LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann have won 500,000 euros ($549,000) in a libel action against a former Portuguese detective who published a book alleging they were involved in their daughter’s disappearance, according to a Lisbon court ruling published Tuesday.
The McCanns were seeking 1.2 million euros in damages from Goncalo Amaral, who was part of the police investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance from a vacation home in Portugal’s Algarve region in May 2007, days before her fourth birthday.
The claim included amounts for the parents as well as for Madeleine and her younger twin brother and sister.
The court decided to award 250,000 euros each to Kate and Gerry McCann, but didn’t grant the other claims.
It said Kate and Gerry argued that they were “totally destroyed” and “depressed” by Amaral’s allegations and felt “ashamed” that they might appear to have been to blame for their daughter’s disappearance, as well as being “seen as cowardly people who allegedly hid her body, pretending she had been snatched.”
They say their daughter was abducted while unattended in her family’s resort apartment in Praia da Luz on Portugal’s south coast as her parents and their friends dined nearby.
“More than financial compensation, what (Kate and Gerry McCann) want is public moral reparation,” the court said.
The McCanns welcomed the ruling in a statement issued by the family spokesman, Clarence Mitchell.
“We are delighted with the judge’s verdict today. We want to emphasise the action was never about money. It was entirely focused on the effect of the libels on our other children and the damage that was done to the search for Madeleine,” they said.
“We would like to remind people that there is still an innocent little girl who is missing and that those responsible for her abduction remain at large,” they added.
Amaral argued in his defense that his claims stemmed from the police investigation and that Portuguese media had already reported the possibility that the parents might have played a role in Madeleine’s disappearance.
The 52-page ruling, handed down Monday, also prohibited the sale of Amaral’s 2008 book “The Truth of the Lie.”
Portuguese police closed the case in 2008 because authorities had detected no crime.
British police launched Operation Grange in 2011 to try to find out what happened to Madeleine. British detectives said that after sifting through the Portuguese case files they identified new avenues of investigation.
The public prosecutor’s office in Lisbon reopened the investigation in 2013, saying new leads emerged during the case review though it didn’t elaborate.
Last June, British police conducted searches of scrubland around where Madeleine went missing but announced no new evidence.
Cases that are under investigation in Portugal are covered by a judicial secrecy law, which forbids the release of information.
Madeleine’s disappearance sparked global interest as pictures of her and her grieving parents were published around the world. Her parents briefly met with Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square in June 2007, a month after Madeleine disappeared, and the pontiff held a picture of their daughter.