Madeleine McCann: parents Kate and Gerry court case against Portuguese detective explained - did they lose?

Kate and Gerry McCann brought a case against Goncalo Amaral, who alleged in his book that they were involved in the disappearance of Madeleine.

Madeleine McCann’s parents have lost the latest stage of their legal battle over a former Portuguese detective’s suggestions that they were involved in their daughter’s disappearance.

The comments were made in a bestselling book by Goncalo Amaral, who initially led the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance but was removed from the case after he criticised the British police.

He released his book just days after the case was closed in 2008 and later took part in a documentary for Portuguese television and conducted various media interviews.

Kate and Gerry McCann had brought a libel suit against him - and claimed Portuguese authorities had breached their right to respect for a private family life in the way the courts had dealt with the claims.

The case has been ongoing for years, but came to a head today (20 September) when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled there had been no violation.

Madeleine McCann’s parents have lost the latest stage in their legal battle against a former Portuguese detective. Credit: Getty Images


Why did the McCanns sue Goncalo Amaral?

Kate and Gerry McCann sued Goncalo Amaral, who led the police search for Madeleine in Portugal in 2007, over statements he had made in a book, documentary, and newspaper interview.

In his book Truth of the Lie, Mr Amaral implied that Madeleine’s parents had been involved in her disappearance.

The McCanns, whose daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal in 2007, sued Goncalo Amaral for libel. Credit: Getty Images

The McCanns brought a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), alleging that his statements had damaged their reputation and had breached their right both to respect for their private life - as well as their right to be presumed innocent.

The couple’s complaint also said Portugal’s Supreme Court had failed to give them proper redress over this alleged libel by Mr Amaral, after judges discarded their claim in 2017.


What did the European Court of Human Rights say?

In a judgement published today (20 September), the ECHR said that any damage to the McCann’s reputation would have arisen from the fact that they had been suspects in the case, not from comments made by Mr Amaral.

The court also ruled that there had been no violation of Article 8 in the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to respect for private and family life.

The case of Madeleine McCann became a topic of intense public and media scrutiny. Credit: Getty Images

It said: “The court considered that, even assuming that the applicants’ reputation had been damaged, this was not on account of the argument put forward by the book’s author but rather as a result of the suspicions expressed against them, which had led to their being placed under investigation in the course of the criminal investigation (the prosecutor’s office decided to take no further action in July 2008) and had led to intense media attention and much controversy.”

What happens next?


The McCanns now have three months to appeal against the decision.

What happened to Madeleine McCann?

Madeleine, aged three at the time, went missing from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal on 3 May 2007 as her parents dined at a nearby restaurant.

The case came under intense scrutiny, with various conspiracy theories being thrown about what happened to the missing child.


Madeleine went missing in May 2007 in Portugal. Credit: Getty Images

Officers however are said to still be working on the case, and earlier this year, German investigators found new evidence against Christian Brueckner, the prime suspect in her disappearance.

In May, as they marked the 15th anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance, said it was essential they uncover the truth.