The former Maddie case inspector tells how his life turned into hell after the injunction. His wife had to undergo shock therapy against depression.
Is ‘The English Gag’ a book to counter-attack the McCanns?
‘The English Gag’ is a book that was written from the point of view of defence and revolt against a decision that I consider to be unconstitutional, therefore against the law. It is a counter-attack from those who defend the “planned and premeditated abduction theory”, which, to say the least, offends the intelligence of any policeman, anywhere in the world. Even that of a common citizen…
Do you feel gagged?
I have no doubts about the “gag” that people wanted to impose on me, even when I was still a Polícia Judiciária coordinator. But I won’t be silenced, and I won’t stop trying to discover the truth. This is no obsession; the truth is a principle.
Why is [the book] published by a Spanish editor?
Because no Portuguese editor was brave enough to publish it. And this has nothing to do with any “conspiracy”, I think it is the fear that the editors feel of suffering major financial damages due to a hypothetical injunction, in fact an “undercover” prohibition. This is Portuguese censorship, which returns 35 years after the Spring of ’74 [revolution of the 25th of April 1974, which restored democracy in Portugal], with the agreement of our own judicial system.
Did you feel the need to portray a bit of your family life, namely in the chapter where you speak about your daughters and where you describe some emotions and situations that happened with them and with [your wife] Sofia?
Those who attack me should not forget that I am a “head of family”, with a wife and daughters, with other relatives and also with friends. Which is to say, I’m a citizen like so many others. I am not, nor have I ever been, that which my detractors want to make me look like. On the other hand, my family has suffered just as much or even more (if suffering is measurable at all) than those who attack us. To speak about family is to focus on the core issue, on what is important, on what matters above everything else.
The injunction that is being fought by you in court, which prohibits the sale of the book ‘Maddie – The Truth about the Lie’, the consequent seizure of assets and the freezing of all of your income sources, has this shaken you financially and emotionally?
It is an attack on all fronts, with the purpose of asphyxiating me economically, and putting my capacity of defence at stake. Just to give you an idea, for me to fight the main action, which demands 1.2 million euros from me, I will have to pay judicial expenses that amount to approximately 30 thousand euros. Firstly, I pay, and only then I am able to oppose [the action]. I think I answered that clearly. Given the fact that the judicial costs are indexed to the requested amount, [the plaintiffs] demand a lot, to prevent me from reacting. This is how it works for citizen Gonçalo Amaral or for (almost) any other Portuguese. The seizure of rights and assets is not a consequence of the request, it is a process “on the side”, which seeks to reinforce the asphyxia. An arrest is not obligatory when there is a request for compensation. But if both processes run simultaneously, as is the case, they ask a fortune from me, I have to pay in order to be heard, and I cannot use the means that I gained legally from my work, to defend myself.
According to the family’s British lawyer, Ed Smethurst, Madeleine McCann’s parents defend that you produced “continuous and gross” statements about the little girl’s disappearance…
Given the fact that the injunction, apart from everything else, also forbids me from speaking about the contents of the book ‘Maddie – The Truth about the Lie’, I can only tell you that what is written in there is based on the process that supported the investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Madeleine McCann. On the limit, it is a duly based technical opinion.
Are you confident, concerning the court’s decision?
I have no doubts. I am sure that the judicial system will work and that it will declare the unconstitutionality of the decisions that have been made so far, in a provisory manner.
What are you going to try to prove?
That in Portugal, in 2009, it is not possible to limit responsible freedom of expression.
Is the injunction only valid in Portugal?
Yes. There is neither in Portugal, nor anywhere else in the world, a court that is competent beyond its territorial jurisdiction, which is to say, beyond its borders. That is why apparently the couple’s lawyers seem to be on a world tour, selling the provisional injunction as if it were definitive, in the countries where the book is on sale.
Explain the arrest to me. Are you unable to touch anything that you own?
I would like to explain the contents of the arrest to you, but I do not know the specific decision that it is based upon, because, strangely enough, I have never been notified.
The McCanns have filed an action against you in which they demand a compensation of 1.2 million euros. Do you consider the possibility that you might lose and have to pay them that amount?
I consider the possibility of, and because I owe them nothing, apart from the damages that my family and me are suffering, me counter-attacking and demanding that or any other value from them. Which is to say, what they are doing to me, can also be done to them. Some people call it “karma”, or “you reap what you sow”. That is not the intention. It is a matter of following the judicial instruments that are available to citizens.
Have these two years been difficult?
If the path was easy, what would our merit be?
Who was, and who is now Gonçalo Amaral? Do you still fight for what you believe in?
I am the same father, the same husband, the same friend. What I have is more free time. I am also the same citizen who believes in the values of justice and of freedom.
If the McCann couple comes to Portugal to attend the trial, would you like to approach them to ask some questions, to tell them anything, any questions that remain unanswered?
It has been said that you made a lot of money and even bought a Jaguar. Did you make that much money?
There are so many authors in Portugal selling (good) books. Many of them are even public figures, colleagues of yours. I still question myself (even though I know the answer) why they only mention the “money”, the “profits”, the “luxuries” of Gonçalo Amaral. You know, I was born into a very poor family, with six children to raise and to educate. Just like any other parent, I like to offer my daughters everything which they deserve and wish for. I would even spoil them more, it’s Sofia who doesn’t allow me. As far as the car is concerned, it is merely a car, which was bought by my consultancy firm.
Would you explain the story of the Jaguar to me…
It is called a Jaguar, but it was a lot less expensive than some lower category cars. When it was bought it was being sold for half its price. The brand had stopped producing that model. Apart from that, it was bought from the car dealer where Sofia’s family has always bought their cars, which made the negotiation even easier. But that is all that it is, really, a car.
The McCanns also accuse you of charging for interviews. Have you ever charged for one?
That is another lie that sustains the damage request. Apart from Bill Clinton, or any other world famous celebrity that charges for philanthropic purposes, do you really know anyone who is willing to pay 80 thousand euros for an interview?! To a retired cop?!
Sofia Leal: Deep depression supporting her husband
Has your family been hurt in this process?
This year in April, I started feeling very low. I did some blood tests and the result revealed that my body (this was not even a psychological matter anymore) was at its limit. The pressure had been huge (moving house, changing schools, changing jobs, defamation, Gonçalo’s early retirement). All the common patterns were fine, including the hormonal part. Nonetheless, until today nobody understands how I managed to get so far.
By the end of April, my body had not even a trace of adrenalin, dopamine or serotonin. In physical and emotional terms, I had given everything I had, plus what I didn’t have. The McCann couple, that is clearly and directly responsible, certainly knows what this means. Nevertheless, due to my psychiatrist and to my family that tried to protect me, I made it through the summer “on one foot”. Afterwards, and due to the processes, the threats, in October my body failed and broke down. I went through shock therapy that included being “shut off” for two weeks. My husband didn’t sleep, in order to “watch over” my sleep.
How do your daughters react to the information that they receive about their father?
Concerning the information that reaches the girls, it’s not easy, but there is a basic principle: to tell them the truth, according to their age. Rita, who is 11 years old and surprisingly mature, is able to understand almost like an adult. Ines, who has just become six, knows that Maddie’s parents loved her so much that they refuse to believe that she died. That her father, Gonçalo, who is a great policeman, with the help of other policemen, of the laboratory and of the dogs, managed to prove that Maddie died. But the little girl’s parents don’t want to believe that, and they don’t want her father to say that. But I always tell her that the parents didn’t hurt her, that we don’t know how it happened yet, but Maddie died. And that Gonçalo won’t give up on finding out “how”, because that is the only way that Maddie’s parents will believe, and she can become another angel just like Joana.
source: Nova Gente, 12.12.2009, paper edition only