Blundering police chief under the microscope

Blundering police chief under the microscope
Martin Fricker
10 August 2007

This is the bungling police chief leading the shambolic hunt for missing Madeleine McCann.

Guilhermino Encarnacao, 59, dubbed Inspector Clueless, has presided over an astonishing list of blunders during the 13 week-long investigation.

His officers did not spot a mysterious speck of blood in her bedroom or "lock down" the resort immediately she was reported missing.

They failed to make a direct appeal to the kidnapper or issue a description of the distinctive pyjamas Madeleine was wearing when she vanished.

The embarrassing mistakes have put stockily-built Encarnacao, branded a "desk strategist" by the Portuguese media, under the microscope.

A source said his experience of abduction cases was limited and added: "He has a background in detective work but this case is unique. Other officers jokingly refer to Guilhermino as Inspector Clueless. He likes to stay behind his desk and send everyone else out into the field. That's his way.

"He also has a reputation for having long lunches with the other detectives in charge."

Encarnacao dislikes all the media and has only spoken publicly about the case once, the day after Madeleine disappeared.

He refused to speak in English even though the majority of the media present were from the UK. Encarnacao is working closely with Goncalo Amaral, the head of the regional Judicial Police, in Portimao, 25 miles from Praia da Luz.

Both officers were embroiled in controversy over the investigation into the disappearance of nine-year-old Joana Cipriano from nearby Figueira in September 2004.

In echoes of the Madeleine case, the house where she was last seen was not sealed off by the Republican National Guard, another police body. Only when it had been trampled over by officers and bleached clean by relatives did the Judicial Police take over. Joana's body was never found but the case was resolved when Leonor and Joao Cipriano, Joana's mother and uncle, were convicted of killing her and jailed for 16 years.

But Leonor claimed she was punched and kicked by Amaral during questioning, not allowed access to a lawyer and eventually forced to confess.

Amaral was charged over the alleged attack and is currently awaiting trial along with four other officers.

Friends of the McCanns say they have not met Amaral but have been less than impressed by Encarnacao. They prefer to deal with Luis Neves the third detective leading the search for their daughter.

A source close to the family said: "He is young and the McCanns were impressed. They like his grasp of the investigation and his efforts to inform them of its progress."

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