Mrs McCann yesterday delivered a personal statement at Lisbon’s Palace of Justice in the libel case brought by her and husband Gerry against Goncalo Amaral over claims he made in a book about their role in the disappearance of their daughter from the family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve in 2007.
She told the court her son Sean heard about Mr Amaral’s allegations on the radio while travelling on the school bus.
“Sean asked me in October ‘Mr Amaral said you killed Madeleine’. I just said that he said a lot of silly things,” she said.
Sean and his twin sister Amelie were aged two when Madeleine, who was nearly four, went missing.
The couple both told the court that former detective Mr Amaral’s claims “enhanced” their “vilification” at the hands of those who questioned whether Madeleine had been abducted.
Mrs McCann, 46, said it had “added fuel to the fire” and those that questioned their integrity “may well have died out had it not been for that”.
Her husband told the court that one group distributed a leaflet titled 60 Reasons Why Madeleine McCann Was Not Abducted around their village and to their neighbours in Leicestershire.
Mr Amaral, who led the initial investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, released his book, The Truth Of The Lie, three days after the case was closed in 2008.
He later took part in a documentary for Portuguese television, extracts of which the couple watched on Youtube.
“We have had very many sleepless nights over the publication of this book and certainly when we first heard about these things, it caused distress, anxiety and a lack of appetite,” Mr McCann said.
The 45-year-old said the documentary was “even worse than the book”.
“It starts off by stating right at the beginning that Madeleine is dead, that there was no abduction and essentially claims that me and my wife and our friends are liars.
“It says that we would be so cold and ruthless as to hide our daughter’s body rather than try and help her, should something have happened.
“And of course, it has no factual basis or supporting evidence and any evidence that is not in agreement with his thesis is ignored.”
At the end of her statement, Mrs McCann said she wanted to add that she did believe in free speech.
But she said: “I don’t think that freedom of speech is the same as the freedom to libel or slander.”
Wearing a black dress with floral print, she later watched from beside the family’s lawyers as her husband gave his statement.
As the couple left the court grounds after making a statement to the press, an elderly woman with a placard shouted “Long Live Goncalo Amaral” at them.
Mr McCann said that whoever was involved must have been laughing during the past six years at what former detective Mr Amaral has claimed – that there was no abduction and there is no predator at large.
“There is – he or she or they may strike again,” Mr McCann said. “There’s an unsolved serious crime and there’s a series of other crimes against children which have come to light who have been on holiday, so at the very least these people need to be brought to justice.
“We don’t know if Madeleine is alive or dead but there is no evidence that she is dead and she is a missing child and she is completely innocent.”