Saturday, 5 July 2008

Gonçalo Amaral and Madeleine's case: “There was more politics than police”

The former Polícia Judiciária investigator criticized the PJ director and the Justice minister, on a interview, tonight, with TVI, a Portuguese TV channel. Asked if he believed that Madeleine was dead, Gonçalo Amaral said that he was “convinced” she was dead “based on the evidence collected”. When the journalist asked: “Was she killed, there (in the apartment)?”, the former PJ inspector said: “She died there”. About Madeleine's parents being named as formal suspects, Amaral spoke about “strong evidence” as the base for the decision and referred that “there was a common understanding”, between Portuguese and British police officers involved in the investigation, about the fact that Madeleine was dead.

There was evidence, about two different crimes – which were referred by the defence lawyer, Pinto de Abreu, in a public statement – and it was hiding a body and a criminal simulation. That was the situation, when I left the investigation,” Mr. Amaral said. The former PJ inspector, who has a Law Degree from Lisbon University, mentioned the fact that “these kind of cases of disappearance, frequently bring with it other crimes, sometimes fake statements or physical abuse”.

Questioned about the fact that the McCann were not accused of negligence or child abandonment, Amaral said that “it was clear they (the McCann children) were not safe”, when Madeleine disappeared, but reminded that it's easier, with UK laws, to charge parents in those kind of situations, once the Portuguese Law is more complex, it requires the existence of intention to left the children in a dangerous situation. Gonçalo Amaral refused to comment any decision from the Public Prosecutor's Office of from the Courts and refused to admit that he was “frustrated” with those decisions. Asked about his removal from the investigation, the former PJ inspector told the journalist that he had no contact with PJ director, on that day, and he only knew the reasons when he had a “private conversation” with Alípio Ribeiro – refusing to give details about it.

Gonçalo Amaral revealed that the “statement” he gave to Diário de Notícias – and was the reason for his removal, according to the PJ director – was not correctly reproduced and it was not a statement to a newspaper, but just an informal talk with a journalist from Faro, “very close to the family, a friend of my wife”, who called him to ask about the email sent to the web site of Prince Charles, denouncing a former employee of Ocean Club as the kidnapper. “What I said, talking not to a journalist, but with a friend, a personal talk, was that Police should concentrate in what was the common conclusion of British and Portuguese Police: the child was dead and it was necessary to consolidate the existing evidence and move forward, to find where she could be and what happened.” At that moment, the kidnapping line of inquiry was “already closed”, and “another door was opened”, Mr. Amaral said. When asked about the existence of political interference in the investigation, is answer was short and clear: “I think there was more politics than police.”

We did our job, the best we knew and we were the target of a lot critics and insults, from the British newspapers”, the former PJ inspector said. When the case of Joana Cipriano was first raised by the British Media, Mr. Amaral contacted the PJ director and called the attention for the risks, because those news about his alleged involvement in the “torture” of the mother of Joana Ciprianio would be, soon, a large campaign against him, and talked about the convenience of taking him out of investigation. “What they told me, later, was that I had all the support and should continue the work.”

Surprised” with his removal from the investigation, Gonçalo Amaral used a popular Portuguese phrase to explain what he felt, when he knew about his removal: “I felt as I was kicked up in the ass, on October 2.” About the influence and importance of the McCann, Mr. Amaral said that “there is a all story to be told, about this case, and I think that the journalists that followed this case, have a great opportunity and responsibility, in helping to understand what happened. This is really, a case that is different from all other cases.” Gonçalo Amaral criticized the Justice minister, who said, after his removal, that “it was, now, time to work”: “Mr. Justice Minister Alberto Costa, we worked hard.”

Download the audio from the full TVI report and interview here.

(Transcription with the help of Cláudia)