Gonçalo Amaral - Maddie Case leads to Divorce
The marriage of ten years yielded to the pressure of the Maddie case. Without assets nor money, the former inspector returned to his parents' home at the age of 53. To Nova Gente he spoke of his divorce, of his writings, about his daughters and of the litigation with the McCann couple...
After a few years you have decided to separate from Sofia. Did that happen as a consequence of the problems that you still have with Maddie's parents, namely, the fact that you were left without any assets, without means to provide for the family?
It is still to early to make that kind of accountability. Marriages end for various reasons, which should usually remain within the personal scope of the former matrimony. However, it was a considered decision between me and the mother of my daughter, Inês.
I remember Sofia has always supported you and at all times during this process. Even though you are separated does she continue to support you? In what way? Do you, Gonçalo, also support her?
Indeed it has been like that and it remains as such, however right now I want to preserve hers and my space. It is good to know that she is willing to support me, but I feel better to go alone to the final fight. As someone once said: when we were kids we did not call our family to fend for us. Now it is time to be alone, making sure that this is the best way to defend my daughter and her mother interests.
Will there be a filing for divorce?
The divorce is by mutual agreement, and I do hope that is declared as soon as possible, so Sofia can follow her path and I mine. We do not hold any grudges and our only concern is the future of our daughters. I often say if the mother of my daughters is well, they will also be well, and that is my main preoccupation.
How often do you visit your daughters? How do you manage that? Do you go to the Algarve to see them or do they come to Lisbon?
Whenever I can I will go to the Algarve or they will come to Lisbon. I still consider Rita as my daughter, even though legally I might not be [her father], I continue to worry about her and her future; it was a decade that I saw her grow up, and it is not possible to erase that as if switching off a button. The internet and the cell-phone also help shortening the distance from my daughters.
You have been increasingly close to your eldest daughter, from another marriage. Did she followed your steps?
My eldest daughter, now 27 years-old, became my confidant. I still worry about her future, even though she has achieved her academical goals (Bachelor's Degree, Master in Criminal Law and an unemployed 1 Lawyer), I generally say she is part of the so-called “geração à rasca” [desperate generation] 2. Her mother and I were able to do for her what many parents did and wished they had been able to do, which was to provide her with conditions in order to succeed, but that seems to be delayed for now. My only wish is for her to be happy.
Don't you miss your family life?
I believe the nostalgic feeling for the family life is not beneficial. Obviously, I cherish the memories of that family life, but I am divorcing from my wife not from my daughters, and for me they remain the primary reason for my existence.
Are you enjoying your new life as a 'single man'? Is it easier to be married or to be single?
It is different, it isn't possible to make any comparisons.
How did you solve things? Was it difficult, lengthy, complicated?
It wasn't easy, but neither was it difficult. There was a consideration and a joint assessment of our relationship; the conclusion that it was exhausted, reached calmly and quietly, made us understand that it was necessary to change our lives, nothing more.
Did you ever thought that because of an investigation, such as Maddie's, your life would be turned upside down?
I never thought that, but that was only possible due to the servilism seen in our country in its relations with the United Kingdom, where our politicians and our intellectuals have forgotten the values of justice and truth. If, relatively, to the politicians, it is normal that they choose reasons of State rather than values that shape democracy, it is not acceptable nor understandable for the intellectuals to do the same. On the other hand, families feel helpless not knowing what they can do in pursuit of their loved one, and what to expect of police and judicial authorities.
The fact that you have now, with 53 years-old, returned to Olivais [area in Lisbon], to your father's home, is it a return to your origins, to the beginning of your life?
It is a fact. My mother has passed away, my brothers no longer live here, and now it is just me and my dad relearning to live together. It has been interesting in every aspect, mainly because he still sees me and my friends as the youngsters of other times portrayed in the book dedication [Vidas sem Defesa/Defenceless Lives] to the “moços do meu bairro” [boys from my neighbourhood].
How is life treating you?
My life is at a stage of profound changes. Everything is going well in terms of feeling supported by my family and childhood friends, here in the neighbourhood I am just like anyone else, I circle almost anonymously amongst friends and acquaintances. In economic and financial terms I am starting to take the necessary steps towards stability. To this end, I have defined a strategy with my new lawyer, which is to oppose the legal action taken by the McCann couple and to solve in a comprehensive manner all other situations.
“Vidas sem Defesa” [Defenceless Lives] is a manual for the parents of missing children or a cry of revolt? What led you to write this third book?
Defenceless Lives is a manual for the parents of long term missing children, for technicians working in the area of support to these families and also a cry of revolt in the absence, in our country, of structures capable of studying the phenomenon and of giving the answer that should be given during any disappearance of a child. A fast and effective response is slow to occur, there isn't a unified police structure, planning and specific training is lacking.
Of all the case mentioned by you in this book, which moved you most? And Rui Pedro's case?
All of them have touched me, it is difficult to elect one amongst all the cases, all of them filled with despair and anguish. Rui Pedro's case [disappeared in 1998] is special, since it serves as example of the inertia and inefficiency of the police, as a result of lack of planning and specific training of the investigators in charge of the case initially, but also as an example of the the struggle and tenacity of a family, particularly the child's mother, who did everything so his disappearance would not fall into oblivion or ended up covered in dust at the judicial archives.
The introduction to the book is a return to your childhood neighbourhood, of always... What lead you to write that memory?
It is an important memory because it took me to the time when the children of this country seemed able to play, like flocks of sparrows in the wild, and grow away from the dangers of today, without internet or cell-phones, and, as everyone says: we were happy. The dedication to the “moços do meu bairro”, was made after I returned to the neighbourhood were I grew up, where I met again many of my childhood friends and companions of those times. Amongst them, and still living in the same building, I have found the father of Margarida, this is a young woman of 19, who struggles like we do for the realization of her dreams. Among those, she dreams of studying theatre, if possible in England, but due to the current financial crisis, that might not be so easy. I always tell her it is good to dream and to believe in the realization of our dreams. Margarida decided to be baptised by the Catholic religion, something which will take place in the coming months, at the moment she is preparing herself at the local church in order to fulfil her desire and she has already chosen the godfather. The choice fell on me and fills me with pride, not only for the affection that I have for her, or for the friendship of decades with her parents, but mostly because I see in her a young woman who wishes to grow in faith, approaching the Church, knowing Jesus Christ, without stopping to live her youth times, like all young people she is able to distinguish between the temporal and spiritual. It was close to the parents of Margaret and her youth that I have rediscovered lost friendships over the years from a life of wanderer due to my profession as a criminal investigator.
Writing has been a constant since you retired as a Judiciary Police inspector. Is it a passion?
I will reveal a secret. In my teen years I started “scribbling” an account about my family's life. We originate from a small village in Beira Alta [Northern region of Portugal] which in the early years of the 1960's migrated to Lisbon in search of a better life, having gone trough bad moments, but many good, remembering well what meant to be a member of a large and poor family, but when we were all together those were moments of eternal happiness. I never finished that story of life hoping one day to do it, but everything has its time and the right time to do so will arrive. For now it is time to conclude the “Madeleine case” and write about what, in my opinion, still remains to be done to ascertain the truth, the steps of investigation that need to be taken to know what really happened to that child. The investigation of this case can be considered as an unfinished investigation that needs to be completed. As I write about the “Madeleine case”, about which I am not obsessed, I fight solely for the fulfilment of justice and truth, values that shape my life and the so-called democratic societies. I am also writing about another police world, the drug trafficking.
Do you already have an idea for the next book?
I have an unfinished book, with the title: “Trafficking and passions”, where I give an account about the criminal investigation of the crime of drug trafficking over the past three decades, the criminal organizations, traffickers as persons (subject to desires and passions), and not as mere criminals, the methods used by traffickers and the response given by the Judiciary Police.
The civil suit for defamation brought against you by the McCann couple - that was about to be tried but was postponed - and where they claim for 1 million and 200 thousand euros, do you see that as a Coup de grâce applied by them? Do you have good chances of winning?
It's not a Coup de grâce, it is a serious attempt to annihilate me as a person and as a citizen, however the McCanns have no facts to substantiate their claim and perhaps they don't even have the legitimacy to do so. I have always trusted in justice therefore I am certain and confident of winning that civil case.
Marinho Pinto has offered himself to testify in favour of the McCanns against you. What do you have to say about that? And what exactly is the libel case about?
Dr. Marinho Pinto is a free citizen and he is entitled to be a witness for anyone, whomever they might be, and regarding that matter I have no further comments. This is not a libel suit. In fact, under the scope of the injunction filed by the McCanns, the Superior Courts have already decided that I did not violate any private rights of the couple, let alone libelled them.
They were able to freeze your assets, the fees of “Maddie, The Truth of the Lie” book, in short, they have left you without funds and without employment; they have affected your life and of your family. Can you understand the reason why the couple wishes to see you completely destroyed? Is it hatred against you? What feeling does all this provoke in you?
The couple does not forgive me for the reason that in my book “Maddie, The Truth of the Lie” [“Maddie: A Verdade da Mentira”] I wrote the facts and the conclusions of the investigation up to September 2007. They had difficulties in coping with the truth. Initially they've depreciated the book. Two years later they remembered the book existed, coincidentally, I had just been appointed to be a candidate for Mayor of Olhão by a certain political party, and the book was about to be translated into English and eventually released in the United Kingdom. That was too much for them, they had to carry on with their campaign of discredit against my person and jeopardise the subsistence of my family, which by the way is not at all Catholic, as they claim to be. And all because the couple is afraid the truth is known.
Gonçalo, you have won at the Court of Appeals the injunction against the publication of the book “A Verdade da Mentira”, where you defended the thesis that Maddie had died in the Algarve. The appellate judges considered the prohibition on the book violated the Constitution. Was that a nice present? What happened next? Did you have the books returned, were you indemnified in some way?
The McCann couple does not comply with the decisions of the Portuguese courts since they have not yet returned the book copies of “Maddie: A Verdade da Mentira”, given to their lawyer as a trustee, although the court has already adjudicated 3. I doubt the books still exist, I even suspect they might have been destroyed, reason why I denounced the case to the Public Ministry [Attorney General's Office].
After nearly five years from Maddie's disappearance, do you believe the case will be reopened? Do you still defend the reconstruction?
It is very difficult for the case to be reopened in the near future, it's all a matter of political will. However the decision of the civil process, may play a role in creating that political will. In the case of a reopening of the investigation, the reconstruction will always be one of the first steps to be taken, there is no doubt about that.
Does the couple have feelings for vengeance against you?
I don't know if they nurture feelings of vengeance on me, everything points that way. They prey on me to silence uncomfortable voices.
The dispute that opposes them against you will end when? Is it a high price to pay because you didn't found their daughter or because you have said that probably they were the negligent ones?
They were negligent, you need only read the archival dispatch made by the Public Ministry and recall the facts. I have nothing to pay to the McCann couple, but they do, they should have already acknowledged publicly the commitment and efforts of the Portuguese investigators in their search for their daughter, often leaving behind their own families and children. They are rich and still ungrateful.
Where have you gone to get the strength to continue life?
To my daughters and to the values that I defend, among them, it is always worthwhile reiterating, justice and truth.
Do you have feelings of revenge at those who destroyed your life, like the McCanns?
I do not have feelings of revenge because I understand the couple is doing a “headlong rush”, for example, if the process where Madeleine's disappearance was investigated had not been prematurely archived, the reality would be different. However, the moment will come when the damages caused to my family and to myself will have to be accounted for and reimbursed, there is no doubt about that.
Gonçalo, you have lost everything you had. How have you survived?
I have survived with my retirement pension, or rather, with part of it, even because the company that I created after my retirement from the Judiciary Police has been ruined by the McCann couple. I do have projects for my life that do not depend on that couple, but since I know they do seek to destroy me I will not reveal them here.
Who was and who is now Gonçalo Amaral? Do you continue to fight for what you believe?
I am a Portuguese man like any other, with flaws and virtues, I have always placed my family above all, despite having constituted family twice. I live for my daughters and for the happiness of those who are near me, it is enough to know that the other is happy for me too be also happy. I defend the values that life has instilled in me, and yes, I am stubborn in defending those values. A democracy only makes sense if there is justice and truth, if a man has value beyond the State, there are not neither should there be reasons of State which place in question those principles.
Do you miss being an inspector? Of returning to the investigation? What do you miss most?
Of the adrenaline, of the decision on the edge, of the autonomy and initiative that each criminal investigator should have.
If the McCann couple come to Portugal to attend the trial, would you like to address them and tell them something?
Those questions would have to be answered within the scope of the criminal process that was investigating Madeleine's disappearance.
What would you like to tell the couple if you could say something to them?
That the lack of money is bad, but the lack of judgement is much worse.
What are your expectations for the future?
They are good, I hope in the coming months to resolve, with the support of my lawyer, all the problems that I have and be able to fulfil the dreams of my children and of those who are close to me.
And a dream of yours...
I would like one day to create a foundation that would support the integrated development of underprivileged children in order to fulfil their dreams and give them the material conditions to survive in a society which increasingly turns its back on the other.
in Nova Gente, published February 12, 2012
1 With the current financial crisis in Portugal, 28,1% of the younger generation are unemployed. This is considered by some the most highly skilled (with university degrees) generation in Portuguese educational history.
2 “Geração à rasca” - A youth movement that was created to protest against unemployment, opposes the deterioration of working conditions and the dismantling of social rights. They also actively question the effectiveness, inevitability, legitimacy and democratic nature of the intervention of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and Financial Stabilization Fund in Portugal. Term used to describe the younger generation that is facing difficulties due to the financial crisis.
3 Res judicata, final judgement that is no longer subject to further appeals.