Controversial past of policeman leading the McCann investigation

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The Independent Online

As the Portuguese press continued to round on the McCanns yesterday, newspaper columns remained pointedly silent on a separate investigation into the police officer leading the hunt for Madeleine.

Despite the recent furore surrounding Kate and Gerry McCann being made suspects in their daughter's disappearance, Goncalo Amaral – head of the Policia Judiciara's investigation – has himself been charged over the alleged assault of a woman whose daughter disappeared in similar circumstances to Madeleine three years ago.

Earlier this year, Mr Amaral and four colleagues were made suspects ( arguidos) in the beating of Leonor Cipriano during an interrogation following the disappearance of her daughter Joana, who vanished from a village seven miles from Praia da Luz.

Joana's mother and uncle were convicted of murdering and dismembering her after she discovered them having an incestuous relationship. However, Mrs Cipriano claimed she was beaten up in custody under the watch of Mr Amaral and accused the police of setting her up.

She has produced graphic photographs of her face after interrogation which showed heavy bruising around her eyes.

In June, Mr Amaral and his colleagues were charged, three with torture, a fourth with omission of evidence and a fifth withfalsification of documents. It is unclear which offence he was charged with.

Police sources in Portimao, from where the Madeleine McCann investigation is being conducted, refused to comment yesterday but the disquiet surrounding Mr Amaral overseeing such a prominent case has raised questions over his suitability and pitched the British tabloid press against their Portuguese counterparts.

Mr Amaral is widely respected and generally regarded by the Portuguese papers as a man doing a good job in difficult circumstances. But the emergence of Leonor Cipriano's accusations and the serious charges have led to some argue he should not be working on a similar case.

The investigation into Joana's disappearance was marred by the failure to seal off the house in which she was last seen. The police investigating Madeleine's disappearance have also been criticised for allegedly being slack in sealing off the resort where the McCanns had been staying.

Local journalists close to the case say the charges brought against Detective Amaral are inconclusive.

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