23 February 2009

Exclusive Interview with Former PJ Coordinator Gonçalo Amaral

"The political will does not exist; there is no political will to reopen at the moment, because if there was a political will it would mean that there was a political will before the process was closed, in order to continue the investigation. And when a process of this type is archived, with so many diligences to take care of, with so many facts that needed clarification, that’s because there was no will to continue the investigation and that was clear when we left the investigation on the 2nd of October [2007]." Gonçalo Amaral in Vigo, October 2008


All Rights Reserved © Joana Morais 2010

A collaborative interview by Duarte Levy, Joana Morais, Astro 

Transcript & Translation

Duarte Levy: You have now seen that the Constitutional Court has authorised the use of phone taps in the [football corruption] “Golden Whistle” case. Do you think it would be possible to see the same happening in the McCann case, taking into account that the judge didn’t authorise access to the registers and taps that were carried out at that time?

Gonçalo Amaral: The issue is not the permission to access the phone taps. He didn’t authorize the access to information concerning the text messages. That is related to a bureaucratic matter. When those text messages took place, there was no phone surveillance. The understanding of that judge… to access that information, that data, there would have to be a duly authorised phone tap first, it’s a procedural matter. Some think it’s not like that, others have a different understanding, the Public Ministry did not appeal the decision of the Appeals Court, and therefore the case was tried and closed.

DL: Did the PJ ever read the contents of those text messages?

GA: Yes it did. Later on, when it was not very interesting anymore. What was at stake was the situation of the national service providers.

DL: During the first phase of the inquiry, after the disappearance of Madeleine, the PJ offered the McCanns a mobile phone with a Portuguese chip that the McCanns never used. On the other hand, they used two phone numbers that were supplied to them by Portuguese friends. Were those phones under surveillance?

GA: That phone that was offered to them, was the one that was tapped, right? That phone was for them to receive calls, this was during those diligences that were related with possible extortions, from the Dutch and the Spanish and it was to find out, for them to give that number when necessary, when they were asked for a contact number and a way to listen into the conversation with the possible abductor asking for money. It’s a perfectly normal procedure. As for the other phones that they may have used, I do not know about that.

DL: In the case, during the first weeks, in some reports, in some cases similar to this one, with the same resemblances, often the parents are advised not to publicise the case, based on the principle that this publicity can place the child’s life at risk. Were the two first press conferences that were held by the McCanns carried out with the agreement, the authorization from the PJ?

GA: No. The same happened in this case. They were advised not to publicise and to be careful with the press. And the person who did that right away wasn’t even from the PJ, but a member of the English social services, who had been working in that area for 25 years, working with endangered children, with abuse situations, who was on vacation in the area, in Praia da Luz, who on the very morning of the 4th [of May] contacts the couple and alerts them to that. But she is thrown out of the house, we can say.

DL: At which point in time did you consider the McCanns to be suspects?

GA: Let’s see: In terms of suspicion, from the very first hour. The procedures in this type of case are to find out who the persons are, who the missing person is, in this case the missing child, and to find out all the antecedents. And now the first question that is asked from the English authorities, from the British police forces, is that one. Who were the parents, that group of people, and who was the child, was she the target of abuse, was she not. Then, it evolves, it’s a formal procedure, its general for all cases and when the first statements are made, that’s the day when we start to suspect that something is wrong. Things evolved, they were suspects until we reached the work of the English dogs and then the suspicions ultimately became indicia [evidence].

DL: During that whole phase, and until you were removed from the field, the English policemen that were in Praia da Luz, how was the cooperation with them? Was there actually cooperation?

GA: Yes. The cooperation was very tight, very intense; there are no doubts about that.

DL: So which part of the English authorities originated that blockade?

GA: That is certainly, and it was, coming from the top of the English hierarchy.

DL: The English policemen were invited to sign a confidentiality document. At the PJ, is that a normal procedure?

GA: No. And it’s not normal with the English police, either. It is normal in cases with the secret services, and that document is signed right at the beginning. Now with normal police, doing criminal investigation, that doesn’t happen.

DL: Concerning participations from outside of this case, it is normal for the ambassador, this has happened before in the Algarve, unfortunately, other cases involving British citizens. Is it normal for the ambassador to travel there?

GA: No. Neither in British cases nor non-British cases, they don’t have that responsibility. What is normal is for the information to be relayed by the consulate, that is what happens and only then the ambassador may come. And now we think that the ambassador came right away because of those initial suspicions and the first requests that were made which indicated that we suspected the couple, and he intervened in a manner that is not normal. He should have stayed in Lisbon, at the police’s National Directory, speaking with the National Director and not on location. And him leaving Portimão then led to a communiqué that the PJ somehow was “committed” to the abduction theory.

DL: Concerning other individuals that were connected with this case, the appearance of Brian Kennedy, namely during the meeting that he held with Murat, did the PJ ever find out about the purpose of that meeting?

GA: I was not in the investigation anymore during that phase, I had already left, but I know that this gentleman has gone as far as meeting people from the PJ after I left, which is not correct. Even more so because that gentleman brought certain Spanish detectives with him. That behaviour from the PJ’s senior officials in not the most acceptable one.

DL: Concerning not only this case, or other cases, how seriously could the events of the Madeleine case affect future cases?

GA: Well, in this case, like in all other cases, they affect the future [cases]. We have to learn from our mistakes and from the difficulties that we experienced. For example, in an earlier case, from 2004, the so-called “Joana case”, a disappearance as well, us investigators requested for the National Directory of the Police to intervene in a manner that would produce new regulations, new procedures for this type of inspection, to treat these disappearances. For example, there’s a very important issue. The disappearance in itself, when you go to a police station, or to the GNR or to the PJ, for missing persons, there is no specific competence for missing persons. There is no process for that. We have to investigate everything. The disappearance may or may not be related to a criminal situation and the issue may be whose competence is this? This has to be defined very quickly, we have been talking about that for a long time, over many cases and so far, nothing has been done about that. To define the competence from the outset. In all cases, the competence should be, at least in children’s cases, the PJ’s. Because many times what is at really the issue is that the disappearance has the parents’ intervention, in situations of divorce and there is a need and they take the children abroad, because it is the PJ that has the competence and the contacts on an international level, namely with Interpol, so the PJ dominates those channels for international cooperation, and from there, right away these cases should be the PJ’s competence, but that has not been defined. This leads to an initial intervention by the criminal police force that is informed of the disappearance. It’s always an intervention, almost always a disastrous intervention, because the more time goes by, the more pieces of evidence, opportunities to collect evidence are lost and only at a much later moment in time the PJ appears. When one thinks it’s an abduction, normally that’s what happens, it’s an abduction, it’s the PJ’s competence, nobody mentions a homicide or a voluntary disappearance, what is mentioned is abduction then it’s the PJ, and when we intervene it’s at a latter moment.

What happened in this case of Madeleine, we were called almost when the disappearance took place, only a few hours later, but still things went wrong. Why did they go wrong? Because there is a lack of said procedures concerning these situations. And this sensibility that many investigators have, to understand that an abduction is actually the theft of a person, but it cannot be handled like any theft. For example, all possibilities must be kept open, from a voluntary disappearance to, effectively, abduction, or homicide, or the death of the child. Therefore, it is necessary for the PJ to create this very quickly, I think they are doing that, I don’t think actually, I certain of it, there is already a commission that has been nominated to do that, to define those rules and those procedures for us to act. In my book I even mention it would be enough to follow the English, what the British authorities have concerning these situations. They have much more cases in situations of this type, don’t they? With the number of times that this happens in Portugal, maybe it doesn’t lead to, it hasn’t been that essential element that would lead the Police’s National Directory, or the Ministry of Justice to care for it, to feel the need for these new procedures. That’s where, that’s the manner in which it so often interferes. When there is a likelihood, the PJ acts. The PJ cannot be measured by one case. A PJ is measured through its entire history which is vast and includes many success cases, it is in fact one of the most successful police forces, on an international level, and also in this area of missing children, a very high success rate.

DL: In the Madeleine McCann case, who made the decision to send the analyses to Birmingham, to the FSS? In Portugal there is the National Institute [Forensic Medicine].

GA: This is the question. At that point in time, we were already feeling the pressure of the British media, we felt incompetent, that was what they said, and anything that we might do, would be questioned. It was a political decision by the PJ, but which was understandable at that point in time and it is still understandable now because it was a way of compromising, an attempt to compromise a British institution with the results that were to be found. If you ask me now if I would do the same today, I don’t think I would. Maybe there would be another laboratory, or at least, I wouldn’t have sent all the samples to that laboratory. But I can also tell you that at the IML, the Institute for Forensics Medicine, there was not the full capacity to carry out all of these tests, namely the low copy number analyses. Only in England, at this laboratory or at other laboratories outside of the country. We could have chosen another laboratory, but we opted for this one. It was a disaster. The decision was not disastrous; it was the tests that were disastrous to say the least.

DL: But do those samples still exist?

GA: No. They have all been destroyed. From the hair samples, it’s all been destroyed. There is a situation that is reported that is the following: there are several hairs, lots of hair is found in the car boot, in the car that was rented 23 days later, a comparison is made in terms of colour and colouration where they say yes indeed, these could be from the little girl, but then the laboratory says that they don’t manage, it doesn’t have any roots, they cannot define the DNA, they cannot define whether it’s from a living or a dead person, and when a team of Portuguese investigators go to the lab, accompanied by a Portuguese scientist, Dr. Francisco Corte Real, they ask for that hair, they went as far as holding that hair in their hands. And they had that hair, duly stored, that package with the hair, but then a report from the FSS appears in which they realize that they’d better keep them, and that later on they destroyed them in an attempt to define the DNA, or to discover whether it was from a living person or not, and they destroyed all of that hair. In Portugal they were also destroyed. It’s a bit hard to understand how in order to define the DNA, or to carry out another test, such a quantity of hair has to be used, like there existed in Portugal as well, and then it wasn’t possible to perform analyses of other types, namely the possibility of sedatives that the little girl might have ingested or was forced to ingest.

DL: Among the English officers that participated in this case, there’s Stuart Prior, to what extent can we today, after you left the case, with everything that the press has already published from part of the Public Ministry’s process, to what extent can we say today that Stuart Prior cooperated in this case, or not?

GA: Stuart Prior initially appears, he appears as number 2 or number 3 of the British police. The senior officer…, who had a meeting with us, and the first person to come to Portugal on a personal level is him, he always had lots of contacts and interest in the investigation. Stuart Prior appears during a phase, later in Portugal, first it was in England. I particularly wouldn’t like to be in his shoes, with the options that he made in terms of the investigation, and not only that, in his political knowledge. He is a good policeman, he cooperated vastly with us, but it was him who said that he had arrested people in England with much less. So he probably knew the value of these indicia that already existed, but as to whether he made good options, only he can answer those questions.

DL: Last question, at this moment in time, in order to reopen the process, what elements are needed, or what could reopen the process and to what extent do you think that there is a political will in Portugal to do it?

GA: Now a process of this kind that is archived like this and remains waiting for better evidence, it needs just that: new elements of evidence, which means, new data. There are situations in the process which in our opinion have not been taken into account, which have not even been read or became known to those who had the duty to know it. Namely that statement from the couple of English doctors who mention a vacation in Mallorca, those situations where there were gestures and words indicating the existence of a child molester within that group of people who were on vacation and not even that was taken into account, because they didn’t read it, they had no knowledge. I cannot believe that they read such statements and passed over them.

If eventually those persons would make a new statement, again, with other details, certainly there are details that they didn’t remember, the process might be reopened. But also other data, other situations that might lead to the reopening of the process, namely someone from within the group may come to talk about something, for example, the invention of the surveillance scheme; it would have to be reopened. There are situations, like the FSS’s work, if some report appears, which might exist, that in fact there were not only 15 alleles but more than 15 alleles from the little girl’s DNA profile, situations of this type have to lead to the reopening of the process.

The political will does not exist; there is no political will to reopen at the moment, because if there was a political will it would mean that there was a political will before the process was closed, in order to continue the investigation. And when a process of this type is archived, with so many diligences to take care of, with so many facts that needed clarification, that’s because there was no will to continue the investigation and that was clear when we left the investigation on the 2nd of October [2007]. That will was lacking, what was necessary was to archive the process, there was a strong will to archive the process. Now, it will be very difficult for the process to be reopened but every citizen has a word to say and there are ways to intervene with the Attorney General in a manner that the process is reopened

Portuguese transcript here.


8 comments:

  1. http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y138/beerwolves/applause.gif

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  2. Depois do APLAUSO, a "pedinchice", rs

    Joana, esta entrevista na minha opinião, merecia uma tradução BEM FEITA para Portugues.

    Será possível ????

    Obrigada.

    p.s. Há muitos portugueses que não entendem BEM o Ingles e que merecem saber estas verdades.

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  3. amanhã levanto-me CEDO.... para ver se o vídeo já está disponível, para o recomendar a TODOS os meus amigos e amigas Portugueses.

    Beijinho, Joana

    OBRIGADA.

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  4. If I understood it well, the ambassador came immediately after he felt the PJ was already suspecting the parents. He must have gotten instructions from England.The parents must not talk too much to the PJ.And I again go back to my question: did it had to do with Tapas 10 and not with the Mccanns?
    I think Gerry did not have any power before the accident. If he was already a powerful man, with influence on others, he would not have been unemployed for two years.The UK full of Hindus, Pakistanians, working as doctors in hospitals, and the 100% British blue-eyes Gerry walking around without work? In my opinion, his power started on May the 3rd, when he asked somebody in England to help him for a short time, and this somebody, believing in an accident, manipulated Tapas 10.
    And the noise the media(invited by Gerry) started the day after intimidated the helpers.No process in Portugal, no process in England for child neglect.And a lot of money on the Bank.

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  5. Thank you so much for all the work you do, and for this FANTASTIC interview. Where would we be without all your translations and news, in this case? We'd be sitting ducks for the spinmaster.

    OBRIGADA

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  6. Gracias a los cuatro (Duarte, Joana, Astro y Mercedes) y, muy especialmente, al Doctor Amaral por esta entrevista que merece ser leída (y escuchada) muy atentamente.

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  7. Thanks Joana for this great interview with a caring, honest and decent man who just wanted to be allowed to do his job, for Maddie x

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