"I haven't lost my dignity"
The former inspector spends Christmas with his wife, his daughters and his parents-in-law. He tells ‘Nova Gente’ that he will not give up on finding out “the truth” about Maddie.
by Alexandra Ferreira
For a year, he was silent due to the injunction that had been filed against him by the McCann couple, for all copies of ‘Maddie – The Truth of the Lie’ to be taken off the shelves in bookshops. Nonetheless, he never gave up and appealed to the Appeals Court, which in October overturned the prohibition to sell the book and the video that was produced from a TVI documentary, because “it does not offend the McCanns’ fundamental rights”, further stating that Gonçalo Amaral’s freedom of expression is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. At the time, the English couple also demanded compensation in the amount of 1.2 million euro, over statements that they consider to be libellous. For the former PJ coordinator and his wife, Sofia Leal, those were months of suffocation that forced them to make some changes, namely to perform cuts to their family budget, in the education of their daughters, who left the school where they were studying due to the financial difficulties that the couple faces.
“The exile that I was subject to is coming to an end, I have not lost my dignity or my integrity and I feel strong enough to intervene, in a more active way, in the search for truth and in the performance of justice”, Gonçalo clarifies, adding that this was a complicated year. “It wasn’t easy, actually nothing has been easy since I retired from the Judiciary Police and decided, at my own cost and risk, to affront instituted powers within the search for the truth”, he mentions. “The seizing of assets remains unsolved because it took place outside of the injunction. The losses, financial and others, have yet to be counted, there has been extensive damage, but we continue to believe in justice. We have been living with the support of family and friends, who have never abandoned us”, reveals the former police officer, who resides in a rented apartment in Portimão with his wife, his daughters and the cat, Bolachinha [Cookie].
Gonçalo Amaral and Sofia Leal defend a family Christmas and insist on keeping the tradition of the ‘Presépio do Menino ao Alto’ [Nativity of the Child on the Height] alive, which dates back to the Middle Ages. “In the Algarve, it’s he who brings the presents and it’s to the Child that children pray every day of the year. On the 8th of December, the day of ‘Nossa Senhora da Conceição’ [Our Lady of Conception], the ‘searinhas’ [little corn fields] or ‘cabeleiras’ [wigs] are sown. Those are wheat seeds, which are placed in small containers, under the bed, where it’s dark and warm. Nine days before Christmas, a chest of drawers is ‘dressed’ with the finest needlework that one owns and a stepped throne is built. Then, the ‘cabeleiras’ are placed, symbols of abundance, as well as the oranges and the pomegranates. Finally, Baby Jesus is placed on top of the throne. It’s a very emotional moment, where the family all comes together. While my father says the prayers, my mother and I finish arranging the throne, the girls place the fruits and in the end Gonçalo places Baby Jesus. On the Kings’ Day, we take the ‘cabeleiras’ into the field and sow them into the earth. That’s the Algarve’s mixture of the sacred and the profane. We also build the common Nativity, as it was created by St. Francis of Assisi, but with a very Portuguese touch: with clay figures that are placed on a base of cork and moss, with water streams, fountains, sheep and a little rock”, the wife of the former PJ coordinator explains.
The season has almost always the same taste to the Amaral family. “Christmas Eve supper and Christmas Day lunch are the most important meals in the year. Therefore, on the 1st of December, the women in the family gather to decide on the menu, the dinnerware, the linen, the details…”, she says, adding that they spend Christmas in Portimão with her parents, her sister, her brother-in-law and the neighbours.
In a conversation with ‘Nova Gente’, Gonçalo said that the McCanns continue to attack him: “What they are trying to do to me is not only to limit my civic and constitutional rights. They try my civil assassination, to destroy my life, not allowing the exercise of any licit activity, or for me to comply with the existing compromises and those of my family”, he explains, stressing that “while limiting my freedom of expression, they have destroyed the firm that I had created, they tried to forbid my access to the Lawyers’ Orders’ stay, and they have seized assets and income sources”, he says, justifying that everything was done “under the banner of searching for a mysteriously disappeared child, who is probably dead – as the Public Ministry says -, people and their relatives are being destroyed. One has to say that this is not catholic at all, coming from people who say they are so religious and pious. This is not how they will find the child!”
Gonçalo Amaral says that he will wait to read the book that the McCanns are writing. “It’s being said that the book is an aid to find their daughter. As it will only be published towards the end of April, we can conclude that until then, their daughter won’t be found.”
The Appeals Court agreed with Gonçalo Amaral, and that was a “beautiful moment” that was used to plan the future. “The books remain illegally with their keeper, the McCanns’ lawyer, and I doubt that they still exist. Now, it is up to Guerra e Paz to ensure that the Appeals Court’s decision concerning the book ‘Maddie – The Truth of the Lie’ is fulfilled.” All in all, “over 120 000 copies have been sold”, and the book was translated for France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.
in: Nova Gente, 20.12.2010 (paper edition only)