Detective in McCann Case Investigated For Beating Convicted Child Murderer

Portuguese detective in McCann case accused of beating suspect in 2004 case.

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 11:42 AM

PRAIA DA LUZ, Portugal, Sept. 26, 2007 — -- The husband of a convicted murderer has accused the Portuguese investigator spearheading the case of Madeleine McCann of beating a confession out of his wife.

Leonor Cipriano, 36, was convicted of the murder of her eight-year-old daughter Joana, who disappeared in the Algarve region in September 2004 under similar circumstances to the McCann disappearance.

In an exclusive interview, Cipriano's common-law husband, Leandro Silva, told ABC News that his wife said she was beaten repeatedly as police grilled her during a three-day long interrogation.

"'They beat it out of me', she told me, 'they beat me until I confessed,'" Silva said as he recalled his first visit to his wife about a week after police took her into custody.

"The only difference between the McCanns and us is that we don't have money," Silva said. "They have means, they have high powered attorneys that they can pay."

According to Silva, his wife told him that chief inspector Gonçalo Amaral, one of the leading detectives in the McCann case, watched as police hit her in the face and chest again and again.

Local newspapers have reported that Amaral and four other officers will be in court next month to face charges surrounding the beating allegations. But Amaral has not been suspended from his work on the McCann case.

Cipriano is currently serving a 16-year sentence for the murder of Joana who disappeared in 2004 in a town less than 15 miles from where Madeleine McCann disappeared nearly five months ago.

Joana's body has never been found. McCann, who was 3 years old when she went missing has also not been found, but the family and police still hold out hope that she is still alive.

Kate McCann and her husband, Gerry, were declared "arguido," or official suspects, last month, although under Portuguese law, the police are not allowed to divulge publicly what evidence they have. But the couple, both doctors and substantially well-off, have been allowed to leave Portugal.

Silva said his wife retracted her statement just two days after confessing to Portuguese police, but she remains in a women's prison in Odemira, about a two-hour drive from Praia da Luz.

Joana went missing one night when her parents say she went for a short walk to the local market in her home town of Figuera, near Portimão. Cipriano was arrested and convicted, in part because of her confession, along with the discovery of some of Joana's blood, police say they found in Cipriano's home.

Maddie also disappeared just minutes from where her parents were dining at the Ocean Club in Praia da Luz in May 2007.

"I knew immediately that it was the police that had done that to her," Silva said. "They wanted her to confess to a crime she did not commit."

He shakes his head back and forth saying that the police in Portugal don't work professionally.

Amaral could not be reached for comment and police refused to talk about the allegations.