Madeleine latest: raising yet more questions

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As news of the Met’s latest Madeleine theories sweeps the world, in Portugal there are some very different revelations – equally chilling in their content – received almost zero publicity.

An interview with ‘infamous’ Madeleine cop, Gonçalo Amaral, described how vital leads in the case appear to have been deliberately dropped.

Far from expounding on the possibility of a sexual predator stalking the bedrooms of young white girls on holiday from England, Amaral talked of high-level political involvement which left DNA samples untested and key witnesses overlooked.

It could have been dismissed as another conspiracy-theorists’ stunt apart from the fact that the programme was presented by well-known news anchor Júlio Magalhães – former director of information at TVI and current director-general of Porto Canal – with questions fielded by respected political thinker and one-time PSD leader and mayor, Luís Filipe Menezes.

Menezes opened the interview saying that after almost seven years of media frenzy, perhaps it was time to ask whether the PJ was qualified to investigate a crime of this complexity. “Doubts arise as to whether our police, our State, is protected against national and international political influences that interfere in the day-to-day professional thinking of police and other criminal investigators,” he said.

His invitation to Gonçalo Amaral – awaiting the result of a trial for defamation brought by Kate and Gerry McCann, who allege his theories that Madeleine is dead hampered the search for their daughter – was a chance to see whether the former investigator was “a Portuguese version of Dirty Harry, or a politically-correct policeman”.

Amaral’s answers came thick and fast. The day he left the Madeleine investigation was “the day Gordon Brown (then British prime minister) spoke with José Socrátes (then Portuguese prime minister).”

At the time, Amaral told Menezes, Portuguese police were keen to interview the Irish family who had identified Gerry McCann as the man they thought they had seen carrying a child down towards the beach on the night Madeleine went missing. This plan was quickly scuppered. Amaral’s substitute on the case “was told that it was not relevant to bring the Irish (family) to Portugal,” he told Menezes. “And that was that. The Irish family was never heard.”

As to DNA evidence that was discovered in the McCanns’ rental car, Amaral was adamant that this could have been more thoroughly tested. While initial findings on blood were deemed inconclusive, Amaral explains hair samples were simply not followed up as British lab technicians claimed it was impossible to test hair samples without roots.

“It is possible, and even at the time it was possible!” Amaral insisted.

“These hair samples are in Portugal! They were returned in Portugal and they are in the files. It’s simple! All the public ministry has to do is take the hairs and send them to a European laboratory, or anywhere where these kinds of exams are done without roots.”

Menezes, who had described himself at the outset as “never neutral in these matters” but seeking to be impartial, quizzed Amaral on one of the myriad “strange twists” in the early stages of the case.

Referring to the hiring of Clarence Mitchell as the McCanns’ press ‘face’, he said: “How is it comprehensible that the spokesman for the English Prime Minister had left, in 24 hours, Tony Blair to be the McCann family’s spokesman? Isn’t that strange?”

“Of course,” replies Amaral. “It is another mystery within the mystery, and maybe if we can understand this little mystery we will be able to understand what lies behind, not the disappearance, not the death of the child, but what lies behind the protection… Why the protection…”

Full of questions and inconvenient allegations, it was an interview that aimed to illustrated the depth and scope of the “complexities” Luís Filipe Menezes had suggested might just be too much for the PJ – or indeed any police force.

“Only when there is the political will on both sides” will the case be resolved, said Amaral, concluding, “when investigations are politically correct, they lead nowhere.”

Meantime in UK, Operation Grange has revealed that it is currently receiving hundreds of calls in response to the latest announcement that a bare-chested sexual predator abused five little white girls – all older than Madeleine – while they were sleeping in their beds in holiday homes along the Algarve between 2004 and 2006.

The Met described 12 separate crimes leading up to 2010, only four of them involving the sexual abuse of girls aged 7-10.

Whether the other eight crimes involved another type of sexual abuse has not been divulged.

According to Correio da Manhã newspaper, it was the evidence of this predator that led Portuguese investigators to ask the public ministry to reopen the Madeleine case in October last year.

The UK police have now centred their allegations against a man who died in 2009.

There had been another so far unpublicised incident in which another British girl on holiday with her parents was sexually abused, although he did not go into when this came to light nor where or when it took place.

The revelations came the day after the Metropolitan police in Britain appealed for information on a total of 12 incidents in which an intruder entered holiday accommodation in three resort areas including one where Madeleine, then three, went missing in May 2007. Four of these cases, between 2004 and 2006, involved assaults on girls aged seven to 10 and one involved two children, according to Scotland Yard, although police in both countries have looked at incidents up to 2010, three years after Madeleine vanished.

Euclides Monteiro, who died, aged 40, in a tractor accident. His name previously emerged in Portugal as a possible suspect in November although the interest of Portuguese and UK authorities in any connection to sexual assaults had not been made public at that time.

Monteiro lived and often worked near holiday homes where the victims were staying at the time the crimes were perpetrated, he said. The source said the assailant was described by his victims as smelling of tobacco and speaking English but in a foreign accent. Some details are similar to those released by British authorities this week, but the sources said some of the victims described the man as being of African origin. None had discounted the possibility.

The description issued by Scotland Yard did not say the man they were seeking may have been of African origin, describing him the man as “having dark (as in tanned) skin”.

Up until six months before the disappearance of Madeleine, Monteiro had been an employee at the Ocean Complex in Praia da Luz, the resort in which the McCann’s stayed, and was a resident there at the time of her disappearance.

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