my life is gone. If I am alive, it’s due to the heart
 that I have.

Have you never considered suing the McCanns over the damages that they
caused to your family?

Each thing in its own time, it won’t be only the McCanns, but their group of friends, and
other people and entities that will be sued. There is an illicit action that was indeed
performed, the neglect in guarding their children, which caused direct damages to many
 people, not only to myself, but for example to the Ocean Club workers, who were fired
and saw their lives change, many of them unjustly passing from mere employees and
heads of family to suspects in a criminal investigation, while they had nothing to do with
 the matter.

Is there a project that you would like to realise some day?
I would like to channel all the support that I have been receiving into the creation of an
institution to support children and teenagers at risk, in a perspective of educating them
for life, escaping the benefits perspective, promoting and building life projects with them,
helping them to escape marginalization and the labeling process.

With so many problems, do you still have time to dream?
Dreaming is a part of free men, it costs no money, it can’t be bought, and we just live and
 feel it.

What remains unexplained in this case?
I don’t answer that question. Faced with what was said by the couple, after the verdict
was known, that they felt stronger, I just feel like saying that only vampires become
stronger with their victims’ blood. Like Zeca Afonso [Portuguese songwriter and singer]
sang, “they eat everything”…

Text: Alexandra Ferreira (;
Photos: Lusa, Paula Alveno and IMPALA
in: Nova Gente, 15.05.2015, paper edition
15th May 2015
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