Madeleine officer charged over earlier child case

Madeleine officer charged over earlier child case
The Australian 
12 June 2007

David Brown, London
The Times

THE investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann is in chaos after the detective co-ordinating the hunt for her abductor was charged with criminal offences over another notorious missing child case.

As British couple Kate and Gerry McCann arrived in Morocco yesterday for the final leg of their publicity campaign to find their daughter, Goncalo Amaral and four other Portuguese police officers were charged with offences relating to the inquiry into the disappearance of Joana Cipriano from a village 11km from where Madeleine was abducted.

The nine-year-old has not been seen since her disappearance three years ago but her mother and uncle were convicted of murdering and dismembering her because she caught them having an incestuous relationship.

Joana's mother, Leonor, has alleged that she was beaten into a confession during a police interrogation that took place without her lawyer or the knowledge of the public prosecutor.

Portugal's Ministerio Publico, the public prosecutor, confirmed yesterday it had charged three officers with torture, a fourth with omission of evidence and a fifth with falsifying documents.

Despite the charges, Mr Amaral, the co-ordinator of the Policia Judiciaria in Portimao, has not been suspended from working on the 39-day-old Madeleine investigation.

The Foreign Office told the McCanns of the charges yesterday. A family spokesman said: "They do not remember meeting Goncalo Amaral face to face but naturally they were concerned to hear of the charges."

Police sources said Mr Amaral was "very angry" about the allegations and was considering taking action against the Ministerio Publico. "He is very professional and has had a lot of success in solving cases," one said.

In echoes of Madeleine's case, the investigation of Joana's disappearance got off to a false start when the Republican National Guard failed to seal off the house where she was last seen.

Mr and Ms McCann have also expressed frustration at delays in the early stages of the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance. Yesterday it emerged that a witness who claims to have seen Madeleine, aged four, days after she disappeared had still not been properly interviewed, although detectives had assured the McCanns that they had fully investigated the sighting.

Mari Olli says she saw the girl at a petrol station on the outskirts of Marrakesh in Morocco on June 9. Despite contacting Portuguese, Spanish and British police, she has still not been formally interviewed and no statement has been taken. Portuguese police admitted last week they were still waiting for CCTV footage from the petrol station.

A McCann family source said: "We had got the impression that they had sat down with her and gone through her statement in detail, which is not the case. The Portuguese police have complained about the lack of co-operation from the Moroccan authorities. None of it fills you with confidence."

The McCanns were due to meet the Moroccan Interior Minister last night.

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