McCanns angry about libel delay

This Is Lancashire: Kate and Gerry McCann were due to give statements in a Portuguese court about accusations in a former police chief's book Kate and Gerry McCann were due to give statements in a Portuguese court about accusations in a former police chief's book

Madeleine McCann's parents have branded the latest delay in their libel case against Goncalo Amaral as a "blatant and cynical" attempt by the former Portuguese police chief to hold up the trial after he sacked his legal team.

Kate and Gerry McCann were left furious after the former detective delayed their libel action by making a last-minute application to remove powers from his lawyer on the day they were due to deliver personal statements about the effect allegations in his book had had on them.

Mr and Mrs McCann had travelled to Lisbon on what was due to be the last day in the trial at Lisbon's Palace of Justice, but will now have to return on July 8 after Mr Amaral's 11th-hour application prompted the latest delay in the long-running case.

The obviously-angry and upset couple branded the delay - made by Mr Amaral at 9am today - a "blatant and cynical attempt" to wear them down.

Speaking outside the court in Lisbon, Mr McCann said: "We're exasperated that the hearing has been cancelled once again at Mr Amaral's request.

"This is the fourth time this has happened and we've travelled to Portugal.

"The legal case has been running now for over five years and we want to get justice for Madeleine.

"Today is a blatant and cynical attempt to wear us down and it's Madeleine who is suffering.

"We're not going to give up - we're going to keep going."

The McCanns are suing for libel over claims made in Mr Amaral's 2008 book The Truth Of The Lie, including suggestions that they hid Madeleine's body after she died in an accident and faked an abduction, saying they damaged the hunt for their daughter and exacerbated their anguish.

If successful, the family stand to gain around £1 million in damages.

The latest stumbling block in their legal battle came as the former police chief made more outlandish claims about Madeleine's disappearance in an interview with Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha and its sister TV channel CMTV.

Addressing a crowd of British and Portuguese journalists outside court today, a visibly-upset Mrs McCann said every delay to the libel case brought more "pain and distress" to the family.

She said: "We need to make it clear to people: we took on this case because of the pain and distress that Mr Amaral has brought to us and our children.

"And every time he postpones the case like this, it brings us more pain and distress.

"Every time we come here, we have to make arrangements for our children to be looked after, we have to book flights, we have to book hotels, we have to take time off work to come here.

"And Mr Amaral handed that letter in apparently around nine o'clock this morning. That letter could have been handed in before we left the country.

"And this has happened about four times. As Gerry said, this can't be seen as anything but blatant and cynical. We just want justice. This is not fair."

The McCanns' return to Portugal comes after they said last week that the fact police found no evidence relating to their missing daughter during recent searches in Praia da Luz had reinforced their belief that she could still be alive.

Madeleine, who was then nearly four, disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz in the Algarve on May 3 2007 as her parents dined at a nearby restaurant with friends.

Asked whether he thought Madeleine was alive, Mr McCann said: "What is clear is that the searches haven't found any evidence to show that Madeleine has been seriously injured or is dead.

"As far as we are concerned, there is a good chance she is still alive and we have to keep searching for her - that's why we are here."

He added: "What's absolutely clear is that Madeleine is completely innocent in all this. This is what it's about. An innocent child is missing."

Mrs McCann said Mr Amaral was trying to deny Madeleine the "human right" to be looked for and found, adding that the detective was "not the victim in this".

Mr McCann confirmed that the couple would be returning to court next month but, asked if he had any message for Mr Amaral, said curtly: "We are not speaking to Mr Amaral."

The court heard today that Mr Amaral submitted his application in person at 9am, then left the court. Speaking afterwards, his now-former lawyer Vitor Santos de Oliveira said he learned of the former detective's decision last night.

Asked if he knew why, he said: "These are decisions that people make. If I knew why, I would say."

The McCanns' lawyer Isabel Duarte said "no one imagined that this could happen", and more delays mean the book can continue making "severe damages" against the McCanns, alongside Mr Amaral's most recent comments.

Asked if the latest move by the former detective was a strategic attempt to delay the trial, she said it was "clear" that if someone wanted to remove their lawyer's powers, they would substitute him in the same day.

The McCanns are now expected to return to Lisbon on July 8 to deliver their statements.

Their spokesman Clarence Mitchell said the latest delay was "ridiculous".

He said: "Kate and Gerry said everything that they wish to say outside court today.

"It is ridiculous that the case has been delayed yet again.

"Mr Amaral's claims are entirely unfounded and we hope the British media will not repeat them."

A judgment in the trial is expected later this year.

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