His life has been “shattered”. He wanted to help, he alleges, but ended up as an arguido. Now he tries to find a direction. But that night in 2007 continues to persecute him.
by Idálio Revez
Robert Murat, three years after Maddie’s disappearance, in Praia da Luz, still has his life “shattered” because he was “at the wrong place, at the wrong time”.
The first suspect of being involved in the child’s disappearance was this English man, aged 36, for whom being made arguido earned him a condemnation from public opinion that he never freed himself from. In an interview to Público, the first one that he gives to a member of the media since the English child’s disappearance, leaves a question in the air that robs him of his sleep until this day: “Three of the McCanns’ friends were at the PJ, saying that they had seen me there, that night [May 3, 2007]. What I ask is why did they lie?”.
“I have a daughter, too”, says Robert Murat, remembering Sofia, aged seven, who lives in England with her mother. “My family was a victim, too – the journalists invaded the area where they live, and the British police had to take my daughter to a safe place.” His ex-wife, he says, “even received an offer of 220 thousand euros to give an interview saying that I was a paedophile”. She did not give in. Robert Murat, in defence of his honour and his reputation, had 13 members of the British media sued. He received a significant compensation, but he does not reveal the amount.
Despite the pressures and the money offers for his to speak – he was offered over 300 thousand euros to allow himself being filmed and to speak about the Maddie case -, he shut up. Now, after the book ‘The Truth of The Lie’, by Gonçalo Amaral, the coordinator of this case investigation, saw its sale being forbidden under orders from the Lisbon Civil Court, and after the British newspapers returned to the issue by publishing images that the Portuguese police allegedly neglected, he decides to speak to Público.
Since he saw himself involved in this process, Robert Murat has been searching for a direction to give to his life. “I have been through horrible situations. Just recently, I have received a letter with a death threat, written in English, sent from France.” When this case broke out, he was about to start a real estate business on the internet, “but everything was deactivated”.
Meanwhile, he married an Anglo-Portuguese woman, went to the USA, on a honeymoon, late last year, but did not go unnoticed: “Here, I feel the discomfort of seeing people pointing at me, but over there I was recognised, as well.”
Which is not strange. The appeals to find Madeleine McCann continue and the parents are still convinced that their daughter is alive. Therefore, they have criticised the investigation that was carried out by the Portuguese authorities, because they dropped the abduction theory. From Morocco to the United States, passing through Spain and Holland, hundreds of pieces of information passed on to the PJ, reporting children that allegedly resembled Maddie. News about several appearances of Maddie went around the world and a reward of 2.5 million euros was offered to anyone who could supply information.
From witness to arguido
Robert Murat accuses the media of having “fabricated” news, pursuing audiences. “They didn’t care about the truth.” “I have people I know at the BBC who told me: “Shut up, because they are going to turn this all around””. His lawyer, Francisco Pagarete, gave him the same advice. “That is the main reason why I haven’t talked until now, but it was very hard.”
His life and that of his relatives – a brother and a sister, who live in England -, “has been rummaged and filled with lies”. In the summer three years ago, Praia da Luz became a battlefield between the world’s main television networks, fighting for ratings. “There was great pressure from the English media, forcing the Portuguese police to present a face”, says Robert Murat, lamenting his luck: “I wanted to help, I ended up being pointed out as a suspect”.
This Englishman, who went to school in Portugal, says: “I have always enjoyed helping people, it’s who I am”. In England, where he lived for 15 years and worked as a car salesman, he also cooperated with the British authorities. “I worked as a translator, for the police and at the court.”
When the child disappeared in Praia da Luz, on the 3rd of May, 2007, he had returned to Portugal two days earlier, to launch the Romigen business. He took part in the searches and, together with his mother, was one of the persons who mobilised the local community to find the little girl.
11 days later, he entered the Polícia Judiciária building in Portimão as a witness, and left as an arguido. Concerning the questioning session that he was subject to, he recalls: “It reminded me of a KGB movie, I felt they were trying to set me up”. Nevertheless, he recognises that the PJ “suffered a lot of pressure to find a guilty person”. He, an English citizen who first played the role of a translator for the GNR, then for the PJ itself, “at their request”, was the one who best fit the news that were being published: “I was the scapegoat”, he emphasizes. The English media, he evokes, “were already saying that there would be developments before I was made an arguido”. A British journalist said that Robert Murat had a “strange” behaviour and denounced him to the Judiciária.
He and his mother, a nurse, aged 73, were two of the persons who were at the front line of the solidarity campaign that developed around the McCann couple. At the GNR’s side, or independently, many people took part in the successive searches, in the surroundings of Lagos, looking for Maddie. But that effort was not recognised, he accuses. “There is one thing which, in a way, displeases me – to those people who were involved in the searches, nobody said thank you”. Who does he think should have said thank you? “That has nothing to do with me, but I think someone should have said thank you.”
in: Público, 05.03.2010