Monday, 30 October, 2023
Portuguese police have apologised to the family of Madeleine McCann for the handling of the unsolved case, more than 16 years after the three-year-old’s mystery disappearance in 2007.
Earlier this year, a delegation of police officers travelled from Lisbon to London to apologise for the handling of the investigation and how the family was treated, according to BBC Panorama.
In 2007, Madeleine disappeared from her parents’ holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, in Portugal’s Algarve, triggering a huge missing person investigation. During questioning, Gerry and Kate McCann were named as formal suspects or “arguidos”.
The McCanns, who have relatives in the Dumbarton area, have not commented on the Portuguese police apology.
In 2020, German police said they believed Madeleine to be dead. In 2022, Portuguese officials named Christian Brückner, a convicted German sex offender, as a formal suspect – the first identified in the case since Madeleine’s parents were declared as such.
Bruckner is serving a seven-year term in Oldenburg prison in Germany for the rape of a 72-year-old woman in the same area of the Algarve where Madeleine went missing.
According to the BBC, Kate was offered a deal to admit covering up her daughter’s death in exchange for a shorter sentence. The arguido status was eventually lifted in 2008 when police submitted their final report.
After the case was shelved, the McCanns were later implicated in their daughter’s disappearance by a former detective. The family lost a European court of human rights challenge after their libel case against the former detective was thrown out by Portugal’s supreme court.
“It is hard to describe how utterly despairing it was to be named arguidos and subsequently portrayed in the media as suspects in our own daughter’s abduction,” Kate McCann said previously. She added it had been “equally devastating to witness the detrimental effect” it had on the search for her daughter.
One of the German prosecutors on the case, Hans Christian Wolters, told the BBC the apology was a “good sign”. “It shows that, in Portugal, there’s development in the McCann case,” he said.
Last year, Brückner was charged by German prosecutors with three offences of aggravated rape of women and two offences of sexual abuse of children – none of them linked to Madeleine’s disappearance. The case is due to go to trial in February 2024, according to Wolters.
Friedrich Fülscher, said his client, who has not been charged, was exercising his right to silence. “We know the contents of the files and I think the charges are all based on very, very shaky foundations,” Fülscher told the BBC.
Earlier this year, German investigators searched a large section of the Barragem do Arade reservoir, about 30 miles from Praia da Luz. German prosecutors at the time said the items discovered in the three-day operation might be linked to her disappearance but have not yet been confirmed as evidence.
The original police investigation resulted in an Anglo-Portuguese man, Robert Murat, being declared as a formal suspect. In 2008, he was cleared of suspicion and won more than £500,000 in libel damages over defamatory articles connecting him with the child’s disappearance.