PARIS (Reuters) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled against the parents of missing British child Madeleine McCann on Tuesday, saying Portugal had given them a fair hearing in their defamation battle against a former Portuguese police officer.
Police officer Gonçalo Amaral, who worked on the investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007, suggested in a book he wrote, “Maddie, a Verdade da Mentira”, that the girl’s parents were involved.
They sued Amaral for defamation. In 2015, a Portuguese court ruled in favor of the parents, ordering Amaral to pay them compensation. Two years later, the decision was reversed by Portugal’s highest court.
The parents then appealed to the European court, claiming that their right to a fair trial, right to private family life and freedom of expression had not been respected by Portugal.
According to the court’s decision, the Portuguese judiciary did not fail in its duty to protect the rights of Gerry McCann and Kate Healy and their arguments on the presumption of innocence were unfounded.
“Even supposing that the applicants’ reputation was harmed, this was not due to the argument put forward by the author of the book, but rather to the suspicions expressed against them,” the court ruled.
Madeleine McCann was 3 years old when she disappeared in May 2007 from her room in an apartment in the Algarve where her family was staying. The first investigations by the Portuguese police did not produce any major leads, and for a while the detectives focused their attention on her parents.
The parents were questioned by the police as formal suspects that fall. The following July, the Portuguese police dropped the investigation, citing a lack of evidence and acquitted them of any involvement.
(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro)