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Madeleine McCann's mother returns to Portugal to begin libel case against claims made by ex police chief

Kate McCann will be present at first hearing over allegations made by former detective Goncalo Amaral in his book The Truth of the Lie

The mother of missing Madeleine McCann has returned to Portugal to attend the beginning of the family's libel action against a former Portuguese police chief. 

Goncalo Amaral, who initially led the inquiry into Madeleine's disappearance from her family's apartment in Praia da Luz, Algarve, published The Truth of the Lie which made allegations about the child's disappearance.

Madeleine was nearly four at the time she went missing from the bedroom of a Portuguese apartment as her parents dined at a nearby Tapas restaurant with friends.

The McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire, have vehemently denied allegations made in the book and say the former detective's claims caused damage to the hunt for Madeleine and increased the anguish endured by her relatives.

Their lawyer Isabel Duarte is expected to set out the case - on behalf of Mrs McCann, her husband Gerry and their twins Sean and Amelie, now eight - at Lisbon's civil court this morning.

Kate McCann will be accompanied by her mother Susan Healy for the first hearing of the case today. Relatives of the family are expected to appear in the witness box, including Michael Wright, Mrs McCann's cousin.

The McCann's spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “Kate and Gerry McCann remain very confident that they will win the case.

“They have a strong case against Mr Amaral. The matter is now in the hands of their lawyer as it goes through court.”

Mr Amaral was removed from the investigation into Madeleine's whereabouts in October 2007 after criticising the British police. He is expected to argue that under Portuguese law he is entitled to make the claims published in his book, which is still on sale in Portugal.

The libel case will be heard today and Friday. It will then be adjourned until next Thursday when the court will sit again for two days. A final hearing is expected on 27 September. The judgment is expected to be deferred.

Additional reporting by PA