Madeleine McCann’s parents have lost a court case over claims in a best-selling book by a former detective that they were implicated in their daughter’s disappearance.
Lawyers for Kate and Gerry McCann argued that the Portuguese authorities had violated their right to respect for private and family life in the way the courts dealt with their defamation claims against Goncalo Amaral.
The case has dragged on for years, but reached its climax on Tuesday at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which ruled that there had been no violation.
Amaral was the lead detective investigating Madeleine’s disappearance, but was removed from the case after criticizing British police.
His 2008 book implicated the McCanns in their daughter’s abduction and accused them of hiding her body.
The family was on holiday in Praia da Luz in Portugal’s Algarve region when Madeleinewho was three years old at the time, disappeared from his holiday apartment.
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The ECtHR said that, even if the McCanns’ reputation had been damaged, this was “not because of the argument put forward by the author of the book”.
Instead, this was “a result of the suspicions expressed against them, which had led them to be investigated” and had generated intense media attention and controversy.
The court added: “Thus the information had been made public in some detail even before the investigative file was made available to the media and the book in question was published.
“Consequently, the national authorities had not breached their positive obligation to protect the applicants’ right to respect for their private lives.”
The McCanns now have three months to appeal the decision.
Amaral was ordered to pay the McCanns €500,000 in defamation damages by a Lisbon court in 2015, but the decision was overturned and later rejected by Portugal’s Supreme Court in 2017.
The investigation continues
There has been no sign of Madeleine since her disappearance 15 years ago, although her parents cling to the hope that they will find her alive.
In April of this year, a child abuser named Christian B was convicted an official suspect – an “arguido” – in his disappearance.
Less than two weeks later he declared that he had an alibi, insisting that he was many miles from the scene have sex with a young woman who would support him.
According to the Metropolitan Police, the Portuguese authorities are still leading the investigation and the Met is continuing to support them.