Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

'Madeleine McCann dead' court claim rejected by father

Gerry McCann: "There is absolutely no evidence that Madeleine is dead"

Gerry McCann has angrily dismissed Portuguese detectives' claims his daughter Madeleine is dead.

Senior officers told a Lisbon court on Tuesday they believed the girl had died in the family's holiday apartment.

The hearing is an attempt by former police chief Goncalo Amaral to overturn a ban on his book, which questions the McCanns' account of what happened.

Madeleine, of Rothley, Leicestershire, was nearly four when she went missing in the Algarve on 3 May 2007.

Speaking as he arrived at the court building for a second day of evidence, Mr McCann said there was "no new evidence".

"The most important thing yesterday was what the prosecutor said, there is absolutely no evidence that Madeleine is dead and there is absolutely no evidence that we were involved in her disappearance.

"That is the conclusion of the process and that is what we are here debating - the conclusions of the process versus the conclusions of the book," he said.

Witnesses

Gerry and Kate McCann have always argued Goncalo Amaral's publication defames them and discourages their ongoing inquiry.

In September, a Portuguese injunction banned sales and further publication of the book.

Mr Amaral - who initially headed the inquiry into the disappearance but was taken off the case in October 2007 following his apparent criticism of British police work on the case in a newspaper interview - was also prohibited from repeating his claims.

This is a legal process that we're going through to protect our daughter and our family
Gerry McCann

The hearings in Lisbon were called after Mr Amaral opted to oppose the injunction.

He is calling a number of senior Portuguese officials involved in the investigation into the child's disappearance as witnesses to support his allegations.

On Tuesday, a senior detective told the hearing that police made the missing girl's parents "arguidos", or suspects, in the case after concluding Madeleine died accidentally and her parents covered up the death by inventing a kidnapping.

Chief Inspector Tavares de Almeida said he believed the child died in her family's apartment in the resort of Praia da Luz on the day she was reported missing.

The main evidence for this claim was the findings of British police sniffer dogs sent to Portugal to examine the flat, the court heard.

Speaking on Wednesday, the McCanns said: "We are not denying the existence of the dogs or anything else. It's evidence we're interested in. There is no evidence that Madeleine is dead."

Human rights

Madeleine McCann
The book's author was initially involved in the hunt for Madeleine McCann

The civil court case is expected to last three days, with a verdict likely by the end of January.

Madeleine's parents are not expected to give evidence.

Mr McCann, who was due to return to Britain on Wednesday because of work commitments, said: "This is a legal process that we're going through to protect our daughter and our family. We're looking for new information to help the search.

"The question, of course, is who is looking for Madeleine and who has been looking for Madeleine over the last two years, and that is us and our investigators."

He said anyone who had children would go through the same process.

Earlier, the McCanns contended that the book was "against the Portuguese constitution and against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

They are reported to be seeking 1.2m euros (£1.08m) in damages over the book and said any payment would go towards funding the private investigators hunting for Madeleine.



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