Detective set to publish McCann book in Britain

Portuguese officer who led the search for Madeleine says his account defends the honour of his team

A controversial best-selling account of the hunt for Madeleine McCann by the Portuguese detective who led the investigation is expected to be published in the UK soon, according to its author.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent on Sunday, Goncalo Amaral denied cashing in on the tragic disappearance of the three-year-old but said he was determined to restore his reputation, which "had been torn to shreds" by unfair and inaccurate media reports.

The book, Maddie: The Truth about the Lie, has already sold an estimated 180,000 copies in Europe, and Mr Amaral's representatives are trying find a British publisher. The McCanns said last night that they would scrutinise any British publication with a view to possible legal action.

Madeleine went missing on 3 May 2007, days before her fourth birthday, from a holiday apartment in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz as her parents dined at a nearby restaurant. In the Portuguese edition of his book, Mr Amaral says he believes she died in a "tragic accident" in the Mark Warner holiday flat where she was left to sleep the night she disappeared.

Mr Amaral was removed from the investigation in October 2007 after criticising British police officers. Nine months later the Portuguese authorities closed the investigation and lifted the arguido [suspect] label from Madeleine's parents.

The book's publisher, Mario Sena Lopes, said there was now an English version of Mr Amaral's book and he was negotiating a UK deal. He said several publishers were interested and he was confident the British public would soon be able to read the book.

Mr Amaral said: "I received numerous messages of support and solidarity since being taken off the case, including from the UK – messages that also motivated me to tell people what I knew about the Maddie case. I am positive that there's also a section of the public eager to know the truth.

"People can form their opinion without the manipulation that we have seen before."

He said his only regret was failing to carry out a reconstruction of the events soon after Madeleine vanished but claims he was put under "serious pressure" not to. He insisted this was the only failure in a "perfect" text-book investigation.

Asked whether he thought Madeleine was dead, he said: "It is not just my opinion. A whole team of Portuguese and British investigators came to that conclusion last year, and this is part of the files. I have never said the couple killed their daughter and this is not my belief. Deaths may happen for natural reasons, accident or intervention by a third party."

He said he was unperturbed by the threat of any legal action from the McCann family. "There is no reason for that. The details exposed in the book are facts, happenings and objective data which figure in the process and not lies, as they have been described in the press."

He denied he was profiting from the tragic case. "The biggest thing I achieved with this book was to defend my honour and that of those who worked with me. The way I see it, you cannot put a price on dignity. The other objective of the book is to contribute to the search for the truth."

Mr Amaral added that he is now considering legal action against a number of British media outlets. The "excessive" publicity the case attracted was a "double-edged sword: on one hand it makes the disappearance known, but on the other hand it puts the life of the missing person in jeopardy," he insisted. "I demanded from my superiors, they stand up for the investigators faced with attacks by the media, but that never happened. This was one of the reasons that led me later on to hand in my resignation so I could regain my freedom of speech and write the book."

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for the McCanns, said last night: "Lawyers for Kate and Gerry have been aware of what Mr Amaral has been alleging for some time. What he has said and written before now is grossly defamatory of them.

"If he chooses to publish them in Britain those words will be studied intensely carefully and they will not hesitate to act if they are defamatory."