Policeman in Madeleine case charged

Policeman in Madeleine case charged
Yorkshire Post 
11 June 2007

A senior Portuguese police officer working on the Madeleine McCann case has been charged over an attack on the mother of another missing girl, it has been revealed.

Goncalo Amaral, co-ordinator of the Policia Judiciara (PJ) in Portimao, Algarve, is one of five men accused of "scenes of aggression" against Leonor Cipriano, whose nine-year-old daughter, Joana, disappeared in September 2004.

The little girl's body has never been found but Cipriano and her brother, Joao, were charged and convicted of her murder.

She went missing from her home in Figueira, not far from where four-year-old Madeleine was abducted in Praia da Luz 39 days ago.

The alleged attack on Cipriano occurred when she was being questioned over Joana's apparent abduction.

It is claimed the suspect was left with bruises all over her face and body, according to local newspaper Jornal de Noticias.

The Ministerio Publico (MP), or district attorney, charged three PJ officers with torture, a fourth with omission of evidence and a fifth with falsification of documents. The district attorney did not reveal who had been charged with what offence.

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

"He is very upset because reporters never speak of these successes."

Mr Amaral was charged in the Algarve, while the other four were charged in Lisbon.

It is alleged that the beating took place as Cipriano was questioned without a lawyer, according to the Portuguese Expresso newspaper.

She lodged a formal complaint about her treatment which was followed up by the district attorney.

In spite of the charges, Mr Amaral, who is in his late 40s, is not thought to have been suspended from work.

A spokesman for Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry said the couple had been made aware of the allegations.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the hunt for the missing four-year-old British girl were dashed when a potentially significant phone call received earlier in the week was dismissed as a hoax.

The call to Spanish police was from an Argentinian pay as you go mobile phone. The caller claimed to know where Madeleine was.

It was deemed so significant Mr and Mrs McCann suspended their search of Europe to investigate its authenticity.

They delayed flying from Berlin to Amsterdam by three hours and even considered going back to Britain to speak to specialists about the caller.

But the caller was dismissed as a professional thief from Cordoba in Argentina. It emerged that he had asked the couple for $1m (£500,000) for the information.

A source close to the family said: "He was dismissed as a conman who was just trying it on basically. They delayed their flight for that."

In Argentina a police source said the caller was not sophisticated enough to carry out the abduction.

They told the daily La Nacion paper: "Though he is a professional thief, neither he nor any of his gang would have the infrastructure necessary for a kidnap of this kind or to hide a girl sought by police in Portugal, Spain and Great Britain."

With no new breakthrough Mr and Mrs McCann embarked on the last of their visits to other countries to raise the profile of Madeleine's case.

They will travel to the Moroccan capital of Rabat for a series of meetings and a news conference to appeal for information. The North African country has repeatedly surfaced in the hunt for their daughter.

After weeks of exhaustive media coverage and high-profile appeals, the couple plan to take a step back next week to give themselves time to grieve.

The couple plan to stay in the Algarve at least until the end of the summer unless Madeleine is found.

They are expected to move out of the Mark Warner Ocean Club resort next week to more permanent housing.

The apartment where Madeleine was abducted has been cleaned for the first time since she was taken and the police cordons removed.

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