THE parents of missing Madeleine McCann said today they were “delighted” with a court’s ruling that a former detective must pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to the family following a libel case in a Portuguese court.
Gerry and Kate McCann stressed that the action had never been about money but the effect of what was said on their other children and the search for their daughter.
Goncalo Amaral had been on trial over claims he made in a book and a documentary that the couple were involved in Madeleine’s disappearance in Praia da Luz on the Algarve in 2007.
In a written verdict, a Lisbon court agreed that Mr Amaral should pay Mr and Mrs McCann 250,000 euros (£179,000) each in damages and it banned further sales of his book The Truth Of The Lie.
Madeleine was three when she went missing from her family’s holiday apartment on May 3 2007 as her parents dined at a nearby tapas restaurant with friends.
Mr Amaral, who led the initial investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance, released the book three days after the case was closed in 2008.
We are delighted with the judge’s verdict today. We want to emphasise the action was never about moneyClarence Mitchell
He later took part in a documentary for Portuguese television in which he claimed that Madeleine was dead, there had been no abduction and the McCanns had hidden her body.
The McCanns said in a statement issued by their family spokesman, Clarence Mitchell: “We are delighted with the judge’s verdict today. We want to emphasise the action was never about money. It was entirely focused on the effect of the libels on our other children and the damage that was done to the search for Madeleine.
“A lot has changed in the six years since we launched the action and we are pleased that there is still an active investigation in both Portugal and the UK. We would like to remind people that there is still an innocent little girl who is missing and that those responsible for her abduction remain at large.”
Giving evidence at Lisbon’s Palace of Justice last year, the couple spoke of their “devastation, desperation, anxiety and pain” over the claims.
They said the book and documentary had hindered support from the Portuguese people as they looked for their daughter.
Mrs McCann told the court that her young son Sean had asked about Mr Amaral’s allegations after hearing about them on the radio while travelling on the school bus.
Answering questions from judge Maria Emilia Castro, Mrs McCann admitted once saying that she would like to be in a coma to stop the pain.
She also told the court that when she read Mr Amaral’s claims she was “quite desperate because of the injustice I felt towards my daughter and our family as a whole”.
She said: “It was very painful to read and I also felt anxious and fearful because of the damage I felt it was doing here in Portugal.
“We were working so hard, we were the only ones trying to do everything in our power to find Madeleine.
“It was hard enough in itself without all our efforts being crushed in this way.
“It just intensified the pain and fear that there was no point and we might as well give up.”
When Sean asked her about Mr Amaral’s allegations, she told him that “he said a lot of silly things”.
Sean and his twin sister Amelie were two when Madeleine, who was nearly four, went missing.
Mr McCann said in the court case: “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.”
He 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.”
Speaking to the media outside court, Mr McCann spoke of his fear that Madeleine’s kidnapper may “strike again” and claimed that whoever was responsible will have been “laughing” at Mr Amaral’s claims.
British officers spent eight days searching three areas of land in Praia da Luz last June, close to where Madeleine disappeared, but found no new evidence.
Madeleine’s disappearance is one of the most famous missing persons cases of all time.
The Metropolitan Police launched their own operation in 2011.