“I was close to finding Maddie”
The inspector of the McCann case demolishes the abduction theory: “The sightings are marketing”. He explains, for the first time, what remains to be done in order to find the body
Gonçalo Amaral has already sold 140 thousand copies of his book Maddie: The Truth about a Lie. The former coordinator of the investigation into the case that shocked the country explains his theory to Focus.
Focus – A newspaper reported that your book could be summed up as “murder, the dog wrote”, given the fact that it was the cadaver odour and the blood that were found that led you to sustain the theory that Madeleine McCann died. What do you actually know beyond the dogs?
Gonçalo Amaral – That comment only reveals the ignorance of the person who wrote it. The technique of residue collection using special dogs like these, CSIs, is usual in England, in the United States and it has already led to more than 200 condemnations. The laboratory where the samples [of blood, cadaver odour and DNA from Maddie] were analyzed has corroborated these experts’ work.
Focus – It has corroborated it, but it does not specify that they belong to Maddie McCann.
G.A. – They can only match that from Madeleine McCann, because the lab had the twins’ DNA and it was not a match. Those are 15 out of 19 markers that match.
Focus – What else sustains the theory?
G.A. – There is evidence from indicia, which is possible in this country, as long as the prosecutor possesses the conviction and the elements that indicate that, in court, there will be a condemnation. The Public Ministry has to value this evidence that was collected. This time, the Public Ministry considered that the indicia are not sufficient and archived the process.
Focus – And what are those indicia that you understand as sufficient?
G.A. – The atypical behaviour of the parents: The fact that the lady says that she had three children sleeping in one room, that she arrives and one is missing, the window is open, she mentions it’s a cold night, the shutter is up… and she goes away, leaving two children asleep, with a possible abductor around. I know that [the reports from the PJ and from the Public Ministry] didn’t give any relevance to the contradictions and didn’t expose the falsehoods and the false testimonies that exist there from all the persons who intervened. That, deep down, is the evidence that indicates that everyone is lying and those lies cannot be understood.
Focus – And who took the child from her bed?
G.A. – That is the question that we were investigating on the 2nd of October 2007, when I left. From that moment on, little investigation was carried out in that apartment. The parents should have come over for a reconstitution and they didn’t. That was necessary to understand what happened.
Focus – Which was…
G.A. – The death of the child in the apartment. The Public Ministry even mentions homicide. The abduction theory has been dismissed due to everything that has been made public.
Focus – How do you defend the “accidental” death?
G.A. – There is indicia behind the sofa [of the McCanns’ living room]. The sofa is under a window that looks onto the street, which is three or four metres high. It is normal behaviour, and justice deals with normal behaviour, that the parents would have moved the sofa away from the window, given the fact that they had small children and alone at home. The window was easy to open and the shutters were not functioning…
Focus – But why “accidental”?
G.A. - I don’t say it’s accidental. Up to that moment, we could only reach an accidental death, because we had not worked on the rest yet. We had yet to understand what had happened there. Cadaver odour and blood from the child appear next to the sofa. Death has presumably taken place there. There are no doubts that it is a death and that it took place on that spot. We are not going to say that the mother did this or that, that would really be speculating, the only hypothesis is the accidental death. In the continuation of the investigations is where we could go further or not.
Focus – You said that the mother can’t be accused of having done this or that… How far can you deduct?
G.A. – As far as we could deduct on the 2nd of October. I believe, and so did my colleagues in the investigation, that if we had continued into the same direction of the investigation, we might eventually have gone further. We might even have reached a point where we dismissed any suspicion concerning the parents. Investigations that only go half the way is what leaves things as they are now.
Focus – Are Madeleine McCanns’ parents responsible for their daughter’s death?
G.A. – No. There is a neglect in the guard [of the children]. There are no doubts that those children were not safe, because if they were, one of them wouldn’t have disappeared. Now, saying that “the responsibility of the death belongs to…” We had to understand, to collect data about what happened from there on. The reconstitution is essential. I did not understand, but I accepted the decision from a hierarchical team that I was part of, why the reconstitution was not done right away. The possibility of trying to make a new reconstitution was opened, but the arguidos had already left Portugal. A thing like this is only done with arguidos. The ideal is to have everyone, but even only with the couple, that were arguidos at that point in time, the reconstitution could have been carried out.
Focus – And with actors?
G.A. – No. It would be enough to tell them: ‘You say that you did this and that, then do it, where did you enter, were you having dinner, weren’t you having dinner, what did you order for dinner…? Where did you touch and where didn’t you?’ All of this. It was important for Kate and Gerry McCann to come over, but the Irish witnesses could also come…
Focus – Those who say that they saw Gerry McCann carrying a child, down the street, on the night of the disappearance.
G.A. – Yes, those who assert that they saw, with a certainty of seventy, eighty percent, Gerald McCann carrying a child, walking in the street, it was already nighttime.
Focus – You suggest that the little girl was frozen or conserved in the cold. How do you reach that?
G.A. – There is a bodily fluid, inside a car boot, above an “embaladeira” [n.t.: metallic piece of the car that reinforces the lower part of the doors], from a child that presumably died on the 3rd of May. The car was rented 20 days later and was even new. It had been rented two or three times. Taking into consideration the circumstances of the climate, the temperature, the decomposition of a body… A body, in order to leak a fluid in that manner, a body with more than a month of decomposition had to be preserved.
Focus – Did it have to be close by?
G.A. – And why?
Focus – It could have been taken to Lisbon, Oporto, Badajoz…
G.A. – That was what we were taking care of at that time. The body could have been moved, but nobody knows when the body was transported in the car. The car ran several kilometers [around 3000, according to the process]. And given the fact that it is not known when the body was transported, according to the analysis of the fluids, we have to attend to where the car went through. The McCann couple and their relatives. For example, the relatives later state that they transported garbage, a package with meat from the supermarket, but the dogs can tell those things apart very well.
Focus – There is a contradiction in the valuation of the dogs’ evidence.
G.A. – What happens is that the Public Ministry devalues it. In Portugal, we are all very skeptical towards this form of collecting indicia.
Focus – You state that you have not told everything that you know.
G.A. – And I haven’t.
Focus – Why?
G.A. – Because I am a jurist, too. Let’s see how the situation evolves.
Focus – And how can the situation evolve?
G.A. – The things that are missing are important in terms of the investigation, but they are ours… When it is said: these are your convictions… This is the understanding of a work team and even with the English police. And with documents. It’s this kind of thing, for any action that may be coming. I don’t believe, but who knows.
Focus – Does the English police agree, then, with that “understanding” about what you are saying?
G.A. – The work with the English police went very well. Then, certainly due to a mere coincidence, when the McCann couple leaves, all the English policemen leave as well…
Focus – You are convinced that someone made the process reach the hands of the English.
G.A. – I have that idea. I think that it even fits into that marketing campaign that is saying that the little girl is alive.
Focus – But don’t you admit you may have doubts if there is a sighting?
G.A. – How many sightings have there been? Thousands. It’s been a year. I stopped giving them a lot of importance on the day that the dogs confirmed the cadaver odour and the blood.
Focus – But you did start with the abduction hypothesis.
G.A. – If you look closely, right in my first document, the process mentions “abduction” followed by two question marks.
Focus – Then, you were thrown out…
G.A. - … that is a good expression…
Focus - … because of the reports that mention that you drink whiskey at lunch or because, in your work, you believe that there is a death?
G.A. – I don’t drink whiskey. I drink beer at lunch time, if they had written that, they would have been right. Before I left, a weekly magazine says: “That person does not last beyond October as the head of the investigation.” This happened a month or two before. And then I was given a speech like that one from the Attorney General: ‘Not all investigations can be successful, or the authors of the crimes are not always discovered…’ What may have hurt many people was my will to discover the material truth. And when I left, I was naturally closer to the truth. Two examples: Apart from our need to know who the friends of the McCann couple were, or if they knew anyone in Portugal, or who drove the car… if they eventually visited another apartment, if they used to meet someone, if they deposited someone… just for us to understand. Towards the end, I was informed that they had visited people at a villa in Praia da Luz. We went to check it out. Then, we were informed that the McCanns had visited an apartment block near the cemetery. And we were working on that, in order to confirm whether it was them or not. This was how we were trying to understand where the body was. And there are many persons who were not investigated, who were not in the process.
Focus - So are you going to let this entire case pass into the clear? Don’t you at least want to be sued by the McCanns over everything that you leave in the air…
G.A. – So we can have a chat…? (smiles)
Focus – Are you going to sue the McCanns?
G.A. – No, as far as I know the McCann couple has not been speaking, the one who has been speaking is their press advisor, mister Clarence Mitchell.
an interview by João Vasco Almeida and Frederico Duarte Carvalho
in: Focus, edition nr 461, 13.08.2008