by José Manuel Oliveira
Robert Murat may sue the South African businessman Stephen Birch for trespassing on private property after the latter publicly assumed that he had entered in the garden of Murat's house in Praia da Luz, near Lagos, whenever Robert went out, in order to inspect the terrain with a georadar through which Birch claims to have located the place where the cadaver of Madeleine McCann, who disappeared in May 2007, is hidden.
“We are looking at what was said, analysing the statements that were made and then I will have a meeting with my client so we can make a decision. Suing is a situation to consider, it remains an open hypothesis”, said Francisco Pagarete, Robert Murat's lawyer to DN.
The Anglo-Portuguese citizen, and former real estate agent ended up being constituted as arguido with Declaration of Identity and Residence [Termo de Identidade e Residência]1, just like Maddie's parents were, on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance of the British child, following the investigations of the Judiciary Police, which included at the time excavations in parts of Murat's garden, where nothing was found.
Meanwhile, other lawyers guaranteed to DN that if the lawsuit now being considered does take place, “at most, in the worst case scenario” the South African “could be punished with the obligation of having to pay a fine of four hundred euro for the invasion of a private property”.
“This is a complicated process, in which the individual, who now states that he has entered the garden to try to find out where the supposed body of Maddie is, could, later on, deny that version. And to be able to punish that man, Murat would have to prove what he did. On the other hand, while living in South Africa he would only have to come to Portugal to present himself in a court2 if he wished to do so”, argued one of the lawyers heard by DN, adding that there are several examples similar to this case.
Diário de Notícias, July 7, 2012, paper edition
1. Termo de Identidade e Residência (TIR) - The arguido (formal suspect) is subject to a regular presence before the authorities to confirm with the relevant documents their identity as well as their present residence at that time.
2. The Portuguese Republic and the Republic of South Africa do not have a bilateral extradition agreement, though an agreement of mutual police cooperation exists since 2002.