We first became aware of the dreadful account of the Cipriano family not long after Madeleine was abducted, when the first of the two press articles reproduced below appeared. At that point in time we were each already convinced of Amaral’s incompetence. But it was only slowly beginning to dawn on some of us individually that he could, in fact, be something much worse. But can you imagine our horror, disgust and outrage when it later became apparent that Amaral had knowingly and deliberately sought to frame an innocent woman for the murder of her own child, rather than actively seek to capture and convict the real criminal involved? Worse, he actually succeeded, as you will see below. We start with an online article from Sky News.
2:48pm UK, Monday May 12, 2008
ALEX WATTS, SKY NEWS ONLINE.
The family of a girl who vanished just seven miles from the Portuguese resort where Madeleine McCann disappeared are convinced the cases are connected. Joana was last seen near church
On the day of Madeleine's fifth birthday, Joana Cipriano's relatives have urged detectives to investigate links between the two disappearances - saying there are too many disturbing similarities for the evidence to be ignored.
Joana, eight, was sent to buy some groceries from a village store near her home in Figueira, at around 8pm on September 12, 2004. She bought a tin of tuna and some milk from the Ofelia store, and was last seen by a neighbour walking back near the village church, some 200 yards from her home. Joana never returned and, like the McCanns, her mother Leonor mounted a campaign to find her. Like them, she and her brother Joao became suspects.
The case, which ended with the pair being sentenced to 21 years, made Portuguese legal history - it was the first murder trial where a body was never found. Police officers are due to go on trial later this year for allegedly beating and torturing Leonor to make her confess. Joana's relatives told Sky News Online the pair are innocent and believe whoever took the girl is also behind Madeleine's disappearance, seven miles away in Praia da Luz. The family, who do not want to be named, said: "This sort of thing doesn't happen in Portugal - child abductions are very rare. Whoever took Joana took Madeleine too, the distance is too small. And the police ignored everything we told them, they just wanted to solve the case quickly. They didn't look at any of the things we told them about." They said the most crucial bit of evidence was a white and brown camper van, parked near Joana's home in the days before she was abducted.
The vehicle, with German number plates, disappeared around the time she vanished. They added: "There was a man living in there, but he hardly left the van. A week later the van was found abandoned in farmland in Praia da Luz. We told the police to investigate it, but they didn't listen to us." She said the man had short, curly brown hair and was about 40 years old. A suspect in the Madeleine case, spotted acting suspiciously near the apartment where she vanished on May 3 last year, was described as between 35 and 40, with long, straggly hair.
Criminologist and child protection expert Mark Williams-Thomas believes there are far too many similarities between the two cases for it not to be a strong line of police inquiry. He says that because of the huge doubts over the Cipriano convictions, whoever abducted Joana is more than likely to be behind Madeleine's disappearance. Like Madeleine's case, the police investigation got off to a bad start, with officers failing to seal off the house where she was last seen. Leonor alleges police beat her to make her confess. A photograph of her heavily-bruised face was published in Portuguese newspapers.
Goncalo Amaral, a senior detective who was sacked from the Madeleine case, is one of the five officers charged in connection with extracting the confession. The indictment reportedly alleges that they kicked her, hit her with a cardboard tube, put a plastic bag over her head, and made her kneel on glass ashtrays.
Amaral faces charges of negligence and perjury, another officer is accused of fabricating a document, and the three others are charged with torture.
THE TOP COP IN THE MADELEINE MCCANN CASE HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF COVERING UP EVIDENCE THAT POLICE TORTURED THE MOTHER OF ANOTHER MISSING GIRL INTO CONFESSING TO MURDER.(1)
Leonor Cipriano later recanted her confession, but is serving 16 years’ jail for the murder of her daughter, who vanished in Portugal’s Algarve region three years ago. The body of Joana Cipriano, 8, has never been found.
Chief Inspector Goncalo Amaral, who heads the Policia Judiciaria in Portimao, the nearest town to Praia da Luz, from where Madeleine vanished, could appear before a secret criminal hearing as early as next month. He is accused of concealing evidence over allegations that three of his colleagues tortured Cipriano, over 48 hours’ continuous interrogation, to secure a confession. All four, and a fifth accused of fabricating evidence, deny the allegations. They say Cipriano was injured when she tried to kill herself by throwing herself down police station stairs.
Portugal’s police have faced increasing criticism of their handling of the McCann case. Cipriano was unable to pick out any assailants from among the accused officers. Sources say the prosecutor is now investigating the allegation that police paid outside thugs to beat her up. One of the police officers accused of involvement in torture in the Cipriano case is recently retired chief inspector Paulo Pereira Cristovao. He has been writing a daily column on the Madeleine case for a Portuguese newspaper that has been reporting sensational stories leaked by “sources close to the police inquiry,” some of which have later proved untrue. He makes it clear he considers the McCanns are probably responsible for Madeleine’s death or disappearance.
Like Chief Insp. Amaral, he denies all wrongdoing in the Cipriano case."
We now draw your attention to the official report from the prison where Leonor was imprisoned after her trial. It makes for disturbing reading, but is very relevant to the case.
REPORT ON TORTURE SUFFERED BY LEONOR CIPRIANO. (2)
Relatório sobre Tortura de Leonor Cipriano, 8.4.2008, ACED - Associação Contra a Exclusão pelo Desenvolvimento, SOS Prisoes - report (pdf)
SOS Prisões and ACED produced a report that they sent to high-ranking Portuguese authorities with competencies in this field concerning the allegations of torture suffered in September 2004 by Leonor Cipriano at the hands of the judicial police in their offices in Faro. She is currently serving a 16-year and eight-month prison sentence in Odemira women's prison, after she was found guilty of killing her eight-year-old daughter Joana, who she reported as having disappeared. Cipriano maintains her innocence and told the author of the report, lawyer Marcos Aragão Correia, who visited her in prison on 8 April 2008, that there was no evidence to prove the allegations, before describing how she was mistreated for two days in order to induce her to sign a confession of this horrendous crime, which she eventually did. Correia also met the director of Odemira prison, Ana Maria Calado, who confirmed suspicions about Cipriano's treatment, noting that she was "shocked about the conditions in which Cipriano entered the prison". ACED argues that it does not have the means to confirm what the situation in terms of the practice of torture by the police in Portugal may be, but calls on the state to comply with its international obligations.
Leonor Cipriano's account
After accepting to meet Correia, Cipriano denied having played any part in the death of her daughter Joana, who disappeared on the evening of 12 September 2004 after she went out to buy some groceries for her mother in a nearby shop in Figueira, near Portimão, as she often did. Upon seeing that her daughter was taking longer than expected, she went to the shop and was told that Joana had been there, but had already left with a few groceries, after which the Guarda Nacional Republicana was called. On 25 September, Leonor Cipriano was placed in preventive detention in Odemira prison, and was taken by judicial police officers to their offices in Faro on the next day. She was upset by the allegations made against her (that she had killed Joana, cut her up and fed her remains to pigs), which she rejected. Meanwhile, and in the absence of any evidence, the five officers involved became aggressive, shouted and unsuccessfully tried to convince her to confess, after which the torture began. Two glass ashtrays were placed on the floor, and Leonor was forced to kneel on them, without being allowed to get up until she confessed. She showed Correia the scars on her knees, still visible four years later. She was then sat on a chair with a green plastic shopping bag over her head, and officers started striking her on the head with a cardboard tube, causing her haemorrhages resulting in blood descending to her eyes, and her hands were struck when she tried to take the bag off her head. She was told that she would not get out of there until she confessed, and was made to stand, sometimes with the bag on her head and sometimes without it, and punched and kicked on the side of her ribs, repeatedly.
The torture lasted for two days, after which she signed a confession, and she was then returned to prison, where her serious conditions led to her being taken to Odemira health centre. She was told by judicial police officers to tell the doctor that she had thrown herself down a flight of stairs in the Faro judicial police headquarters in a suicide attempt, threatening that if she spoke of any aggression, she would be interrogated again and would not survive. Cipriano said she did as they demanded in their presence, but told the prison officers and director of the prison what had happened once they left. The director ordered photographs to be taken of her, and for a legal-medical report to be drawn up as a result of her poor conditions. Leonor Cipriano's brother João was also reportedly tortured and found guilty of the murder, although the prison to which he was taken did not run the same checks to determine whether he had been subjected to an aggression. After they were both found guilty, he wrote to his sister to apologise for the lies he had been forced to tell about her. When Leonor was invited to identify her aggressors by an investigating magistrate in Évora in 2006, she was only able to identify one official who was present and did nothing to prevent the abuses, possibly because she had had a bag over her head for long periods, or due to the time that had passed, or because not all her torturers were among the six officers placed before her.
The prison director.
Correia then spoke to Odemira prison director Ana Maria Calado, who confirmed Leonor Cipriano's account, noting how shocked she was about her conditions, with black marks, haematoma and bruising in her face, mainly around her eyes, her head and ribs, mainly on her sides. She assured that the physical marks clearly indicated a violent aggression and not a fall down some stairs, something the legal-medical report also confirmed. She noted that Cipriano's conditions worsened a week after she was tortured, as the blood that had gathered at the height of her brows was so much that it ended up falling over her eyes, leaving her practically blind for almost a month, and the director regrets not having ordered photographs of this period to be taken. She also said that relations between Cipriano and the prison guards and other prisoners were good, and that she did not believe that she had attempted suicide.
Calado expressed her surprise for a number of facts: a) that the judicial police did not take Cipriano to a health centre in Faro to certify that she had fallen down some stairs; b) that the day of her interrogation was chosen during Calado's week of holidays, when she would never have allowed her to be picked up at 6 a.m. without a formal request by the judicial police; and c) that judicial police officers who arrived from Lisbon to investigate the allegations of torture proposed sharing the blame between the judicial police and prison, something she refused. Correia praised the director, describing her as "courageous" and as prizing "values" more highly than "corporate interests".
The report concludes that the testimony of Leonor Cipriano and of the prison director, as well as other available evidence, are convincing in terms of proving that a crime of torture was committed by officers of the Portuguese judicial police. It condemns the use of "medieval methods" to "extract confessions at all cost, even if they are false", as "inadmissible" and as harmful for Portugal's image as an EU member that defends human rights and has a modern legal order and, as such, argues that these practices must be punished in "exemplary" fashion, or the Portuguese citizenry will lose faith in the judicial system.
The report ends with a message from Leonor Cipriano, who was treated as a monster as a result of the horrible nature of the crime she was accused and found guilty of committing:
"I hope that my daughter Joana appears, not only to be with her again, but also to show the world that it was the gentlemen officers of the judicial police who tortured me and who are the real monsters".
(At this point we can report that at the subsequent trial of Amaral and the other officers accused of Leonor’s torture, Amaral was found guilty of concealment of evidence, falsification of documents and perjury. Most importantly, however, the judge concluded that Leonor had most defiantly been tortured, but the officers accused had to be acquitted as Leonor could not positively identify her assailants due to a bag being placed over her head during the beatings she received. Amaral was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment, suspended. Both sides have appealed.)
(Newsflash! Amaral's apeal has been rejected, his conviction stands!)
As we began to take more interest in the Cipriano case, we began to ask questions. If Leonor tried to commit suicide by throwing herself down a flight of steps, as the PJ report claimed, she was presumably in a suicidal state. What steps were taken to monitor or safeguard her welfare in the light of this disturbing incident?
Blood was allegedly found in the families fridge, and it was stated during Leonor’s trial that this blood came from Joana. If the blood in the fridge was indeed Joana's, then the fridge itself will have been covered with Joana's DNA. Was it ever forensically examined?
At the trial, photographs of the tools alegedly used by Joao and Leonor to carve up Joana's body were produced. But what about the tools themselves belonging, we gather, to Joao's father?. Very obviously, they, too, will have been covered with Joana's DNA. Were they recovered and forensically examined?
A 50,000 euro payment was said to have been made to someone within the orbit of the family very soon after Joana disappeared. One unsubstantiated claim is that this was payment for Joana from a paedphile ring. Has this matter been fully and properly investigated?
News made it into the Portuguese press about the blood in the fridge before the veil of secrecy was lifted on the case. How did that breach of secrecy occur?
We began to dig further, and found the following, flimsy evidence was all that was needed in Leonor and Joao Cipriano’s trial to convict them of murder. Remember, to this date Joana’s body has never been found, or indeed any proof that she is even dead.
The prosecution claimed that Joana came back and caught the brother and sister having sex and so they decided to kill her so she would not tell their secret. This was actually presented as some sort of evidence, despite the fact that if Joana was missing, how could the PJ have possibly known what she had or had not seen?
Staggeringly they accepted witness staements, read out in court, supposedly from members of Leonor’s villiage that said words to the effect of, ‘She must be guilty, her eyes are too close together.’ None of these so called witnesses were present in court to affirm their statements as true, they were just blindly accepted as so. Can you imagine the furore if such flippant statements were read out in a British court? To say nothing of the fact that whosoever made these staements were never called forward to testify in court as to their voracity?
Other ‘evidence’ included statements that Joana’s uncle was seen walking down the road carrying a plastic bag, and although no one had found such a bag, and that therefore this bag could not have been searched, a judge accepted it as evidence as the PJ said the bag contained Joana's body parts.
As pointed out earlier it was said that blood had been found in the family freezer and a judge accpeted that this was the blood of Joana, but this was never proved as this blood was never DNA tested. In fact this blood was never even positivly identified as human, rather than from a joint of meat.
When Leonor’s defence lawyer asked for a sample of the blood supposedly found in the family freezer, they were refused, as all samples taken had subsiquently, prior to the trial, been destroyed. How convenient.
The defence team were refused permission to bring forward as a witness a doctor, who would attest to the fact that the injuries that Leonor sustained were incompatible with a fall down the stairs, as the PJ claimed. We ourselves spotted what appears to be a cigarrette burn on Leonor’s neck in the photo’s. Did she also attempt suicide by burning herself to death?
By contrast, when a Portuguese journalist visited the hometown of Leonor and Joana, he found instead a climate of fear among the residents.(3) None of Leonor’s friends or neighbours believe in Leonors guilt, and most of the residents are fearfull that whoever took Joana will return. Where once the children were allowed to play happily outside, now they are kept indoors, under a watchfull eye. Indeed, many Portuguese residents we have spoken to say that the whole case is viewed by the majority of Portuguese citizens as one of the countries worst miscarriages of justice.
If the British police and Crown Prosecution Service had attempted to bring a case to court based on such flimsy, circumstantial and deeply flawed evidence as we have listed above there would be a public outcry. Yet this woman and her brother, by an accident of birth, were born in Portugal. And in Portugal they do things very differently.