Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who heads the Policia Judiciaria in Portimao — the nearest town to Praia da Luz, from where Madeleine vanished — could appear before a secret criminal hearing as early as next month. He is accused of concealing evidence over allegations that three of his colleagues tortured Cipriano, over 48 hours’ continuous interrogation, to secure a confession.
by David Rose and Charles Miranda
THE top cop in the Madeleine McCann case has been accused of covering up evidence that police tortured the mother of another missing girl into confessing to murder.
Leonor Cipriano later recanted her confession, but is serving 16 years’ jail for the murder of her daughter, who vanished in Portugal’s Algarve region three years ago.
The body of Joana Cipriano, 8, has never been found.
Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who heads the Policia Judiciaria in Portimao — the nearest town to Praia da Luz, from where Madeleine vanished — could appear before a secret criminal hearing as early as next month.
He is accused of concealing evidence over allegations that three of his colleagues tortured Cipriano, over 48 hours’ continuous interrogation, to secure a confession.
All four — and a fifth accused of fabricating evidence — deny the allegations.
They say Cipriano was injured when she tried to kill herself by throwing herself down police station stairs.
Portugal’s police have faced increasing criticism of their handling of the McCann case.
The Mail on Sunday claims fragments of hair found in the McCanns’ hire car — said to be Madeleine’s — cannot be matched to the missing four-year-old.
Sources close to the forensic scientists investigating the case say they have concluded the hair could belong to any number of people.
This undermines earlier claims that DNA evidence proved the McCanns used the car to move Madeleine’s body.
The Cipriano case has been adopted by the public prosecutor. Next month’s hearing, which may be the first of several, aims to gather further evidence to help him decide whether to proceed to trial.
Cipriano was unable to pick out any assailants from among the accused officers.
Sources say the prosecutor is now investigating the allegation that police paid outside thugs to beat her up.
One of the police officers accused of involvement in torture in the Cipriano case is recently retired chief inspector Paulo Pereira Cristovao.
He has been writing a daily column on the Madeleine case for a Portuguese newspaper that has been reporting sensational stories leaked by sources close to the police inquiry, some of which have later proved untrue.
He makes it clear he considers the McCanns are probably responsible for Madeleine’s death or disappearance.
Like Chief Insp Amaral, he denies all wrongdoing in the Cipriano case.
In Britain, Gerry and Kate McCann are putting $200,000 of their own money into a Europe-wide advertising campaign, featuring Madeleine’s face on billboards, TV and newspapers, to try to solve her May 3 disappearance.
It comes as Portuguese police planned to stage a full reconstruction of Madeleine’s disappearance.
And British police will quiz Mrs McCann themselves early next week.
Two days ago, Portuguese police declined a BBC offer to film a reconstruction for its successful Crimewatch show. This prompted the McCanns to launch their own campaign.
The McCanns’ village of Rothley, in Leicestershire, has been inundated with up to a thousand letters a day from all over the world, many containing money.