McCanns launch £1m libel case against Portuguese ex-detective

Madeleine McCann Madeleine was almost four when she disappeared

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A libel case in which the family of Madeleine McCann are seeking £1m of damages from a former Portuguese police chief has begun in Lisbon.

Madeleine was almost four when she disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in the Algarve in May 2007.

Goncalo Amaral published a book claiming the girl was dead and that her parents had lied about what happened.

The McCanns, who deny the claims, say the book discouraged people from coming forward with information.

The family's lawyer Isabel Duarte told reporters that the couple are seeking damages because they claim Mr Amaral's book defamed them and they maintain Madeleine was abducted.

They allege the book turned Portuguese public opinion against them.

The case at Lisbon's civil court is being brought on behalf of Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry and their twins Sean and Amelie.

After the hearing, Mrs McCann said: "I'm here today for Madeleine and obviously I strongly hope for justice.

"I'm here to stop the damage that has been caused and is still being caused, both directly and indirectly, to the search for our daughter."

She attended court with her mother, Susan Healy.

The McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire, have strongly denied accusations detailed in the book and say the former detective's claims damaged the hunt for Madeleine and exacerbated anguish suffered by her relatives.

A number of relatives are expected to appear in the witness box, including Mrs McCann's cousin Michael Wright.

The McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said: "Kate and Gerry McCann remain very confident that they will win the case."

Mr Amaral, the detective who initially led the inquiry into Madeleine's disappearance, is expected to argue that under Portuguese law he is entitled to make the claims published in The Truth Of The Lie.

Goncalo Amaral Mr Amaral's book, published in 2008, was banned for a while

The former officer was removed from the Portuguese investigation in October 2007 after criticising British police.

His book is still available in Portugal after a court overturned an injunction banning further sale or publication in 2010.

Madeleine disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on 3 May 2007, while her parents dined out with friends at a nearby restaurant.

British detectives launched a fresh investigation into her disappearance in July and believe she could still be alive.

Portuguese authorities dropped their investigation into her disappearance in 2008, but Scotland Yard started a review in May 2011, after UK Prime Minister David Cameron responded to a plea from the McCanns.

The libel case is being heard on Thursday and Friday. It will then be adjourned until next Thursday when the court will sit again for two days.

A final hearing is expected on Friday 27 September. The judgement is expected to be deferred.

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