Shameless Portuguese cop Goncalo Amaral says Algarve reservoir search for Madeleine McCann is an attempt to ‘pin the case’ on Christian Brueckner
- Amaral was kicked off the 2008 investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance
- He claimed fresh hunt at reservoir was attempt to make suspect a ‘scapegoat’
Shameless Portuguese former detective Goncalo Amaral has slammed the current search for Madeleine McCann at a remote reservoir in Portugal as an attempt to ‘pin the case’ on the prime suspect.
Amaral was kicked off the original investigation in 2008, after suggesting Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry were responsible for the then three-year-old’s disappearance and later wrote two books on the mystery.
Speaking for the first time since police began searching the area around the Arade Dam, just 35 miles from the resort of Praia da Luz, he claimed the fresh hunt was just an attempt to make prime suspect Christian Brueckner a ‘scapegoat’.
He told respected Portuguese news weekly Sabado: ‘The question should be how are the German police involved ? How did the (Portuguese) Judicial Police agree to this and why?
‘In simple analysis I see that there is no new investigation, what is happening is an act of building the profile of a scapegoat and a virtual blaming.’
Detectives gather in Silves, Portugal, to conduct a search for Madeleine McCann
Shameless Portuguese former detective Goncalo Amaral (pictured) has slammed the current search for Madeleine McCann at a remote reservoir in Portugal as an attempt to ‘pin the case’ on the prime suspect in the case
Amaral was kicked off the original investigation in 2008, after suggesting Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry (pictured together in 2017) were responsible for the then three-year-old’s disappearance and later wrote two books on the mystery
Madeleine (left) was aged three in May 2007 when she vanished from her bedroom in the apartment her family were staying at in the Praia da Luz resort on the Algarve coast. German prosecutors believe Christian Brueckner (right) is behind her disappearance
He then suggested the search was an attempt to show the public ‘Brueckner must be guilty’ as a lot of ‘ time, money and human hours have been invested’.
When asked what would be found he said: ‘If there was anything there, it would be possible to find bones, perhaps hair and even part of the missing girl’s pyjamas.
READ MORE: Who is Christian Brueckner? The German Madeleine Mccann suspect and sex offender
‘On the other hand, finding the child’s remains would only be possible if she had not been cremated, as seems to have happened.’
In the interview, which came as a joint police team from Portugal, Germany and the Metropolitan Police continued their hunt for a third day, Amaral again pushed his theory Brueckner was a ‘convenient scapegoat’.
He said:’ When British police began to consider Christian Brueckner as a suspect, he was living in Portugal and walking freely around.
‘The investigation should have focused on the individual through special techniques, namely telephone and computer interceptions, personal and electronic surveillance, undercover agents etc, in order to advance the investigation of the suspect’s possible responsibility and subsequent death of the child.
‘But astonishingly, the German police put him in a German jail, isolating him from the outside world, making any kind of investigation centred on the suspect impossible.
‘Little by little, the Germans built up the suspect’s profile as a rapist, paedophile and murderer, gathering similar Portuguese cases, accusing him of them, and then the great moment came and they named him to the world.
‘In concussion they did not allow a professional and serious investigation and made this individual a scapegoat as a suspect without any evidence or proof.’
Amaral ended his interview by claiming the case was being pushed by senior figures and said:’ If the political pressures end, this case will end and there will be answers.’
Last year the McCanns lost a lengthy 13-year court battle against Amaral for the claims he made in his two books which shamelessly suggested they had been involved in her disappearnce.
Amaral’s 2008 book Maddie: The Truth About The Lie, implicated the McCanns in their daughter’s abduction and accused them of hiding her body.
Their fight took him to the European Court of Human rights and it rumbled on for years before coming to an end last September.
Their lawyers argued that the Portuguese authorities had breached their right to respect for a private and family life in the way the court in Lisbon dealt with their libel claim against Amaral.
Initially they had won their case in 2015 and Amaral was ordered to pay 500,000 euros in damages but he appealed and the case was overturned and eventually thrown out by the Portuguese supreme court in 2017.
It was then that Kate and Gerry decided to take the case to the ECHR in Strasbourg but judges there ruled against them and they later issued a statement saying they were ‘naturally disappointed’ with the ruling.
Authorities gather at a Judiciary Police (PJ) makeshift base camp in the Arade dam area, Faro district, on Thursday during their investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
German Search Teams arrive at the reservoir today for the third day of the search for Madeleine
Investigators (pictured today at the site) searching for Madeleine McCann at a remote reservoir in Portugal are hoping to find evidence of other potential victims targeted by the prime suspect in the case as well as clues about the missing girl, it has been claimed
Investigators pictured at Barragem do Arade reservoir, in the Algave, Portugal, as searches continue as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Meanwhile police continued with their search this morning at the reservoir that has been a focus of activity since Tuesday and is expected to finish later today.
Teams of officers wearing face coverings arrived to carry on digging through soil at a picnic spot on the western edge of the reservoir where prime suspect Brueckner, 45, is said to have parked his campervan.
Brueckner visited the Barragem do Arade reservoir, possibly with others, ‘some days’ after Madeleine was snatched from her bed in 2007, the suspect’s former friend told police.
The source also claimed that investigators also believe Madeleine could have been alive for two or three days after she disappeared from the holiday resort of Praia da Luz, reports The Times.
It comes as the search of the site, which Brueckner referred to as a ‘little piece of paradise’ and is located 30 miles from where Madeleine was taken, enters its third and final day.
A no fly zone out in for two days ended at 10pm on Wednesday night and according to the website of the Portuguese civil aviation authority had not been renewed suggesting the search would be ending.
Portuguese media is reporting that so far no significant discoveries have been made but that a press conference is planned when the operation eventually ends.
While the focus of the search is on finding clues about Madeleine’s disappearance, investigators are hoping to find evidence of other potential victims who are believed to have been targeted by convicted sex offender Brueckner on the Algarve.
The search was ordered by prosecutors in Germany, who say they have ‘credible information’ linking Brueckner to the site promoting speculation they are looking for clothes or remains.
Officials are said to be looking for fragments of clothing and old rags that could be related to Madeleine’s disappearance – particularly the pink pyjamas she was wearing the night she vanished.
The reservoir is located near the town of Silves, where a lorry driver had claimed to see a woman passing off a child resembling Maddie’s description to a man two days after the toddler disappeared.
The hunt is focusing on the foreshore as the water level in the reservoir is considerably lower due to low rainfall last few months. This may explain why no divers have been seen operating in the area although they are on standby.
Madeleine was aged three in May 2007 when she vanished from her bedroom in the apartment her family were staying at in the Praia da Luz resort on the Algarve coast. The reservoir is about 31 miles inland from the resort.
The first major search for the toddler in nine years comes after German police discovered photos of Brueckner at his self-described ‘little paradise’ in the Portuguese region, it is understood.
German prosecutors last year named convicted child abuser and drug dealer Brueckner as the prime suspect in McCann’s disappearance.
He is currently behind bars in Germany for raping a 72-year-old woman in the same area of the Algarve region from where McCann went missing.
The case, unsolved for the past 16 years, remains a mystery as no body has ever been found. It sparked a media frenzy in Britain, with developments also followed by outlets around the world and celebrities joining appeals to help find Maddie.
Photos and footage of the search operation yesterday showed a group of Portugal’s National Republican Guard (GNR) being led by sniffer dogs to a small grove close to the water’s edge. Officers were seen clearing branches shortly after.
According to respected Portuguese media outlet Expresso, the operation was launched because of a ‘very credible tip’.
‘Expresso knows that these searches have their origin in a tip from a BKA informant who that police force considers very credible,’ it reported on its website. ‘This informant told investigators details that the German police took very seriously.’
It added: ‘The searches were requested by the German police after receiving this information.’ The media outlet said it had obtained its information from a ‘source close to the investigation.’
Pictured: Investigators take pictures as they continue their search for Madeleine McCann
Portuguese authorities conduct a new search operation at Arade dam area, Faro District, today
Madeleine McCann disappeared in 2007
Pictured: Kate (right) and Gerry McCann, parents of missing 4-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann hold pyjamas similar to those of their daughter during a press conference in Berlin on June 6, 2007. Police are believed to be searching for signs of her pyjamas
Emergency services with brush cutters to clear the search area arrived at the temporary camp set up on the shores of the Arade reservoir early on Wednesday.
Portuguese police, assisted by German and British counterparts, had focused their search on Tuesday on the reservoir’s shoreline.
Yesterday morning police appeared to be focusing on a valley slightly north of a secluded clearing behind trees near to where three tents were put up on Monday.
The dense vegetation meant they had to use tools including chainsaws to remove trees to access it properly.
Meanwhile, a fire service vehicle and rigid-hull inflatable boat were again on the banks of the reservoir, and appeared ready to launch on to the water.
Later in the day, emergency services brought in a remote-controlled tractor-mounted tree cutter to clear what appeared to be a new search area, a few hundred yards away from a temporary camp set up on Tuesday on the shores of the Arade reservoir by Portuguese police, assisted by German and British counterparts.
On Wednesday, the German prosecutor leading the country’s investigation into Brueckner’s suspected link to Madeleine’s disappearance said they do not have a confession from the convict.
Braunschweig prosecutor Christian Wolters said that while investigators have ‘indications’ that evidence could be found at the reservoir, this has not come from Brueckner himself.
‘We have indications that we could find evidence there. I don’t want to say what that is exactly, and I also don’t want to say where these indications come from,’ Wolters told German public broadcaster NDR yesterday.
‘The only thing that I would clarify is that it doesn’t come from the suspect – so we don’t have a confession or anything similar now, or an indication from the suspect of where it would make sense to search, ‘ Wolters said, adding that ‘it was other indications that prompted us to conduct this search.’
However, Wolters appeared to calm expectations of what might be found, saying, ‘We never said that the girl disappeared where we are now searching.’
The search of the site, which Brueckner referred to as a ‘little piece of paradise’ and is located 30 miles from where Madeleine was taken, has entered its third and final day
Search teams arrive at the site as the search of the reservoir enters its third and final day
A group of detectives investigating Madeleine’s disappearance arrive at the reservoir on Thursday
Tuesday saw about 20 officers with rakes and hoe-like tools spread out in a line, poking and raking the soil close to the Arade dam. Police also used a drone to scan the area from above and searched with sniffer dogs on both sides of the water.
Footage from the site showed officers taking bags away from the reservoir on Tuesday afternoon but it was not clear what was inside them. One video showed an officer being handed a bag by a colleague as they drove by in a black Ford SUV.
Tuesday night a Portuguese source close to the investigation told The Sun: ‘The search is being taken very seriously and is being controlled totally by the Germans.
‘They asked Portuguese officers assisting them to look for any evidence – but especially rags.’
The Times reported that Madeleine’s pyjamas, which were pink and decorated with images of Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh, were a focus of the hunt.
A similar pair of pyjamas was held up by Kate and Gerry McCann during a press conference in June 2007, the month after their daughter vanished, in the hope of prompting witnesses who may have seen her that night to come forward.
Also last night the McCann’s former spokesman Clarence Mitchell told the Mirror the couple were being kept updated.
‘Until a body is found and proved to be Madeleine’s, Kate and Gerry are not giving up hope. They will be kept informed every step of the way of any development. It leaves Kate and Gerry on tenterhooks. It is another incredibly difficult time for them.’
According to Portuguese outlet Correio da Manha, excavations were carried out at two different spots around the water’s edge on Tuesday.
The reservoir is currently less than half full owing to a drought affecting Portugal and neighbouring Spain. Much of the area being searched would be below water level in years of normal rainfall.
In the afternoon police appeared to be concentrating their efforts on a peninsula of land jutting into the reservoir.
Officers using sticks were beating back undergrowth as they inched their way through the woods before fanning down onto the beach to carry on the search.
However, just before 5.30pm, a violent thunderstorm and driving rain struck the search area and the operation was abandoned after it became clear the weather would not improve. The search was meant to continue until 9pm.
A no fly zone has been set up around the area extending for six miles.
Police are aiming to build up a picture of sole suspect Christian Brueckner’s life on the Algarve and the places he frequented as they search the Barragem reservoir in Silves, Portugal
A group of detectives investigating Madeleine’s disappearance arrive at the reservoir in the Algarve on Thursday
The reservoir is located near the town of Silves, where a lorry driver had claimed to see a woman passing off a child resembling Maddie’s description to a man two days after the toddler disappeared. Pictured: Investigators arrive at the scene of the search
It comes as the search of the site, which Brueckner referred to as a ‘little piece of paradise’ and is located 30 miles from where Madeleine was taken, enters its third and final day. Pictured: Police tents next to the reservoir on Thursday
The Portuguese police are expected to give an update on the operation once it has been completed later this week.
Two sides of the area have gently sloping banks towards the water, while the third is a sheer cliff, where three white police tents could be seen set back from the edge.
The reservoir is popular with tourists, particularly campervan users, and has BBQ stands and sun loungers scattered around.
Brueckner is known to have driven there frequently in his VW campervan, and is understood to have described it as his ‘little paradise’.
Sources close to the investigation have said they had evidence the clearing in the trees – where the white tents have been set up – was the spot Brueckner used to spend time at after parking up his campervan nearby.
A local who asked not to be named, but knows the area well, said: ‘It’s pretty well-hidden by the trees and you don’t realise it’s there until you’re almost upon it.
‘People wild camp there overnight from time to time which is why you’ll find the remains of fires inside small walls of stone.
‘It’s got old sun loungers in it and makeshift benches that visitors use to rest on. It’s very out-of-the-way and very peaceful but at the same time it’s got a slightly eerie feel about it,’ they said.
Local Portuguese reports, partly confirmed by police sources, claimed the searches were requested and authorised after German police obtained videos and photos of Brueckner by the planned dig site.
They are thought to have been found buried in the paedophile’s ‘secret lair’ in a dilapidated factory site in the German village of Neuwegersleben 65 miles south-east of Hanover.
Police raided the site in February 2016 in search of the body of missing five-year-old Inga Gehricke, who vanished while on a family outing in Saxony-Anhalt in May 2015 and has been dubbed the ‘German Maddie.’
Reports at the time said German detectives had discovered more than 8,000 images and videos on USB sticks and hard drives filled with child abuse images.
They were said to have been buried under the body of Brueckner’s dead dog.
Officials have been tight-lipped about the search.
In a statement on Tuesday, German prosecutor Wolters said: ‘Criminal proceedings are currently taking place in Portugal as part of the investigation into the Madeleine McCann case. Wolters said German officers are investigating in Portugal ‘on the basis of certain tips.’
He said he was unable at this stage to give more detail on what prompted the search, and what officials were hoping to find, but said that such details would be released ‘if we… think the results are publishable’.
‘Yes, the measures in Portugal are connected with the Madeleine McCann proceedings, which means that we are investigating there in Portugal on the basis of certain tips (tip-offs),’ Wolters said on Tuesday.
Pictured: Investigators at the reservoir, in the Algarve, Portugal, as searches continue as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
Pictured: Investigators at the reservoir, in the Algarve, Portugal, as searches continue as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann
‘There is a major search operation taking place that is being implemented by the Portuguese authorities. But there are also German officers from the Federal Criminal Police Office on site who are supporting the whole thing.’
He added: ‘I can’t disclose the background at the moment, i.e. why we are searching there and what we hope to find there. That shall remain our secret for the moment.’
‘If we find something and we think the results are publishable, then we will certainly inform you about it. But give us a little bit of time. The action itself will also take a bit of time. It will not be completed within two hours or so. And whether we then find something and what we find, of course, we have to see that first.’
The Metropolitan Police has said officers are present in Portugal so they can inform Madeleine’s family if there are any developments.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Cranwell said: ‘The Met continues to work with and support colleagues in Portugal and Germany, with their investigations into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
‘Met officers will be in Portugal and I am grateful to the Policia Judiciaria and Bundeskriminalamt for allowing us to be present whilst their work is ongoing, so that we can inform Madeleine’s family of any developments.’
The reservoir was searched by divers hired by a Portuguese lawyer in February and March 2008. Back then, the diving team leader described the ‘long process’ his team faced navigating the ‘black’ waters.
Marcos Aragao Correia organised the privately-funded operation after claiming he had been tipped off by underworld contacts that Madeleine had been murdered and her body thrown into the reservoir within 48 hours of her disappearance.
Two bags containing small bones were found during the second search after divers had earlier recovered several lengths of cord, some plastic tape and a single white cotton sock.
Portuguese police were alerted following the discovery but subsequently ruled out the possibility the bones were human because of their size.
Personnel cut down trees and shrubbery as they search for clues surrounding Madeleine McCann’s disappearance
Investigators arrive to search the area surrounding the reservoir in the search for Madeleine on Thursday
Madeleine’s parents Gerry and Kate McCann had previously dismissed Mr Correia as a self-publicist and said there was no evidence suggesting any link between their daughter and the reservoir.
The dam, near the town of Silves where a lorry driver says he saw a woman handing a child like Madeleine over to a man two days after she went missing from her Praia da Luz holiday apartment on May 3 2007, is not thought to have been searched since March 2008 as part of the ongoing investigation into her disappearance.
The search is the first major operation of its kind since June 2014 when British police were given permission to do digs in Praia da Luz that involved sniffer dogs trained in detecting bodies and ground-penetrating radar.
The Scotland Yard digs nearly nine years ago in Praia da Luz were linked to the leading UK police theory at the time Madeleine died during a break-in and burglars dumped her body nearby.
The searches failed to find any trace of the missing youngster.
In a smaller operation in July 2020 Portuguese police and firefighters searched three wells for Madeleine’s body but failed to find any trace of her.
The abandoned wells are a 15 minute drive from a cottage Brueckner rented on the outskirts of Praia de Luz, on a narrow road leading down to a beach where the paedophile used to park his VW camper van.
German prosecutor Wolters has consistently said he is convinced Madeleine is dead and caged paedophile Brueckner has been named as the sole suspect.
The deviant, currently serving time for the September 2005 rape of an American OPA in the resort where Madeleine vanished, has yet to face any formal accusation over the youngster’s disappearance.
Last April he was made an official suspect or arguido in Portugal over Madeleine’s disappearance, although his defence lawyer Friedrich Fulscher labelled it a ‘procedural trick’ linked to statute of limitations legislation at the time.
Last autumn Bruecker was charged in Germany with several sex crimes on the Algarve against women and children including the rape of an Irish holiday rep in 2004 and the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old girl on a beach near Praia da Luz in 2007.
Brueckner’s lawyer revealed in April those charges had been dropped against him in a bombshell development after successfully arguing prosecutors had no jurisdiction over him in Braunschweig where the Madeleine case was being brought.
The case could end up with prosecutors in Saxony-Anhalt instead but an appeal lodged by the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office has yet to be decided.
Braunschweig prosecutor Mr Wolters has insisted they are still in control of the Madeleine McCann investigation and Brueckner, who denies any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance, remains in custody.
The Arade Dam, the Barragem do Arade in Portuguese, is fed by the watercourse of the Arade River whose source lies to the southwest of the Serrra do Caldeirao mountain range and runs through the municipalities of Silves, Lagoa and Portimao before reaching the ocean.
Construction was completed in 1955 and it began operating the following year.
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