Disappearance of Maddie: the parents rejected by the ECHR after a request against Portugal

Gerald Patrick McCann and Kate Marie Healy believed that the claims of a former Portuguese police officer in a book, about their alleged involvement in the disappearance of their three-year-old daughter, had damaged their reputation and their presumption of innocence.

The parents of the British girl Madeleine McCann, whose disappearance caused an international stir 15 years ago, were dismissed on Tuesday by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), concerning a book written by a Portuguese policeman concerning them.

Gerald Patrick McCann and Kate Marie Healy filed an appeal in 2017 before the judicial body of the Council of Europe against Portugal. They felt that the assertions of a former judicial police inspector in a book, about their alleged involvement in the disappearance of their three-year-old daughter, had damaged their reputation and their presumption of innocence.

Following the example of Portuguese justice, the ECHR considered that “even supposing that the reputation of the applicants has been damaged, it is not because of the thesis defended by the author of the book but because of the suspicions that had been issued to them” during a highly publicized investigation.

“It was information of which the public had become fully aware, even before (…) the publication of the litigious book”, insists the court, which therefore considers that the European Convention on Human Rights has not not been violated by Portugal.

Parents “naturally disappointed”

Maddie’s parents said they were “understandably disappointed” by this decision, explaining in a press release that they did not want to defend their reputation but to protect the progress of the investigation.

They thus say that they acted “only for one and the same reason”: the allegations set out in the book “had a detrimental impact on the search for Madeleine”.

They also claim to have the support of “the public” who, according to them, do not doubt their innocence, and reaffirm their hope that the person or persons responsible for the disappearance of their daughter will be quickly found.

Disappeared 15 years ago

Madeleine McCann, known as Maddie, disappeared on May 3, 2007 shortly before her fourth birthday in Praia da Luz, a seaside resort in southern Portugal, where she was on vacation with her parents and a group of friends.

Her disappearance gave rise to an exceptional international campaign to try to find her. Photos of Maddie, with her bobbed light brown hair and large light eyes, have been seen around the world.

After 14 months of controversial investigations, marked in particular by the indictment of the parents before they were cleared, the Portuguese police closed the case in 2008, before reopening the file five years later.

It was not until June 2020 that the case suddenly accelerated, when the public prosecutor’s office in Brunswick (Germany) announced that it had become certain that the girl was dead and that its suspicions related to a 43-year-old man, then in detention. in Kiel, northern Germany, for another matter. This suspect was indicted in April in Germany at the request of Portuguese justice.

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