The role British police played in the
Madeleine McCann investigation is under scrutiny after leaked documents claimed
they ‘developed’ evidence against her parents.
Britain’s ambassador to Portugal told his U.S. counterpart that British
detectives ‘had developed the current evidence against the McCann
parents’, according to a diplomatic cable revealed by the WikiLeaks
The previously secret meeting took place on September 21, 2007 – two
weeks after Portuguese police named
and Kate McCann
as ‘arguidos’, or formal suspects, in their daughter’s
Tough times: Kate and Gerry McCann were
subject to a Portuguese police investigation, allegedly
aided by evidence 'developed by their British counterparts
The leaked cable has raised fresh questions about the extent of British
police involvement in the Portuguese investigation.
Mr and Mrs McCann, both 42, have won a series of libel payouts from
newspapers over suggestions they were involved in their daughter’s
But the leaked cable suggests British police were actively involved in
helping to build a case against them.
The couple believe the decision to name them as arguidos jeopardised the
hunt for their daughter, because it may have stopped potential witnesses
from coming forward with information.
And it forced them to endure an agonising ten-month wait until
Portuguese police admitted they had found no evidence against them, and
shelved the case.
British police have always insisted they were responsible only for
co-ordinating inquiries in Britain at the request of the Portuguese
But that account has been called into question by the leaked diplomatic
cables, and by allegations by senior Portuguese detectives involved in
In the diplomatic cable to Washington, marked ‘confidential’, U.S.
ambassador Al Hoffman discussed a meeting with his British counterpart,
Alexander Wykeham Ellis.
Missing: Madeleine McCann disappeared while
on holiday in Portugal
He wrote: ‘Madeleine McCann’s disappearance
in the south of Portugal in May 2007 has generated international media
attention with controversy surrounding the Portuguese-led police
investigation and the actions of Madeleine’s parents.
Without delving into the details of the case, Ellis admitted that the
British police had developed the current evidence against the McCann
parents, and he stressed that authorities from both countries were
‘He commented that the media frenzy was to be expected and was
acceptable as long as government officials keep their comments behind
The cable did not reveal what evidence had been ‘developed’ by police in
Britain, but Portuguese detectives have previously made a series of
startling claims about their involvement during a civil court case in
Goncalo Amaral, the former head of the Portuguese
investigation, revealed that a confidential report by a British expert
had suggested Mr McCann should be investigated for ‘homicide’.
Criminal profiler Lee Rainbow, of the National Policing Improvement
Agency, sent the report in June 2007, just a month after three-year-old
Madeleine vanished from her family’s rented holiday
Praia da Luz.
He wrote: ‘The family is a lead that should be followed.
‘The contradictions in
Gerald McCann’s statement might lead us
to suspect a homicide. This is a lead that should be investigated.’
Mr Amaral’s lawyer told the court: ‘Portuguese police had only
considered the abduction theory. It was British police who said they
must consider homicide as well.’
The McCanns took
legal action against Mr Amaral in an effort to stop the sale
of his book,
The Truth of the Lie,
in which he
claimed they covered up their daughter’s death.
His former deputy,
Tavares Almeida, gave evidence on his
behalf, and said British and Portuguese police had both concluded
Madeleine was dead.
He told the court: ‘We all believe she is dead. It was our conclusion as
professionals, both Portuguese and British police. The McCanns
didn’t kill her but
they concealed her body.’
The couple’s spokesman,
Clarence Mitchell, said: ‘The cable is
a historic note that is more than three years old.
‘Subsequently, Kate and Gerry had their arguido status lifted,
with the Portuguese authorities making it perfectly clear that there was
absolutely no evidence to implicate them in Madeleine’s disappearance